Strategies for Going to the Doctor

By Rebecca Shippy,
with Dr. Jane Charles and Denise Oxford

  1. Get the first appointment of the day, or the first one after lunch.
    It’s likely that the office will be less busy then, and the wait will be shorter. Phone consultations can also work well at the very end of the day.
  2. Establish a friendly relationship with the staff.
    Get to know the staff, and the office manager, so that they know you and your child or adult. They’ll learn that a bad reaction to a lengthy wait is part of the disability of autism, and not that he or she is simply being “bad”.
  3. Be appreciative.
    Make sure that you say thank you for good service, and write thank you notes whenever you can.
  4. Bring someone else, who can help you watch your child or adult if necessary.
    An aid or another family member will be able to take the child or adult out as soon as he or she is finished with his part of the visit. That leaves you free to finish discussing things with the doctor or staff without being hurried or worried about behavior.
  5. Bring a toy or snack to amuse the child, or help the adult stay calm.
  6. Make sure that insurance pre-certification or physician’s authorization is complete.
    Everybody is kept waiting if the office has to check on insurance certification or ask a referring doctor’s office for authorization. The parents and child get stressed by having to wait, and the doctors get stressed because they get behind on the rest of their appointments.
  7. Bring lists of medications and nutrients that your loved one with autism is currently taking and has taken in the past.
    1. Keep in writing a current list of the medicines and nutrients that they are taking and update it at every change. Include information about the dosage, time of day, length of time they’ve taken it, effectiveness, and side effects. Many of our kids take lots of things, and it’s easy to forget something.
    2. Also keep and bring with you a long-term list of all the past medications and nutrients they’ve ever taken, and their effectiveness. You may think that you’ll always remember it, but writing it down saves you from having to think about it, and keeps it all straight. Update this one, too, as needed.
  8. Ask for a copy of all medical records.
    1. Make sure that you have copies of the lab results and any other relevant paperwork. We live in a mobile society. You may move, or may need to visit another doctor or specialist. The records may not catch up with you before your new appointment, so keep a complete file of your own.
    2. It’s also a good idea to make an appointment with the office manager, not the doctor, once a year. This enables you to review your child’s records, make sure that your own copies of paperwork are up to date, and that your account is correct.
  9. Make copies of your child’s records from other doctors’ offices or pertinent school paperwork or psychological evaluations to help the physician keep the picture straight.
    Autism is a very complicated medical condition, and often many specialties are necessary to ensure the proper care of someone with it. Medical offices are very careful, but sometimes the paperwork just hasn’t caught up with the patient. Make sure that your doctor has all the records he or she may need to give your child or adult the very best care. That may mean making your own copies of records to give to another office. Make sure that you keep copies for yourself.
  10. Take pertinent research information with you to the doctor’s office.
    The research in autism is moving very quickly, and you doctor usually has many different types of patients. If you find a piece of information that you think pertains to your case, take a copy of the written article or document with you, and let the doctor have it to study. We all are learning more every day about autism, doctors as well.
  11. Become a partner with the doctor.
    This means to be as organized and as rational as possible. The lab data is vital but can’t tell the whole story. No one knows as much about living with your child or adult as you do. You are the one who has the time, and the motivation, to make the best behavioral observations of your child or adult. You also know best how he or she is feeling on any given day. You are the expert on your child. Because many people with autism can’t express how they are feeling, your doctor depends on you to tell him or her about the reactions of your child or adult to diet, illnesses or medications. Work with your doctor to report the things that you see in your child, without overwhelming him or her with extraneous details. Keep complete but briefly stated logs if you need to and give copies to the office. Remember, in a partnership, everybody’s time is important.