Her words were gold (at least to us). “Well, I’m not sure if the behavior you’re seeing could be triggered by specific ingredients in foods and medicines, but, I’ll find out.” I’ll find out. She might as well have said, I’m on your side no matter what. To a couple of parents who had become accustomed to having doors slammed in our face (both figurative and literal), when we brought up the idea that our child’s disorder and the ingredients in foods may be a bad combination, this was a beam of light in the dark.
We could have hugged her on the spot. We fought back tears because, for the first time on the journey, we felt like someone (a pediatrician) was finally on our side and advocating for us. She was willing to write letters to teachers, and principals, coaches and even Sunday School teachers, helping them to understand that because of his diagnosis of Alcohol-Related-Neurodevelopmental-Disorder, certain dyes in food (namely Red 40 and Yellow 5), as well as high fructose corn syrup, are triggers of behavior.
She listed them as allergies. This gave us leverage anytime we encountered a misunderstanding teacher, coach, or special-ed teacher. Having the right pediatrician or therapist is game-changer on this journey. But finding the right one can be difficult. How do you know what to ask, or what to look for? How do you know when a professional is not the right one and it’s time to move on? Here are 4 key questions we’ve learned to ask over the years…
- QUESTION 1– What’s the word on the street? The most practical way to find a professional who understands and is willing to work with you, is to find out the word on the street. We live in the age of the internet. There are Facebook groups on just about any topic, or niche, you can imagine. Not only this, but the foster and adoptive community is one of the fastest growing communities on planet earth. The chances of you finding someone in your community who is parenting a child with the same, or similar, disorders as yours, and has the inside scoop on who the best pediatrician or therapist is, are pretty high. Hit up the Facebook groups you’re a part of. Ask around amongst fellow foster or adoptive parents in your church or support group. You’ll be surprised at how many people can point you toward good doctors and therapists in your area.
- QUESTION 2- Do they understand my child’s disorder and our struggle? Do they have a working knowledge of FASD, ARND, RAD, or any other disorder in the alphabet soup? Are they compassionate toward your child and the situation you’ve brought them out of? Are they compassionate toward you, and the struggles you’ve gone through as you’ve fought for your child? Simple understanding goes a long way. Nearly 100% of our children’s providers are not foster or adoptive parents. They never have been. But, they are understanding and it’s genuine. That covers so much ground.
- QUESTION 3- If they don’t know are they willing to learn? A few years ago, our children’s wonderful pediatrician wasn’t an adoptive mother (as I just mentioned). And she had never ventured into foster care. She did not have firsthand knowledge of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. And she’d never parented a child with attachment issues. And because her children were never exposed to drugs or alcohol at birth, she didn’t have to concern herself (as much) with the ingredients in foods. But she was willing to research these disorders in order to educate herself, and give us the best answer for our children. That made her a hero to us. After meeting them for the first time, and explaining your child’s disorder, ask yourself (if it’s clear they do not know), “Are they willing to learn about this?”
- QUESTION 4- What is their background? You may get lucky and find someone in your area who has been trained in trauma, or understands the ropes when it comes to attachment and bonding. This doesn’t automatically mean they get you, or they’ll respond with compassion (depends on good ‘ole trial and error), but at least the biggest hurdle has been crossed. And that is understanding the ins and outs of what we deal with on a daily basis with our children. In your search for a new pediatrician or therapist, ask about their background. Ask them if they’re trauma informed, have heard of TBRI, understand the effects of being drug and alcohol exposed at birth, or even if they have knowledge of FASD or RAD.
Now, you may be thinking, “What if I discover the pediatrician or therapist I’m taking my kids to see is not the right one? What should I do?” It’s quite simple: you move on. You find someone else. There’s no formula here, you just find a new provider. It may take some time, but utilizing the questions I just provided above will help. There is no law that says you have to stay with a certain provider, especially if you walk out every time feeling like an idiot, or more confused or frustrated than you were before you went in to the appointment.
The 4 key questions I shared earlier have been hugely beneficial for us in the past, especially when we had to search for new providers.
Our good friend, Dr. Deborah Gray, who is a world-renowned therapist, specializing in healthy attachment and bonding, just provided us with a great resource that will be available in our new support site, Oasis Community. It’s a step-by-step guide to choosing the right therapist, what to look for, and what to ask. Along with that, our Oasis resource page will include a state-by-state guide to professionals (pediatricians and therapists) who specialize in FASD diagnosis, attachment, bonding, and other disorders that are common on the foster and adoptive journey. Make sure you are on our email update list for Oasis. When we open enrollment we will sharing some special opportunities with people on the list. You can join by clicking here.
Have you had experience in this area? What additional questions would you add to the 4 in this post? Share with us in the comment section below.