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Finding the Right Doctor for Your Child with Special Needs

Reviewed March 2024

Have you changed health plans, moved or for other reasons need to find a new doctor for your child with special needs?

While there is not one, perfect doctor for every child, a family should look for a provider who treats you as an equal partner in your child’s care. Your child’s doctor should help create coordinated care within a Medical Home. 

What Steps Should I Take When Deciding on a new Primary Care Doctor?

      • Think about what you want from your health care provider and write it down.
      • Make a list of the doctors you want to check out. Talking to family, friends or co-workers may help you create a list of names.
      • Call the clinic and request a brief visit with the doctor. Most clinics will set up a short appointment so that you talk with the doctor in person.
      • Come to this visit prepared. You may (or may not) want to bring your child along.
      • After your visits compare what you learned and decide who fits your family best.

Once you have chosen a doctor, call the clinic and ask for a new patient appointment. You will likely need to request that medical records be transferred to your new provider’s clinic and intake paperwork may need to be completed to help the new provider learn about your child and family.

What is a Medical Home?

A medical home is a trusting partnership between you, your child, and your primary health care team. A medical home means that your health care team:

      • Knows your child’ s health history
      • Listens to your concerns and needs (as well as your child’s)
      • Treats your child with compassion
      • Has an understanding of your child and family’s strengths and preferences
      • Develops a care plan with you and your child when needed
      • Respects and honors your culture and traditions

Your health care team can help you and your child locate and coordinate specialty care, other health care services, in and out-of-home care, family support, and other community services that are important to the overall well-being of you and your child.

What is Care Coordination?

Care coordination is the process that links a child and his or her family with needed health care services, along with other supports and services. A child and family’ s needs, goals, and choices are included in a care plan that is shared with all team members (for example, specialists, therapists and school staff).

Wisconsin Wayfinder – Wisconsin Wayfinder: Contact Us can help families looking for new medical providers


Questions to Assist in Choosing a Doctor or Other Primary Care Provider

Below are considerations as you decide on a new doctor or other health care provider for your child with a disability or other special needs.

      • Does the doctor have experience working with children with special needs?
      • Will the doctor work with you to develop plans of care?
      • Does the doctor enjoy working with children who have special needs?
      • Does the doctor have time in his or her practice for a child with special needs (who may need to be seen more often)?
      • Is there flexibility in the clinic practice to allow for longer appointments?
      • Will the doctor sit down with you to review your child’s health history and diagnosis thoroughly?
      • Will you be able to see the doctor when your child needs to be seen on short notice?
      • How are emergencies handled? Can you and your child meet other members of the team so they are familiar with your child if the doctor is not available?
      • How are urgent messages handled?
      • Will the doctor and clinic staff communicate with your child’s other providers in a timely manner (including specialists, therapists or non-network providers)?
      • Will the doctor help your child transition to adult providers at the appropriate time?
      • Can you communicate with the doctor by voice mail, email or text messaging in a secure way? What is a typical response time?
      • How will the doctor communicate your child’s diagnosis and special needs with partners when the doctor in not on call or is on vacation?
      • Can you and the provider write down protocols for procedures when your child is ill, which will be communicated with partners or if your child is admitted to the hospital?
      • How will the doctor feel about your obtaining a second option?

Still Have Questions? Need Help Finding Services for Your Child?

Family Voices of Wisconsin, 2024©  |  familyvoiceswi.org 

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