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Warning Signs it is Time to Change your Autistic Child's Doctor


As parents of Autistic individuals or as Autistic individuals, we have all been in those situations where there are alarm bells going off about your child’s doctor/your doctor. This can be one of the most stressful things to go through as a parent and as a person.


I have been in a situation many times over the years where I have sat for days calling doctors, trying to find one that would treat my child in my area-only to find we didn’t click for whatever reason as soon as we started treatment with them. This has happened to me as a woman with a mental unwellness as well. Whether the doctor is a new doctor to yourself or your child, or one you have been with for years-there are things that as special needs parents (and as humans) we cannot deal with. We need things to work like a well-oiled machine; especially when you have a child that has Autism (or you yourself has Autism.) So, what are the warning signs?

You know more about Autism than the Doctor

This no doubt has happened to just about every parent of an Autistic child at least once. You walk into the appointment and realize very early in that you know more about what is going on than the doctor does. As not many doctors specialize in Autism it isn't uncommon for the parents to be more knowledgeable than the doctors. This is troubling. That is why having a specialist is so important. Not all Doctors are qualified to treat Autism.

It starts taking lengthier amounts of time to reach the Doctor

Communication is part of the key to successful treatment of any mental illness or disorder, especially Autism. We need to have an open channel of verbiage with our/our child’s health team always. If it starts to take days, even weeks to get a phone call back during trying times then it may be time to start looking into switching doctors. This is particularly true in situations where the doctor was once exceedingly attentive and slowly no longer is. This can be troubling to any person and should set off red flags in your head.

You present alternative sources of medical information and treatment options and they aren’t taken seriously

Per the Autism Site Blog, “Doctors have spent years honing their craft, and often, their assessments should be taken at face value.” You must keep in mind that medical science is an ever-evolving field and those that chose a profession in practicing medicine should always have an open mind to advancements that are made. This is another key point in having a successful medical treatment plan, being flexible and open to learning new things.

Some doctors will scoff at the thought of any treatment that they have not heard of. It’s the unwillingness to learn about new material that you should keep an eye out for. As parents of Autistic children, we know that much of the measures that we go to are experimental, to an extent. It’s important to have a doctor that is open to these tactics, within reason. (Don’t give your child bleach treatments or parasite treatments! Doctors that prescribe things such as these do not have their facts straight. These are harmful measures.)

The staff or the doctor is always rude

Again, communication is part of the key to successful treatment. Your emotions/your Autistic child's emotions are another part of the key to successful treatment. A rude office staff or doctor can ruin an appointment and leave you feeling unheard and uncared for. Rude staff members can ultimately get in the way of a successful doctor’s appointment. While there are times when they may be short staffed and running low on time- this is no excuse for dismissiveness or attitude. It is immeasurably important for you to feel like your Autistic child or even your needs are heard and taken seriously; it is equally as important that you feel as though you are respected by said staff and doctors. A horrible bedside manner can tank a doctor’s career.

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Getting medicine refills take way longer than normal

The normal protocol anymore is to give your doctor a week to 3 days’ notice of the need of a refill of medicine, if it is a medicine that cannot be ready filled every month (like ADHD medication.) If it takes longer than this on multiple occasions it may be time to start looking for a new doctor to care for yourself or your Autistic child. Having your medication is a huge key to your treatment being successful. If your doctor is too busy to pay attention to such a key detail (when the appropriate amount of notice is given) than this is a reason to be concerned. You can’t go without your medication and your doctor should make it a priority to make sure all his patients medicines are filled, within a timely manner. It is his job and duty. He took an oath to do no harm, leaving a child or adult without needed medication certainly does harm.

There are medical errors everywhere

Per the Autism Site Blog, “If your doctor is regularly making medical errors or misdiagnosing you, then you need to re-evaluate your situation.” Nobody should have to go through the roller coaster of emotions that come along with being misdiagnosed countless times. It happens, it has happened to me and to my children. The point is that it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. You shouldn’t have several misdiagnoses. That is damaging to your mental and physical health. If you have been misdiagnosed or noticed many medical errors in your charts it is definitely time to look into switching doctors.

Your doctor refuses to give you a referral

The Autism Site Blog also suggests that, “if your doctor refuses to give you a referral and routinely downplays the idea of a second opinion it may be more of a matter of pride, and pride won’t get you any better.” No one doctor is going to have all the answers, they must be willing to be part of your health care “TEAM,” not the only member of it.

Getting test results for routine tests takes forever

We all want to know the results of any medical test that we take immediately. That's unreasonable. That several days wait can be absolutely devastating to our nerves though. As parents of Autistic children, we have no doubt learned to have a knack for patience; however, having patience when you must wait weeks to learn the results of a test is unacceptable. (Unless you were given warning that it would take longer.) Your time is just as valuable as the doctor’s time, and it is your health-or your child’s- that we are talking about here. If it takes forever to get your results you may want to start hitting the internet and calling your insurance company to find a new doctor.

Your Doctor doesn't explain things clearly to you about yourself or your child

Understanding your diagnosis is one of the last keys to having a successful treatment plan. If your Doctor does not explain things clearly to you about what you are up against, or dismisses your questions- that's a big red flag. If your Doctor spends all his time explaining things to you in terms that you do not understand once you are able to get them to explain, then scoffs at you not understanding the medical jargon- it's definitely time to start looking for a new doctor. Your doctor should want you to be just as informed about your care and treatment, or your Autistic child's treatments and conditions as possible. They should want you to be comfortable asking questions and should want you to know everything there is to know about the disorder or illness you are there to see them for. You can't expect the doctor to spend hours explaining things to you, as they have other patients, but a willingness to talk to you as a person and care is reasonable to expect.

While finding a doctor when you have an Autistic child is a challenge to begin with in some families, I promise you that the time and effort you put into finding a good doctor that meets your needs and your child’s needs is invaluable. You may have to travel, but it is worth it. Many times, I have driven hours to doctor’s appointments, monthly, to make sure that my son had quality care. Where there is a will there is a way.

If you need help with getting to your doctor’s appointments, contact your child’s doctor and your insurance company. There may be an answer to help get you there, like Medicaid taxis or hospital gad reimbursement programs.