Finding A Doctor Who Cares For Individuals With Special Needs

For individuals with special needs, a visit to the doctor can be a significant challenge. To receive the highest quality medical care, it’s important to find a practice that has deep experience caring for special needs patients, understands the full spectrum of their needs, communicates effectively, and offers a comforting presence and environment. With a little research and planning, caregivers can identify a medical facility most qualified to meet the personal medical and emotional needs of their loved one. We sat down with Dr. Steven Kolesk, the Chief Medical Officer at The Medical Center at Woods, who shared his insights on what a caregiver should look for when seeking the right doctor for an individual with special needs.

Choosing the Right Doctor’s Office for Kids and Adults With Special Needs

Image of the front desk at The Medical Center at Woods with a young patient and caregiver standing at the long white counter. A beginning step in preparing your loved one for a medical visit is finding a medical practice that aligns with their unique needs. It’s important to conduct thorough research in your area, reaching out to physicians and other medical professionals, online support forums, and local community groups that can offer recommendations and insights. A convenient location is vital, but equally important is ensuring that the team of doctors and nurse practitioners is a good fit for you and your loved one.

Experience and Credentials

Doctors and NPs (nurse practitioners) treating special needs patients should have extensive experience with individuals who have disabilities, additional certifications in special needs medical care, and membership in related medical organizations. Look for healthcare professionals who have affiliations with industry-related groups such as the American Association of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD), the American Association of Nurses for Developmental Disabilities, Autism Speaks, and others. These affiliations show that the healthcare team is committed to staying at the forefront of medical care for special needs patients and working with other medical professionals to improve the overall quality of their healthcare.

Communication Skills

Communication is key. A medical facility for kids and adults with special needs should be adept at communicating with individuals with disabilities, ensuring that your loved one’s needs are understood and met. Healthcare workers who primarily care for patients with special needs can offer a level of understanding and accommodation that is hard to match.

Integrated Health

Medical facilities that practice “integrated health” are ideal for people with disabilities, offering on-site access to specialists in behavioral health, psychiatry, neurology, podiatry, optometry, dentistry, and more. This integrated approach, according to Dr. Kolesk “puts the patient at the center of care. Rather than simply moving patients through, a patient can have many of their unique needs met in one location.”

Traditional Doctors vs Doctors for Special Needs Patients

Image of male provider at The Medical Center at Woods treating a male patient seated in a green treatment chair. Medical visits for individuals with special needs should be tailored to reduce stress and sensory overload. Facilities should have specially designed, calming environments that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), featuring appropriate lighting, open spaces, and minimal disruptive sounds. Dr. Kolesk mentions the importance of having a facility whose “exam rooms are large enough to comfortably fit the patient and the person who is accompanying them, as well as any assistive devices like crutches or a wheelchair.”

Additionally, the structuring of the appointment itself should be designed to be efficient, ensuring that the patient does not have to endure long waits upon arrival. Dr. Kolesk stresses that special needs patients “should be seen in a timely fashion. When they show up, they should be brought into the exam room as soon as possible to reduce the fear and anxiety that can build up while waiting”. Streamlined appointments are crucial in making the visit as thorough, smooth, and stress-free as possible.

Preparing for Your Visit

Once you’ve selected a medical facility, it’s important to speak to the healthcare team before your visit. This conversation is your opportunity to ensure they understand your loved one’s unique needs and are prepared to accommodate them.

Furthermore, a preliminary visit to the healthcare facility can be invaluable. For people with special needs, unfamiliar environments can be overwhelming. A pre-visit serves a dual purpose: it allows you, as the caregiver, to interact with the nurse practitioners that will provide care firsthand but also helps your loved one become acquainted with the new faces and surroundings. This visit helps ease concerns and makes the actual visit less daunting. To maximize the visit, bring a list of questions as well as a list of medications the patient is currently taking.

Request an Appointment

If you’re looking for a medical facility for your loved one with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy or other intellectual or developmental disabilities, request an online appointment here. The Medical Center at Woods, conveniently located in Langhorne, PA, exclusively treats adults and kids 6 years and older who have special needs. Our specially trained team of doctors and nurse practitioners see patients from 7am to 7pm, Monday through Friday, with evening hours to accommodate school and other activities. Providers are also on call 24/7 to answer any questions immediately.