Finding a doctor for your child with special needs

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Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts. The first part addressed how to help foster a positive relationship with your child’s doctor when your child has special needs. April is Autism Awareness Month.

Pediatrics often requires a level of patience and care that is uncharacteristic of other specialties. However, unique challenges arise when a patient with developmental disabilities enters an office. The anxiety of special needs children is not the same as other children. They need a step-by-step understanding of how the office works, and what will happen during their appointment in order to feel comfortable. Above all, doctors must gain trust so they can not only provide the highest level of medical care, but also become an ally and friend to the child and parents.

In finding treatment for children with special needs, here are four key things to look for in a doctor. These are things that I strive for when I work with families.

Taking time to listen: This may sound obvious, but it is invaluable. And it’s not just about listening. Does the doctor schedule enough time to have a conversation and to conduct a thorough examination when needed? In addition, does the doctor ask questions to clarify what you and your child are seeing and experiencing, and carefully listen to the responses?

Asking questions: Does the doctor ask you and your child about experiences and daily routines such as education, caregivers, and aides to gauge your child’s level of cognition and function to help address particular issues? While autism is a diagnosis, it’s unlike other medical diagnoses, such as diabetes or asthma, where our focus is relatively narrow and standard. One family may have issues feeding their child, another may have problems with physicality, another with education, another with financial concerns –…

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