As a mom with special needs children, I’ve spent my share of time waiting or traveling to specialists in order to get the best health care available for my children. Going to see a specialist can be a long, stressful ordeal for a child. Here are some tips to make those appointments go a little bit easier!
Prepare In Advance
Call in advance and ask to see what kinds of procedures your child will have done. The office staff should be able to let you know the names of the procedures and the expected duration of the entire visit. This should help you begin to prepare your child for the visit.
It’s important to share details with your child in an age appropriate way. Don’t share too much information, and try to keep the conversation matter of fact and reassuring.
Check to see how far you must drive to get to the appointment. If your drive is over several hours, you may want to consider getting a hotel and arriving the night before the appointment, especially if your child’s appointment is first thing in the morning.
For some appointments, it will be necessary to have your child fast from food, water, or even sleep. Make sure to ask if this is the case when talking to the office staff.
Make Your Child Happy
When my children were younger, we made yearly drives to Philadelphia to an eye specialist who was skilled in dealing with visually handicapped children. The appointments began around 8am and lasted until 5pm. It was a long time to be stuck in a hospital waiting for tests to be run or enduring testing.
The day before the appointment, I’d let the children get a new stuffed animal which they could take with them to the doctor’s office. This actually really helped!
Since they had no dietary restrictions associated with the hospital visit, I’d back special snacks and treats for their lunch and dinner during the day. This also really helped.
Choose Your Doctor Wisely
This is the last, but most important point. Make sure to get recommendations for specialists before making an appointment with one. Some specialists are better at dealing with children than are other specialists. If you are being referred to a specific hospital, ask to see how much experience they have dealing with children. If they don’t have too much experience with younger patients, you may wish to see care elsewhere.
During the visit, remember that you are your child’s advocate. Speak up firmly when necessary. Know your rights and your responsibilities!
Above all, share the details of your visit with the doctor who referred you in a courteous manner. Your positive or negative experiences really do matter! Once, I had an EXTREMELY negative experience at a local children’s hospital. I shared my experience with the referring physician who checked and found that all of her patients had similar negative experiences; they just hadn’t shared that information with her. She began to refer her patients to another children’s hospital because of that feedback. Although my child endured a visit that was less than pleasant, other children were spared that discomfort because I spoke up. That gives me some satisfaction.
Do you have any tips to share with readers? Please post!