How to be your child’s best advocate

Concerned couple with child talking to a professional

You think your child is unwell or may have a developmental delay, or a learning disability – but you’re having difficulty navigating the system to get a diagnosis and a plan. You’re feeling frustrated, worried and scared.

Our story

When my son was 11 he began having stomach issues. The symptoms expanded to numerous other physical ailments over time. After several visits to health care providers  my son was given a diagnosis. I needed to persevere, because as his parent, I knew him best and witnessed his symptoms worsening on a day to day basis.

So where do you start?

Firstly, once your primary care provider has heard your concerns, it’s important to listen to what they have to say. If they tell you that the symptoms/behaviour are within the realm of “normal”, then it may be that there is no need to do further testing or digging.  Often, they can reassure you that behaviours or symptoms you believe to be problematic are in fact normal.  You could then ask, “at what point should I be concerned”?

Continue to ask questions if your gut tells you your child’s symptoms or behaviour need further investigation.

Here are 11 tips that helped me the most:

  1. Listen to and observe your child.
  2. Keep a journal of the symptoms/behaviours your child may be having: the severity, how often they occur and what he is doing at the time. Be sure to bring it with you to help inform the primary care provider about what you are seeing.
  3. Trust your instincts. You know and understand your child better than anyone else.
  4. Build a positive relationship with your primary care provider. They play an important part in your child’s assessment and care. Listen to what they have to say and ask that they in turn listen to you.
  5. Advocate for your child. Speak up for your child if they are not able to do this for themselves. This means asking about next steps, including further testing, a second opinion and/or a referral to an appropriate specialist.
  6. Be confident. Ask questions until you feel comfortable and request further explanation when you need it.
  7. Take notes. Keep test results and information shared by your primary care practitioner. The information may seem clear at the moment, but over time it may get blurred together and disorganized.
  8. Stay calm and collected as much as possible – especially around your child.
  9. If you are going to do your own research, keep it to reliable sources.
  10. Talk to friends and family about your concerns. You never know – they may come up with some new strategies or ideas for getting to the bottom of it.
  11. Don’t give up. If you feel the root problem has not been found or addressed, continue to ask questions and advocate for your child.

Once my child was diagnosed, our relief was enormous and we were given a plan of action to follow. Most importantly, my son realized there was a reason for all of his symptoms and was on track to feel healthy over time.

If you are struggling to find answers or get support, give us a call at 311 to speak with a public health nurse or child development staff.

Can you relate? Have you had to navigate the system for your child? Share your tips with us:

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000

Posted in Parenting, Physical Health, preschoolers, School-aged Children, Services, Special Needs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Being a healthy divorced mom

When my daughter was 18 months old I made the difficult decision to leave my husband.

I moved to a new city and started over.  We had equal access, but she spent 60% of her time with me or sometimes closer to 80%, as my ex-husband traveled for business.  It was a busy, hectic and stressful time, but also a wonderful time.

Content Mother and daughter blowing bubbles

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Posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Physical Health, stress | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to help our kids deal with tragic news

Tragic events take place all around the world and many adults are challenged to process what has happened. As adults we know these types of events are extremely rare. We will react in different ways and with a range of different emotions that might vary from sadness to anger to anxiety.

Children on the other hand, do not have the same knowledge, experience or ability to deal with what they are hearing about these events. It can be very scary for them. They may think that it will happen to them or to people they love.

Upset boy sitting at the table and his sister supporting him while having meal with their parents

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Posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Physical Health, preschoolers, School-aged Children, stress, Teens, Tweens | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The benefits of a healthy smile are more than you think!

On an elementary school ski trip my bestie had her front tooth broken off by a wayward t-bar chair lift. Three things were learned that day and the days that followed; finding a broken tooth in the snow is impossible; exposed nerves don’t like winter air; and while waiting for the tooth to be repaired, my normally chipper (pun intended!) and fun-loving friend did not smile and missed school.

Portrait of Primary Schoolboys and Schoolgirls Standing in a Line in a Classroom

Today I am a public health nurse and a lot of my work involves helping kids meet their potential. Healthy eating, exercise, caring adults and friends all work together to help toward this goal. Oral health is an important part of this and we need to take care to keep a healthy smile. Dental injury or the development of cavities cannot be ignored as our oral health affects overall health and well-being. Continue reading

Posted in kindergarten, Mental Health, Oral Health, Parenting, Physical Health, Preschool, School-aged Children, Teens, Toddlers, Tweens | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 tips for supporting kids in stressful times

As parents and caregivers, we might see our children’s lives as being carefree and happy. Hey, they don’t have to pay the bills, take care of the household, feed the family or chauffeur people all over the place!

Sad boy lost in his thoughts

But kids experience plenty of stress. Our kids hear frightening things about our world from social media, their friends at school, or the news in the background. Scary things like school shootings, natural disasters and talks of nuclear war. They even can be worried about those experiencing a tragedy on the other side of the world. Depending on your child’s age, they may have a very limited understanding of things like geography, politics and the likelihood of specific events affecting them.

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Posted in Mental Health, School, school health, School-aged Children, Services, stress, Teens, Tweens | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Is it hormones or mental health? What every parent needs to know.

I heard shouting down the hall… then crying. My daughter entered the room with an empty mug in her hand and she’s sobbing. “She spilled my hot chocolate.”

So we are crying over…. spilled hot chocolate?

Understandable behaviour if she was 5 but she is in her mid-teens and it took me off guard.

Hands of mother consoling sad teen daughter crying

I consoled her with a promise to make more and as I folded her into an embrace, I caught my husband’s eye across the room. He raised his eyebrows but said nothing. Continue reading

Posted in Mental Health, Parenting, School-aged Children, stress, Teens, Tweens | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In an emergency, would your child know how to call 911?

Boy in phone booth holding landline corded phone and cell phone to compare

A few years ago, we got rid of our landline phone. The only people calling us were telemarketers – even the baby boomer grandparents had moved on to texting us!

Our kids were babies at the time and to be honest, I didn’t think about them needing to use a phone. Who were they going to call anyways??

Wait… Even little three and four year-olds have called 911 and saved a caregiver’s life. Continue reading

Posted in Parenting, Preschool, preschoolers, School-aged Children, Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments