Your child has been diagnosed with a health condition, disorder or challenge that you know nothing about. You need to find a doctor, therapist, specialist, or other clinician to help. But how do you find someone qualified, whom you trust, and whom your child will want to work with? The process can be quite challenging — even for the most resourceful parents. These guidelines will help you choose the right person for your child.
Six Steps for Success
1. Seek out recommendations
Get as many recommendations as you can. Anyone in the medical field is worth asking, such as a pediatrician, general practitioner, ear, nose and throat specialist or allergist. Also ask friends and colleagues who you feel comfortable telling. You never know who might have a friend who has a friend. Spread a wide net!
2. Interview your top five prospects
Call the top five people on your list and do a brief phone interview. The kinds of questions you should ask during the initial phone call should be along the lines of:
- “How much do you charge?”,
- “Do you take insurance?”,
- “What is your area of expertise?”
- “What will treatment look like as we work with you?”, and
- “What kind of availability do you have?” (If they don’t currently have any openings, ask whether they have a wait list, and how long it is.)
3. Make an appointment to learn more
If you like what you heard during the phone interview, make an appointment (paid) to meet with the clinician by yourself.
4. Ask for your child’s input
If you are hiring someone to work with your child and you like him/her after your meeting, make an appointment for them to meet with your child. After the appointment, see what your child thinks. Your child’s opinion matters a great deal because he/she will be working with this person for a long time, and they need to feel good about their relationship.
5. Trust your instincts
Remember, as with any practitioner, it is all about goodness of fit. Even if someone else really likes a clinician, that does not necessarily mean that person will be a good fit for you or your child.
6. Respect the clinician’s time
Good clinicians are busy, and they have to earn a living. Don’t expect them to do unpaid work for you. If you need to talk for longer than 10 minutes, you should make an appointment and pay for their time. Even if you don’t end up working with them, they will be more able to devote their full attention to you during a scheduled appointment. This will give you a more accurate picture of what your work with them will be like.
Pitfalls To Watch For
The relationship between your child, the clinician, and you is so important! You want to be sure you find someone you can imagine yourself working with for years to come. Beware of these signs – from a clinician and from yourself – that there could be a better fit:
A clinician who ignores your input
Keep in mind that you know your child best. You want a clinician who views you as a team member who can provide valuable input about your child. As a parent, you will be the primary care coordinator for your child’s entire life while clinicians will come and go. You are in it for the long haul so trust yourself and make sure you work with people who trust you.
Thinking, “I can do that myself!”
Even though you know your child best, clinicians have specialized training. Trust them. Give them a chance to do their work. Work collaboratively to achieve your goals.
A clinician who isn’t working out
Sometimes, even with the best planning, the person you have selected does not work out. This does not mean this individual is a bad clinician. It just means that he or she is not a good fit for you and your child. Trust your instincts and move on when it’s time.
Before you begin therapy, ask what issues the intervention will target. Measure these targets at the beginning of the therapy and again on a regular basis during the therapy. This will help you determine whether the therapy is having a positive impact. Ask your clinician how long it will take for you to see changes.
Most interventions take time and lots of hard work. There will be false starts, re-evaluations and changes in direction. This is normal in any complex case that requires intensive treatment. As your child gets older, new challenges will be revealed. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure to pace yourself.
In the end…
Caring for your child is a lifelong obligation. By assembling a team you trust and can rely on when things are tough, your family will be able to navigate challenges with confidence. Having a good team to support you will result in the best outcomes for you, your child, and your family.
Do you need help with your child? Sarah Wayland can help you figure out how to support your child via classes, Parent Coaching, as your certified Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) consultant, or with Special Needs Care Navigation services.