What’s Up, Doc? When Doctors Think They Know More Than Mommas
If your child’s provider totally ignores your insights about your child, fire him.
Having a child with ADHD, or other special needs, invites parenting advice from all quarters.
“If you’d just punish him more, he’d behave.”
“Her only problem is that she’s spoiled.”
“My friend’s son had ADHD, and he was cured when they went gluten-free.”
“Your daughter lacks motivation and isn’t meeting her potential.”
Those and other ADHD myths are usually what I hear from the peanut gallery. I’m used to this and can pretty easily ignore the uneducated parenting advice of others. But there’s a different type of annoyance that has gotten me all fired up lately: health care professionals who are sure they know everything about my child, and aren’t reluctant to tell me so.
I have felt certain for over a year now that my son, Ricochet, has high functioning autism in addition to his ADHD and dysgraphia. I pursued this and failed, because the providers were only looking for those classic signs of autism, like poor eye contact and repetitive behaviors.
I knew deep down, though, that autism was the missing piece of Ricochet’s puzzle not explained by ADHD or learning disabilities. I could see his obsessive thinking, social awkwardness, non-verbal communication deficits, extreme sensory reactions, poor emotional regulation, weak adaptive functioning, and difficulty with transitions.
I live with this boy. I see his joy and his struggles, and I see the autism. I refused to be discouraged by those who couldn’t be bothered to look beneath the surface. I told myself I had to find a health care professional who would value a momma’s insights and take the time to dig deep and explore every nook and cranny of Ricochet’s neurology, no matter how much time and effort was required.
This spring, I finally found this professional, a psychologist in our area who is an expert in all facets of autism. I knew that if Ricochet has autism, she would uncover it. I resigned myself to accept her verdict on the matter, one way or the other, knowing that she would probe until she was satisfied she’d reached the truth.
It took many hours of meeting with her over a couple months for her to tally all the questionnaires, talk with his therapist, pore over the many past evaluation reports, and come up with her report. It was time well spent, as she saw the inner workings of Ricochet’s brain for what they are: ADHD, dysgraphia, and autism spectrum disorder. She valued my insights, did a lot of questioning and digging, and saw the autism.
While I’m sad my son has autism, I’m relieved by the diagnosis, as I know it will open the door to more understanding and services.
Now let’s fast-forward a couple of weeks to our first appointment with a psychiatric nurse practitioner at our behavioral health office. Since our beloved mental health pediatrician finally retired, this was the man who would be managing Ricochet’s medication.
We started the appointment by discussing Ricochet’s current medication and how he is doing overall. I gave him a copy of the evaluation report with the new autism diagnosis as well. He flipped through it and got to the page with the conclusions and diagnoses. He skimmed through the autism characteristics the psychologist cited in Ricochet.
“I see what’s written in this report,” he said, tapping his pointer finger on that portion of the page again and again, “but he doesn’t have any of the classic signs. He’s conversing with me and looking me in the eye normally.”
Are you kidding me? I thought. I began to rant at him — in my head. This man spent less than 10 minutes with my son and he’s questioning the autism diagnosis. The evaluator spent at least 240 minutes with Ricochet (and many more with me) before she concluded that he had autism. And I, his mother, have spent about 6,683,608 minutes with him, give or take a few. As an educated parent and patient that means I know a whole lot more about my son’s characteristics than a man who has spent less than 10 minutes with him.
I’m now looking for a new meds doc, one who recognizes that momma usually knows best. If your child’s provider doesn’t value your insights as the parent, I recommend you find someone who does.
Updated on December 17, 2020