I am sharing an experience with you that angered me. It not only angered me because my son was mistreated by a paediatrician, but it really concerns me that many parents may unwittingly take the advice of government-endorsed specialists as gospel, believing that their qualifications guarantee good advice and that this should be followed.
My experience tells me this is not necessarily so.
For the sake of your children, follow your intuition and ask questions.
The paediatrician was running late for our appointment and so were we.
He seemed flustered and annoyed at the situation as he now had two clients waiting to see him.
I was seeing him for a letter I needed for school confirming my son’s original diagnosis of high functioning Autism (or Aspergers).
About two minutes into the consultation I presented to him the most recent school report and other relevant information.
He opened the school report first to a random page and read a couple of lines.
The conversation then went like this.
P: “So he has trouble concentrating?”
Me: “Yes, though it’s relative to what he’s doing. If he’s interested he has no trouble. We had some auditory processing tests done yesterday and we found that this is also a factor…”
P: (interrupts) “Do you want to do something about that?”
P: “The concentration?”
Me: “You mean therapy of some kind?”
P: “No, I’m talking about him having ADD. A lot of the time it goes hand in hand with autism. We can give him something to get him to concentrate.”
Me: “You mean medication?”
P: “Yes, my grandson takes it – works well – not my patient clearly.”
At this stage I was stunned. I couldn’t understand how three minutes into the conversation he had diagnosed ADD in my son without even talking to him and had suggested medication.
Me: “I don’t believe he needs medication.”
P: “Right! (changes body language to a closed position).
Me: “I’m concerned that giving him medication doesn’t give him the opportunity to address problems and learn to cope with them now, and that it will lead to him being on medication long term as a result of not having developed coping strategies or ways of compensating. Besides, his school results are very good.”
P: “Yes they are very good. So does that mean I shouldn’t wear glasses? Because my eyes will get lazy and won’t adjust?”
Me: “I don’t think that’s the same thing. We’re talking about my son ingesting a drug into his body, possibly for the rest of his life, that he doesn’t need. What about the long term effects?”
P: “Have you read any studies about the effects of medication long term?”
Me: “It’s commonsense and there’s a lot that we still don’t know.”
P: “ Well if you’re going to be irrational and illogical and argue with science then fine! It does help their self confidence!” (He was really annoyed now.)
He then sat and stared directly at me waiting for a response. I was still reeling from having been called ‘irrational’ because I was not willing to agree with his opinion on the use of medication for my son. I had not come to him reporting any current problems that concerned me or might possibly require medication and I was only seeing him for a letter I needed for his school aide funding. So how did we end up talking about medication?
He wrapped up the consultation, promised me the letter and I was rushed out.
I looked at the woman sitting in the waiting room, ready to go in. Earlier I had observed that she appeared unsure of her self. She’s mincemeat! I thought.
On the drive home I reflected on how many young children that paediatrician must treat. I shed a tear for all the kids with parents who might unwittingly respect his authority and position and follow his advice without question.
I respect that there is a place for medication in the treatment of children’s problems, especially autism. However if he could make such a quick judgment in my case, where I know my son does not have issues that require medication, how many children are medicated without need? As a culture we respect (sometimes without question) the authority and seniority of leading specialists. Thousands of children are referred to his clinic every year and continue seeing him regularly. Many desperate parents rely understandably on his advice.
It’s really scary. We need to ask questions… and feel angry…and act with our intelligent, logical, rational minds that tell us to get the hell out of there and find someone better. There are good practitioners that take a more holistic approach to children. We just need to use our discerning minds to find them.
Lisa Dell’Arciprete is principal trainer for the Diploma in Holistic Living Counselling at ACHS. She is passionate about helping children through training carers, teachers and parents to be healthy mentors.
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