Working with clinicians

Expert Advice on Working With Doctors and Specialists

By Beth Arky

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When working with your child’s clinicians, you’ll want to make the most of the relationship. Here, experts tell you how.

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Choose providers carefully.

“Research the therapists in your area and be prepared to ask a lot of questions to ensure that you’re confident in any professional who is working with your child,” says neuropsychologist Laura Tagliareni, Ph.D. “Don’t be afraid to inquire about one’s background, experience and training. If you’re not pleased, never be afraid to get a second opinion or switch providers.”

Two clinicians introducing themselves to a parent
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Understand each specialist’s role.

Will your work with various specialists be ongoing? Reading specialist Elizabeth Babbin urges parents to “understand each specialist’s role in working with your child. Define what each person will tackle. Understand their plan of action and how they’ll monitor and communicate progress. Setting up a framework for expectations and ongoing communication is key.”

A parent having a one-on-one conversation with a clinician
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Expect quality time.

“Research indicates that family- or patient-centered care is most effective,” Tagliareni says. “This means that your doctors or therapists should collaborate and spend quality time with you. Be sure early on in treatment that clinicians will provide you with a regularly scheduled time for parent/family meetings or phone calls if your schedule does not allow for in-person sessions.”

A mother asking a question at a meeting
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Prepare and take questions to appointments.

“Prepare for your meeting by bringing a list of questions and concerns,” Babbin says. “Keep asking questions until you understand (in plain English!) what the specialist is observing in your child. Most importantly, ask for specific recommendations regarding how to best help your child going forward.”

Parent taking notes at a meeting
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Have an agenda and take notes.

“Ideally, the specialist will have a consistent agenda for your ongoing meetings,” Babbin says. “If she doesn’t, bring an agenda each time to ensure that all your concerns are addressed. Take notes and stay organized. This will help identify what works for your child, and provide evidence if your child isn’t progressing adequately.”

Parents reviewing school documents at home
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Get it in writing.

“Reports and recommendations should be provided in written form whenever possible to avoid confusion and increase accountability,” Babbin says. “A written plan creates much more urgency than a phone conversation, which could be remembered or interpreted differently by each participant.”

Parent reviewing papers with her child’s teacher
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Share reports with your child’s educational team.

“Be sure all the members of your child’s educational team receive full clinician reports,” Babbin says. “This will help the classroom teacher, specialists and administrators stay on the same page regarding your child’s needs, and should better shape the supports your child receives.”

Close-up of parent typing on a notebook
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Keep records organized.

“Establish a point person in your family to maintain an organized record of all evaluations,” Tagliareni says. “This is important to track progress and when making transitions, for example, from preschool to kindergarten when school providers may change.”

Parent attending a conference call on her computer
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Ensure consistency and collaboration among treatment providers.

“Consistency and reinforcement are key factors in maximizing therapeutic outcomes,” Tagliareni says. If possible, “Enlist all treatment providers (teachers, speech therapists, parents, etc.) in conference calls or team meetings to ensure that information is being accurately disseminated and to help monitor and track your child’s progress and needs.”

High school girl sitting in on a parent-teacher meeting
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Include your child in the process.

“Include your child as much as possible in the treatment [process],” Tagliareni says. “It will help empower your child to take responsibility and feel more dedicated to the work he or she is doing.”

Young boy talking with a clinician outside her office
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Trust your instincts.

“Any child who’s spending a lot of time with a clinician needs to feel as collaborative and comfortable with that person as you do,” Tagliareni concludes. “You may find someone has a good reputation or sounds great on paper, but may not be the best match in terms of personality style for you and your child. If it doesn’t feel right, then it might not be.”

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About the Author

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Reviewed by

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Ellen Koslo, Au.D., is an audiologist and associate professor of otolaryngology at Columbia University Medical Center.

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