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Has the World of Social Media Created a New Breed of Health Professionals?

Who Am I?... My Reflections...Reality

I have been a practicing Speech and Language Therapist for over 20 years; and an Author; a mother of two crazy boys aged 18 months and 5 years.  Oh how my practice changed overnight seeing the other side. Before eyebrows would be raised if patients were late or if homework was not done, but seeing the other side of the coin of what parents have to do in their daily routine opened my eyes.  I simply respected my parents for getting to the appointment to support their child. I remember the first day back at work I saw a child who had transferred to our Trust the child’s mother had left; the father had special needs and the child was severally Autistic and non –verbal at 4 years old.  The family were homeless; as soon as they left the clinic, the waterfall of emotions took hold. Suddenly it was not about the hour in clinic supporting the child’s communication it’s the reality of what the parents have to experience 24-7.

My degree was intense but fascinating.  I am so blessed to have worked with such wonderful children and amazing amazing parents.  I once read “A child with special needs does not come with a manual... it comes with a parent that does not give up”.  I studied for over 3 years too gain my qualification as Bachelor of Science in Clinical Language Studies (Speech and Language Therapy).  I studied so many modules within the course, Child development, child psychology, neurology, various therapy models etc etc. I was fortunate to work in the NHS system for over 20 years and gained so much knowledge, skills and experience which I feel so grateful for.  I left public sector in 2017, and now work independently. This was an extremely hard decision to make but I have enjoyed life post NHS so much. The flexibility to not follow unrealistic expectations, KPI’s, endless growing waiting lists for assessment and therapy.... to give the family the type and frequency of intervention they REALLY need, which makes a difference... and  quicker.....Early intervention is key.

Has Social Media Made A New Breed of Health Care & Education Professionals?

I have been following various national and local groups on social media for parents.    It’s a humongous network that supports parents in so many ways, from advice on sleeping, toilet training, weaning, behaviour, chicken pox, and overall development etc etc. There is nothing like having support from another parent about what they have gone through.  For many parents this is the first point of call. Within the network there are parents who are Health Care Professional too. It’s that comfort factor, to put the anxious parenting mind at ease.

My Concerns... Because I Care

Recently I have started to get slightly alarmed with some responses especially regarding communication development.  Over a year ago I saw a parent who came to me when their child was 3 years old, it was evident this child had severe communication needs.  I asked the mother when she started noticing when things were different the mother replied from 10 months old. I asked why she waited so long, she reported she followed advice from her NCT friends and other people to just let him develop and in time the child would talk.  The mother missed 18 months of vital intervention which would have made such a difference. I’ve seen this on several social media posts recently when people are asking about communication advice, a child a 2 years SHOULD be talking, if there are not they need support. Please see the ages and stages section on my website.  Using the wait and see approach can miss vital months of support.  Also children have come to me at 4 years old with severe stammers, they started stammering at 2 years old.... why refer now? The parents said they waited as they through the chid would “grow out of it”..... no no no... again Early intervention is key.   If you are concerned particularly about your child’s communication consult your Children’s Centres, GP’s Health Visitors, Early Years consultants, they are all very experienced, and they will always support you in the steps to taken. Always remember he walk in clinics and 111.

I see so many picture of children’s rashes and suddenly the world of social media can be quick to diagnose, but in a quick snap shot post there is no medical history taken how can advice be given what to do when the child rash may look the same as what your child had, but the child may have other health concerns or allergies to what people may recommend.  A parent has the most unique gift called “Gut instinct” parents never under estimate this. You know your child more than anyone in the world, if you think there is something wrong.... see a professional. Please do not wait.

Use Your GUT instinct... Don’t Always Wait and See....

I guess what I’m trying to put across is although there is a place for support on social media... and some useful articles and advice but please be vigilant... The world of social media are not all qualified Health Care Professionals. Go with your gut instinct.  Also remember Early Intervention is key. Certain advice I have seen from members on groups goes against what we practice as clinicians and concerns me. Medical and development histories are very important in the treatment and diagnostic process.

Keep doing what you AWESOME parents are doing.....it’s the best gift in the world being a parent and it’s our job to make sure our children stay, happy and healthy.  


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