Once you’ve chosen a doctor or other specialist for your child, you’ll want to find effective ways to work together. Here are six mistakes parents might make when dealing with their children’s clinicians—and ways to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Not Understanding the Professional’s Role
There are many types of doctors, therapists and other professionals. It can be hard to understand which services each provides.
Solution: Ask each professional exactly what services she can and cannot provide. You can also ask for information about all of the services she offers.
Mistake #2: Not Taking a List of Questions
It’s important to make the most of the time spent with a specialist. Many parents have questions in their heads but forget to ask them during the office visit.
Solution: Make a list of questions and take it to your appointment. When possible, start this long before your next office visit. Keep a running list of questions, adding to it as ideas come to you.
Mistake #3: Not Taking Notes During Office Visits With Doctors
A lot of ground is covered during a meeting with a doctor. If you don’t write down the key points, it’s easy to leave an appointment and forget what was discussed and decided.
Solution: Take notes during every office visit. You can also bring a friend or family member as an “extra pair of ears” or ask if you can record the conversation. Some doctors will provide a printed summary of each appointment.
Keep in mind that when meeting with speech therapists, audiologists and other specialists, they may demonstrate techniques to use at home. It’s important to pay attention—and ask for notes at the end of the session.
Mistake #4: Being Afraid to Ask Questions
Doctors may speak quickly and use technical terms, making it hard to grasp everything. But many parents are afraid to admit they don’t understand, or to ask questions—even the questions they brought with them. They may leave the appointment feeling dissatisfied and confused.
Solution: Remember that to help your child, you need to understand what professionals tell you. Speak up when you have questions or need clarification. You may even need to interrupt. Let your child’s well-being motivate you to be bold!
If the specialist has sessions with you and your child together, and you have a complicated question, it might make sense to ask before or after the session. That way you won’t interrupt the flow.
Mistake #5: Not Asking for a Plan That’s Tailored to Your Child
Some doctors and specialists give parents generic lists of tips and instructions to help their kids. But it’s more useful to have a personalized plan.
Solution: Ask for a plan that takes into account your child’s personality, his challenges and strengths, and your family life.
Mistake #6: Not Keeping Everyone on the Team in the Loop
You might have a team of people helping your child. Some parents may not realize that everyone on the team needs to know about any new developments. These include new reports, evaluations and treatment decisions.
Solution: Designate one of the team members, perhaps the pediatrician, as the “coordinator.” Have all team members send reports and progress notes to the pediatrician, as well as you. Then you and the doctor can review information.
When you’re working with doctors and specialists, you may need to follow many steps and remember a lot of details. Being prepared for your visits can help you stay on top of it all. That starts with observing your child and taking notes.
You’re your child’s most important “case manager.” He may see different specialists over time, but you’re in it for the long haul. Learning how to work well and build trust with doctors and specialists can help you work together on your child’s behalf.