At Think:Kids, we spend a lot of time helping mental health professionals deliver more humane, compassionate (not to mention effective) care to kids with behavioral challenges and their families. However, there are times when we are reminded of just how much work we have to do with other health care providers as well, such as pediatricians, dentists and other doctors and nurses. We heard a story recently about a mother who took her 7 year old boy with behaviorally challenges to the dermatologist that was eye-opening.
When the dermatologist was attempting to examine this young boy, he began to get frustrated. She then told him he had to sit still and behave himself so she could do her job. He then kicked her lightly and told her he wasn’t going to let her look at his skin. Sounds like a good opportunity for Emergency Plan B right?
Well, the doctor responded by telling the boy that he was being a “bad kid.” As you can imagine, this didn’t help things and led to his behavior worsening. In front of him, his mother and his two younger siblings, the dermatologist then explained that he was the worst behaved kid she had seen in her 30 years of practice! Mom remarkably was able to stay calm enough to wonder out loud at how it could be the case that she hadn’t encountered other kids with behaviorally challenges in all those years. Before abruptly leaving the office with all 3 kids in tow, mom thought to herself, “And you thought that was bad? That’s nothing!”
The point of this blog is not to vilify the doctor. Dermatologists do well if they can! Clearly, this doctor had an outdated view of what causes some kids to be tougher to manage than others, and clearly she lacked ideas for what to do instead to make things better. The mom in this case brought the story to our attention because she wants to help us develop a certification program specifically for health care providers who would be able to advertise that they’ve received training in how to handle behaviorally challenging kids. That way, parents with a challenging child could seek out a dentist, eye doctor, dermatologist etc who they know would work hard to treat their child with the compassion and understanding they deserve. A great idea huh? And while such a training program would need to be just an introductory exposure to our approach, any health care provider who seeks out such training has already demonstrated the most important ingredient: an open mind and the acknowledgement that there might be a better way to think about and help challenging kids.