When looking for a pediatrician for a special-needs child, you want someone who knows their stuff—but there are more factors to consider when choosing a doctor. Special-needs children tend to visit the doctor more than other children, and their medical histories are often more involved, so they need parental advocacy more than non-special-needs children. Incorporate these criteria into your search for a pediatrician with these five factors.
A doctor with a ton of references may seem like they'd be worth the drive, but if your child needs to visit the pediatrician frequently due to an acute illness, those long trips may become a problem. Doctors who are far away may ask you to go to an even more distant hospital or specialist. Location shouldn't be the sole criteria by which you judge a doctor, but it's important to consider.
Large practices usually offer the greatest degree of expertise and experience. However, they can also deliver impersonal service, long wait times and frequent doctor changes. Your child's needs will largely determine whether it's worthwhile to visit a large practice, but if you want to see the same doctor each time (and not wait hours to do it), you may want to consider a smaller practice with just one or two on-staff physicians.
Finding a pediatrician who has handled cases like your child's can be helpful, because it ensures that they know what to look for and that your child will be tested adequately. However, it might also mean that the doctor may not be as willing to listen to new ideas or to consider non-mainstream treatments since they will rely on their tried expertise. If you are wanting to do your own research and ask a lot of questions about non-mainstream treatments, a less-experienced or more collaborative doctor can be a viable option.
Does the pediatrician you've chosen divide his or her time between more than one practice? Will a crisis outside normal office hours put your child in the hands of the on-call physician who may not know your child's history? The more complex your child's case, the more important the answers to the above questions are. Be sure that you're comfortable with your pediatrician's level of availability when times get tough.
The Doctor's Personality
Odds are, you will be spending significant time with the pediatrician—so you may as well choose a doctor you like. Schedule an interview before making a decision, and if the doctor is reluctant to meet face to face, take your child elsewhere. Whether you want a doctor who's wise and grandfatherly, or you want one who's strictly business, a brief chat should be sufficient to tell you whether you can work with a particular pediatrician. For special-needs children, people skills are just as important as medical knowledge.