A Successful Autism Doctor Visit

This story is a total rip-off. The New York Times recently featured a worthwhile piece entitled, A Doctor’s Guide to a Good Appointment. In that vein, I couldn’t help but add my two cents worth of advice about how to make the best of a family’s first visit to a developmental specialist.

Finding a functional medicine specialist.
The opinion of a pediatric neurologist is a good start. But, time is of the essence and evaluations that involve months of waiting serve the patient poorly, because they represent needless delay. A trusted pediatrician can be a great help. Therapists’ views are important because they are independent observers who know the child more intimately.

However, if you still can’t put your finger on what’s wrong, and if you find that you have been going to a variety of specialists (e.g. GI, allergy, dermatologist. pulmonologist), maybe it is time to seek a modern medical viewpoint. When possible, ask other parents about their research and experience, but don’t forget that every child is unique, so this merely represents one piece of the puzzle. The most reliable web advice is to be found at the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs clinician directory.

Before your visit:
Labs, X-rays, MRI’s, EEG’s, IEP’s, psychological reports, hospital records, and evaluations of all types are extremely helpful. It is understandable, however, that some parents may prefer a completely fresh, unbiased opinion, perhaps saving that data for a future visit.

At The Child Development Center, we find videos extremely valuable. Taking the time to produce a written history with your specific concerns often yields the most satisfying consultation.

On the day of:
It may be difficult to appreciate the anxiety that all family members experience in this situation, including the child. Another stranger. More tests. Overcoming fear may require social stories, bribery, a favorite food, electronic devices, or some other tested method.

Either a picture, list, or a bag of the present medications and supplements, streamlines the visit. Plus, any archive of past meds – what worked and what didn’t – can similarly improve the efficiency of the interview.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but be sure to bring along any familiar toys, blankets, etc., so that the doctor is able to observe the children and the parents can focus on the conversation. Whenever possible, a close family member or therapist will be a valuable addition to the team.

An open discussion with the practitioner is imperative. Even the tension caused by a family’s disagreement about whether there really is a problem, is important in making an accurate assessment and creating a useful treatment plan.

Back at Home:
Perhaps this is the most difficult part. Who should you believe? Have any of the previous treatments been particularly successful? Has the child reached some plateau where he/she seems stuck? What are the alternatives? Listen to your heart.

Having reached some degree of non-conventional intervention, there may be a desire to further micromanage. Can 2 functional medicine doctors perform better than one? Although parents who attempt this course may be correct, a mixture of protocols could delay improvement. Get started with one intervention at a time, and become comfortable that nothing is causing harm. Be clear about what skills you are targeting and document progress.

Not infrequently, the treatment can involve periods of increased aggression or even regression, due to the ‘die-off’ of harmful organisms, food restriction, arduous therapy sessions, even new-found skills and sensory overload. Close contact with the practitioner (via email, phone, follow-up visits) is a must at this juncture, if the treatment plan is to be followed and successfully implemented.

Conclusion
All of the points in the ‘real’ Times article are well-taken and valuable in this instance, as well. Hopefully, this advice will serve to make the experience of taking the next step in your child’s journey even more productive.

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Brian D. Udell MD
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