Autism: Finding the Right Medical Professional

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Autism: Finding the Right Medical Professional
It is difficult finding the right professionals to work with your child that has Autism. Some family doctors do not understand Autism enough to know the best way to handle Autism and the best resources for it. And assistants and others in the offices assisting the medical professionals have no training in working with Autism.
I have found this to be the case on occasion with my son. At times when I mention my son has Autism the fear on the face of the medical assistant, though she does her best to hide it, is clearly evident. Last year we took our son for his first eye appointment. This was not an appointment we were looking forward to by any means. When I told the assistant he had Autism, I seriously thought she was going to jump out of her skin. She stayed professional, but it was obvious she had no clue as to what she was doing or how to handle him. She was getting frustrated, we were getting annoyed, and it was a disaster. By the time the doctor came in, it was apparent that at least she knew what she was doing and how to work with him. Seeing as this was an eye clinic based from Childrens Hospital, I would have hoped their staff would have been highly trained for these kids. When we went back this year, that assistant was nowhere to be seen and a much better one assisted him that was wonderful with him!

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Do Your Research
My best advice: do your research ahead of time before finding the right medical professional for your child. We have learned this from past experiences and I cannot emphasize the importance of this. Even though you want to take your child to the doctor you saw your whole life, or to the same doctor your other children go to, realize this may not be the best doctor for your child. You need to remember you must do what is best for your child, not what you want.

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Sometimes this can even mean having to drive long distances to find the right medical professional. One problem with living outside the city is most Autism specialists are in the city, particularly near Autism research areas, such as Denver and Seattle. My husband and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that we will need to stay where we are in the Denver area simply for our son and his treatments. He cannot get the therapy and medical professionals he needs back where we moved from in Washington State. It just simply is what it is and we have come to realize we need to be ok with that.
Talk to other parents and families around your area in a similar situation and ask them who they see for medical professionals. Be very picky when it comes to dentist and optometrists, as these doctors do evasive procedures that tend to frighten kids on the Autism Spectrum.

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Check out the medical professional websites and go to Autism websites where they have resource pages. Often times these resource pages may have doctors listed on them.
Prepare Doctors Ahead of Time
Before your child’s appointment, let the office know about your child’s condition. Sometimes they are willing to block off that time for just your child. For example, my son’s dentist office will block off an hour only for him for any time he goes into the dentist. If they are not willing to accommodate in any way for your child, they probably are not the right fit for your family.

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Any good doctor will ask before they begin to examine your child how they should proceed with the examination. For example, they may ask if they can simply just talk to your child while they examine him or her, or if they need to have you hold your child and do everything quickly. Be open and honest with the doctor and explain the best way to handle your child and his/her needs. And be sure to explain to your child what he/she will expect going into the appointment. This is where social stories are great. You can find these online or most schools have these on file already.

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Final Thoughts
Remember to do your research and plan ahead for it. Prepare your child and the office for the visit. Be calm and patient with your child. Remember this is an experience that is abnormal from daily routine and can be frightening for them.
Bring in something that is comforting, such as toys or food. You may have to read the social story many times to keep reminding your child it is safe and ok to be here. You can even show a picture of the doctor ahead of time from the website before you leave the house so your child can see what the doctor will look like.

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If you are in the Denver area and need some recommendations, let me know and I can give you some great ones that we use for our son!
Jen Edwards
Jen@voyagescounseling.com
720-258-6392