Monday, March 4, 2013

Advocating for your Kids: Part 1. With Doctors and Counselors


By John.

We often get emails here from parents who have trouble communicating the needs of their children or foster kids to doctors, counselors or teachers.  Let’s face it, no one knows your kids better than you do, so you have to be clear and concise when you discuss your child’s case with others.  We want to help you become an effective advocate for your child, and to do that you have to know how to present information to the different people in your kid’s lives.
This week we want to help you be understood when you go to talk with your son or daughter’s doctor or counselor.  Whether you are just starting to try to get help and get a diagnosis or want to have a better relationship with your doctor, these tips will help.
1.     Make sure you know what you are talking about.  Do some research.  Most of us go to the Doctor/ counselor thinking he or she will see what I see in my child, and then my child will get the help they need. This will not happen for numerous reasons:
a.     Your child will not act out in front of the Doctor. Your child may even make you look like there is something wrong with you Mom and Dad, and your child is just fine! Have you ever heard that?  I have too many times.
b.     Doctors and counselors are not experts in every disorder, so unless they are a specialist, they may know less about a potential disorder than you do.

2.     Document behaviors, actions and reactions, and have at least a month or two worth of records. Don’t go to the doctor with just some incidence that have happened in the last three days, for instance, and think that the doctor will diagnose your child with RAD, or ADHD or whatever. 
a.     You need to bring in comprehensive notes with information on day, date, time of day (to check for patterns)
b.     List the behaviors, actions and reactions to stimuli
c.     List any input from the child about his or her own behavior and what the child attributes it to. (For instance, if the child says they “just zoned out,” or go “into a rage.”)
d.     If you can get it on camera that is the best way to prove your point, even cassette tape works well for this.  
e.     Now tell them why you think your child needs help.  Just doing a history may help you understand what is going on in your home and it may shed some light on the problems you’re having and you may find you may not need a Doctor after all.
3.  Ask schoolteachers, parents of your child’s friend and family members, anyone who has witnessed problematic behavior, to write up testimonial statements about the child’s behavior. This will just help to show the doctor that the behavior happens in many different environments and again, helps provide more information to build a history for diagnostic purposes.
4. If you know one of the child’s triggers and you trigger him or her in front of the Doctor/ counselor this works well to but always be safe.
5. Make notes about the child’s diet. The child’s diet can tell a lot, so keep track of with they are eating.  This will help the Doctor/ counselor.   Does one food make the child more hyper or less?  Does food high in caffeine or sugar make the child hyperactive or does he seem to handle it well or even calm down?
6.   Always be nice to the doctors, nurses and counselors.  Smile and don’t get mad just because they don’t see what you see.   Just try harder next time with a different Doctor/ counselor.
Even if you already have a diagnosis and have a long-term relationship with your doctor or counselor, ongoing documentation is important to note needs for medication adjustments or changes in approaches as the child ages.
Next I will be writing about being an advocate for your child at his or her school and with teachers. (Difficult, sometimes, I know.)
Do you have some tips to share about dealing with doctors or counselors? Please share, and God Bless.

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