As the number of children diagnosed with developmental disorders like autism creeps higher, access to qualified medical specialists appears to be on the decline, pediatrics groups say.

Fewer and fewer pediatricians are taking on specialties like neurology, gastroenterology, and developmental and behavioral medicine. That means children often wait months for appointments. In one example, many of the nation’s hospitals report that it takes more than three months to see a developmental pediatrics specialist.

The problem doesn’t appear to be lack of interest. In fact, an increasing number of medical residents do pursue pediatric sub-specialty programs, but many drop out before they finish. The reason likely lies in the fact that such programs often require three years of additional training beyond that of a general pediatrician. Plus, pediatric sub-specialists often don’t earn even half as much as adult specialists.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The shortage is leaving many kids with conditions ranging from autism to gastrointestinal disorders crossing state lines just to see a doctor who may have a months-long waiting list.

Now, doctors’ groups are urging Congress to address the pay differences these pediatric sub-specialists face in hopes of attracting new doctors to the field, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.