In this Blog, one of our Directors, Dr Jo Martin explains how the first visit often works. This is a guide and may help you and your child feel more comfortable.
When a family comes to see me they have been referred by their GP, but often it is not the GP who has directed the family in the first instance. I need to establish who has concerns – is it the family? the kinder? school teacher? maternal and child health nurse? And establish what the specific concerns are.
It is not uncommon to see a child referred for bed wetting or asthma, who evolves to become a child requiring a more detailed neurodevelopmental assessment. Sometimes it takes time for the real reason the family is there to become apparent and may take several sessions of sorting out other medical issues to get onto bigger concerns.
I spend a significant amount of time in the first appointment engaging the child, always asking about their interests and strengths first, before moving onto the challenges. I try not to underestimate how difficult it must be for these children facing challenges at school to come in and hear their parents talking about all their deficiencies and shortcomings. I always start with a conversation about what they enjoy and they are good at, and also ask their parents this question. I preface the difficult discussion ahead by explaining that we all have strengths and challenges and go on to describe my challenges with navigational skills and sporting prowess.
Children are understandably apprehensive out their first visit, so we recommend that prior to attending you should:
- Prepare your child before the visit
- Educating children in advance is the most effective way to alleviate fears.
- Parents may prompt these conversations with age-appropriate books, a kids’ TV show about visiting the doctor or even a toy doctor’s kit for a pretend run through.
- Call our office in advance to know what to expect.
- Offer distractions
- Be comforting. Holding or hugging a child is preferred over having them restrained, which can only elevate a patient’s fears.
- Offer a small treat afterwards – the promise of an ice-cream cone, small toy or a fun shared outing after the doctor’s office may help boost positive associations with the experience.
As Paediatricians we have all chosen our profession because we care deeply for the welfare and wellbeing of children. Every single day I am grateful for the opportunity to work with vulnerable children, those affected by physical or mental health conditions and I am constantly amazed by the resilience of the young people and families who present before me.
If you have concerns about your child, visit your GP for a referral first and we look forward to helping you.
Dr. Martin is a General Paediatrician with a special interest in neuro-developmental and behavioural paediatrics including autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, learning difficulties, infant health, sleep and settling issues, disorders of the upper airways, asthma, eczema, allergies, adolescent health and well-being, and weight management. Read More