rolodex MVPs

By Sarah Maraniss Vander Schaaff

I am reading a biography of a woman who traveled to Europe by steamer ship in the early twentieth century. She took with her an address book in which she’d entered the names and addresses of recommended tailors and doctors just in case she needed one.

The modern parent doesn’t need an address book of names on hand in the event of emergencies because at the touch of a few buttons, we can search for what we need instantly.

Or can we?

If what we’re looking for is a highly recommended specialist, we might want to take a cue from our foremothers, and invest a little time in building our lists before we enter foreign land. It will not only save you the agony of last minute Google searches; it will help you turn to people who come with a personal recommendation.

I asked a few experts for their must-have-contacts-to-know-before-you-need -them, and here is what they said:

  1. Child Psychologists/Psychiatrists: These offices get quite busy once the school year is in full swing, and some clinicians have waiting lists months long. So, don’t wait until October to investigate. For broad definitions of the professionals you may need to seek, Dr. Wendy Matthews says:
  •  Psychologists are doctorally trained professionals (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) who treat a range of emotional, behavioral, and psychological challenges. They provide evidenced-based psychotherapy, administer psychological evaluations, and offer consultation. They are licensed to practice by the state.
  • A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD or DO) who treats mental and emotional problems and who is also able to prescribe medication.
  •  A therapist is any person who provides treatment for psychological problems. Therapists might include professionals with degrees in social work and counseling.

If you are seeking a better understanding of ADHD in particular, the magazine ADDitude has a useful explantion of the different practitioners who can diagnose, including who can and cannot prescribe medication. And if you’ve been advised to seek a psycho-educational evaluation, you may find my interview with psychologist Dr. Carol Blum helpful.

  1. Tutors: One learning specialist recommended that you consider all options for tutors, from the highly experienced (and expensive) professional tutors to baby sitters who already have a rapport with your children. Before frustrations and homework increase, it’s nice to have a few options ready.
  1. Sports injury specialists: Yes, now is the time to ask the mom whose daughter has her arm in a sling, “So, how’d you like your doctor?” It’s the next best thing to signing a cast with a Sharpie. On a more serious note, it’s hard to ignore the preponderance of youth concussions we’ve read about in recent years. Our blog did a two-part series following the story of one mother who drove five hours to consult the specialists at UPMC in Pittsburg. They eventually helped get her third-grader back on track after months of missed school.
  1. Ophthalmologist: Your pediatrician may have a list of recommended eye doctors, but it’s also a good idea to look around, find a family donning frames, and ask whom they see for eye care. While vision screens are done at school and by pediatricians, the website All About Vision cautions  “…studies published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that 40 to 67 percent of children who fail a vision screening do not receive the recommended follow-up care by an eye doctor.” Hop to it.
  1. Finally, my own must-have to stash in your rolodex is the phone number for the pizza place you can drive by on the way home from whatever after-school activities keep you from making a three-course meal. At 7pm on a Tuesday night, this might be your MVP (Most Valuable Phone Call.)
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