Top tips for preparing for medical appointments

Elizabeth writes... It can be daunting going to any appointment. I see myself as relatively level-headed and as a speech therapist, have lots of experience talking to different professionals.

However, I will always remember sitting in a paediatrician’s appointment with my son, nearly in tears and unable to collect my thoughts, just because I didn’t agree with what was being said.

Mother and child image
Credit: Ben Earwicker

Looking back at the experience it would have been so much easier if I had made a list of all my questions and the information I wanted the doctor to know before going in.

More importantly, in my work with children, it also made me think about how I talk to parents and make sure to include them in decision-making.

I have had parents being so worried because their child hadn’t slept well or didn’t want to come to the appointment. As parents we have limited control over these things, but what you can do is work with the therapist to get the most out of your appointments. For me, the relationship I build with parents can be the key to better outcomes for the child.

There are a number of things that as parents, you should feel happy to ask or tell your therapist and I wish that more people would. It may not always be easy, but it can make a difference to your child so it’s worth speaking up!

  • They’ve never done that before! It’s important to let the therapist know if what they saw that day wasn't a good example of 'the norm' for your child. Maybe they were silent and can normally do a lot more. Maybe they were really chatty and you hadn't heard half those words before. Maybe, by complete chance the words the therapist asked your child they could say easily, but you know they struggle on others. Maybe your child is just getting or recovering from a dreadful cold. These are all really important things to let the therapist know so they are better able to judge where your child is developmentally. We often only get a small snap shot so we need to know if it’s a true representation.
  • Pardon? Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you haven't understood something the therapist says. It can be really hard to stop and ask, but is so important. You need to make the most of your appointments and if you are being given information about your child, or advice that you don't understand, this will not help. No therapist should mind going over something again. It's very easy to get caught up in words that we use all the time and forget that not everybody does. Words like comprehension, expression and phonology are common speech therapy words, but not for everyone!
  • They love the Octonauts! It can be helpful to know if your child has a particular favourite toy, game or TV show. We can try to work it into therapy and it gives us some common ground to talk about.
  • I’m not that worried. If you really aren't that concerned but someone has referred you, let us know. You know your child and if you can see that they are following the same pattern as their siblings or that you know that they are talking with you at home but are just quiet at nursery, tell us. But, do be prepared that the therapist might be concerned and be ready to discuss this.
  • I’m really worried. Equally let us know if you are really concerned about something. As above, you know your child. Maybe they are developing really differently to their siblings or you can see the impact that missing just that one sound has on their confidence.
  • It works! I love hearing parents tell me about how practise is going at home. Are the games working, have you found something new and exciting that I haven’t seen before? I have worked with some very inventive parents who have given me great ideas for therapy games.
  • Who’s involved? It's useful for us to know if you have seen a Speech Therapist before, or if you are waiting for a hearing test or doctor’s appointment. Equally if you are seeing or have seen an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Educational Psychologist. Or maybe the nursery is providing a little help for something. Even if it was only one appointment ages ago, it still helps for us to know.
  • I don’t agree. Now this is tough and I struggled with it myself. Saying you disagree with a professional’s opinion is hard but it's important to have the discussion. Try to explain what your concerns are and exactly which thing it is that you disagree with and why. It may be a miscommunication between you. It may be that the therapist doesn't have all the information or it maybe something outside of their control, but at least you will know.
  • It didn’t arrive yet. If you were expecting to have received something or haven't heard from us yet, get in touch. We are all human and make mistakes! If you are expecting something that doesn't arrive - do let us know!
  • Thank you! Let us know when you are pleased! It’s always lovely to get feedback that you are helping and making a difference for families. That’s what we are here for.

So the next time you go to an appointment think about the relationship you are building with that professional. Think about the key information you want them to know and also what you are expecting from the appointment.
If we all take a little more time to discuss these things, hopefully everyone will benefit.

Elizabeth Gunner SpeechBlogUK

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