The assessment of young children and teens is complex in that we work to identify the greatest needs for optimal growth at this season in their life, which means listening, discerning, and working both with expertise and intuition. Little ones don't always share their concerns or the nature of their symptoms. Sometimes they worry this will reflect poorly on them and other times they are embarrassed. This makes our assessments elaborate, requiring an astute and conscientious approach.
It also means establishing a relationship with a primary care provider is important, prior to needing crisis care. When the only exposure to clinicians is in an emergency when care is scary and overwhelming, it can then be hard to build trust with healthcare practitioners afterwards. It also associates trauma with healthcare, but our hope is that when children become active members in our practice, we can be a place to help empower them to prioritize their health and happiness their entire lives.
Meeting with little ones consistently allows us to dive into deeper conversations and really engage in important discussions. It thrills me to have children get excited to come see "Dr. Penny," but it also excites me when they begin to learn how to interpret and trust their bodies, emotions, and thoughts. Consent is foundational, whether in seeking conversation or while obtaining the physical exam. Our appointments are scheduled with sufficient time and in a child-friendly environment to minimize intimidation and allowing little ones to slowly warm up during their visits.
Simon, my youngest son, adoring his little sister.
As clinicians, it can be easier to relate to adults as we have a more accessible frame of reference in ourselves. When we neglect to establish a rapport with children, the clinician's care can become very paternalistic. When we respect the child's autonomy, as well as look out for their best interests, we can engage in shared decision-making.
Communicating with parents simply isn't enough, but even this is underappreciated. Children try to make sense of the conversation around them, so communicating directly with them, acknowledging their need for understanding, even if simplistic, is imperative to building a trusting relationship. It's vital with our adolescents.
Our goal is not immediate compliance. Good rapport has a long-term agenda. We want children to feel safe in our office. We want them to feel secure in unburdening their concerns and that we will help them find a solution. There is no judgement. When kids feel safe as little ones through regular visits and regular conversations, then when they grow older, they feel more free to engage in harder conversations.
Our sessions aren't brief. We aren't just checking boxes. We want to fully understand the needs of our clients, even our little ones, and we want to challenge you to grow. Not only do we have the wellness program for Littles, but we have a program specific for Raising Littles Authentically.
Certainly in conventional medicine there are parameters we want to assure are acquired by a certain season. We also prioritize these. We evaluate physical, cognitive, linguistic, social-emotional, and behavioral milestones which are influenced by historical, cultural, genetic, and environmental factors. We offer screening tools, laboratory evaluation, diagnostic tests, and referrals as appropriate.
We offer education to empower both the parent and the child, and we work to secure mutual decision making by offering genuine informed consent. Accurate and efficacious screening and assessment maximizes the potential to guide young children and families to the help they need before problems have become entrenched. Standardized tools can assist with screening and assessing young children and the relationships with their caregivers in a reliable way.
Education truly is our strong point. I seek to empower my clients so we explore all areas of personal growth in our wellness visits. This is a check-in for self-care, for self-evaluating, for pushing you to think outside your box. Either way, I have no agenda other than kindness. Once we understand your convictions and appreciate you have well evaluated your position, I am your advocate. My clients are critical thinkers and connect with our practice because they value the education. They seek to think for themselves and take personal responsibility. For this reason, they may opt for care practices that are outside the norm, and unfortunately because of this, they can face trial and persecution at some point and having had consistent care with our practice allows us to be your advocate. Our state does not mandate specific care or even consent to any particular treatment/preventative plan, but they do expect consistent healthcare. Medical neglect for example, is a crime, but declining vaccines is not.