How to be an Advocate for Your Sick Child

When your child is sick, you’re naturally focused on helping her get better and managing the implications of an illness. For most parents, the doctors and nurses in charge of your child’s medical care are seen as steadfast allies. When medical care goes wrong or school administrators aren’t willing to work with your child during an extended absence, you’ll be forced to act not only as a caregiver and comforter for your child, but also an advocate for her.

Trust Your Own Instincts

As a parent and the person who spends the most time with your child, you’re in the perfect position to recognize the difference between a minor complaint and a real illness. Full waiting rooms, high overhead and tight schedules can motivate your child’s pediatrician to examine and diagnose her as quickly as possible, which could lead to the dismissal of a real ailment as a minor one. If your instincts are telling you that there’s more to your child’s illness than the doctor is acknowledging, you need to have the confidence to challenge the pediatrician’s opinion. It’s entirely possible to approach her with your concerns in a polite and respectful manner, and it’s something you should absolutely do if you feel that your child isn’t getting the care she needs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

A brusque pediatrician that projects a rushed, harried air may not be the easiest person to approach with questions, but it’s important for parents to realize that they’re well within their rights to ask their pediatrician questions. If you don’t understand a prescribed treatment, aren’t sure of what your pediatrician is diagnosing your child with or simply don’t understand his instructions for the child’s care, you’ll need to question him further on those subjects. Regardless of how tight your pediatrician’s schedule is, he should make time to address the questions and concerns of worried parents.

If Necessary, Seek a Second Opinion

The faith that many parents place in their pediatrician leads them to follow her advice without question, but it’s important to remember that your pediatrician is human and, as such, is completely fallible. Not only is it okay to seek a second opinion if you don’t feel that your child’s diagnosis is correct, it’s essential. Your child’s health should be your primary concern, and it’s important to remember that even a pediatrician with his best interests at heart could miss subtle signs or indicators of an illness. Before you accept a diagnosis of a common cold or minor ailment when you suspect something more serious, consider getting a second opinion.

Work With School Administrators

Some school districts are great when it comes to working with chronically-ill children and have plenty of programs in place to ensure that those kids don’t fall behind in their studies while managing the symptoms of their illness. Others have very rigid regulations, aren’t interested in working to meet your child’s needs and will find any way possible to absolve themselves from the responsibility of caring for your chronically-ill child’s educational needs. In such cases, it’s important that you act as an advocate for him. Learn the laws in your state, as well as the requirements of public schools under Federal law in regard to chronically-ill or special-needs children. Remember the old adage about catching flies with honey, and maintain your composure when you’re discussing the matter with recalcitrant school administrators. The last thing you want is for your grievances to be dismissed due to your actions, so maintain a respectful and firm attitude when confronting teachers, principals and other administrators.

Keep Exhaustive Records

From the doctor’s office to the principal’s office, the most effective weapon in your arsenal when it comes to advocating for your sick child are well-maintained and exhaustive records. Keep up with every episode of an illness, every missed day of school and every doctor’s excuse so that all of your bases are covered.

Acting as an advocate for your sick child can feel like a full-time job sometimes, but it’s important that you remember what you’re fighting for. Your child needs quality healthcare and the attention of his educators, but he also needs the comfort and reassurance of a parent that loves him. Dealing with an illness can be a scary thing for a child, and it’s easy for parents to become so wrapped up in their fight with the healthcare and education systems that they forget how much affection and comfort their ill child needs.

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