Sunday, 9 June 2019

Mugglevision - Being a clinician to a child with learning difficulties

We all see the world through our own eyes.  It is normal to assume that the person we are communicating with has a similar enough perception of the world to mean that the rules of communication and interaction are fairly standard.

What if your patient has a very different perception of the world to the one you have?  Many of our patients fit into a group that experience the world quite differently to us.  This group includes children and young people with what would be classified medically as having a syndrome, neurodisability, learning difficulties, special educational needs or other such labels.  The trouble with labels is that they are just that - a label.  Labels can be dehumanising and sometimes irritating.  So, to avoid this trap and because it facilitates a theme, I shall refer to any such child as magical.  That makes you and me the muggles in the encounter.
When a muggle meets a person from the magical world, it can be a little difficult to know what to say or do.  That's normal.  What can happen in such circumstances is that the clinician (muggle) retreats to a place of safety, concentrating on the medical aspect of the consultation and communicating primarily with the family (who are also likely to be muggles).

There is a better way than this.  Being a muggle doesn't mean you have to worry about getting it wrong.  If you ask the child and their family what works well, they'll be happy to tell you.  Here are a few of the things they are likely to tell you:

What the (magical) young people tell us:

What the (muggle) family of the (magical) young people tell us:

Next time you encounter a child (regardless of their label) who has learning difficulties, have these as useful rules of thumb.  Each child is different, so if your not sure how best to behave with a magical person, ask them and the muggles they bring with them.

Edward Snelson
Magical world liaison officer
@sailordoctor

Many thanks to Liz Herrieven for help with this post.
Resources
  1. Liz Herrievan, Learning Difficulties in the ED, RCEM Learning
  2. https://www.makaton.org/training/
  3. https://pecs-unitedkingdom.com/pecs/

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