Is Your Child Stuck on a Month’s Long Waiting List? Here Are 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Get Seen Sooner!

When you suspect that your child isn’t developing properly, the first thing you might do is go see their pediatrician or primary care physician. If these suspicions are confirmed by the doctor, more than likely your child will be referred to a specialist. That could be a neurologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, or occupational therapist. Usually quite a few and often more than one.

At this point you are probably nervous and desperate for answers. You certainly will want to do something to help your child. Time seems to be of the essence. So, it can be heart breaking when you begin setting up these appointments and learn that the next available appointment is months away. Possibly up to a year away. What are you to do? Your child needs help and it seems there is nothing you can do except sit and wait.

But there are some things that you can do to get him or her seen more quickly.

1. Call often

You don’t want to harass the office, but it’s acceptable to call weekly and find out if there have been any unexpected openings. An office with a long waiting list typically grabs the name at the top of the list to call. It’s common to have one of these patients cancel at the last minute. That appointment slot is valuable and they do not want it to sit empty. It can be yours if you’re willing to quickly take it. Be prepared to adjust your schedule.

It’s also common for doctors’ offices to call patients who have been on the list and never to hear back from them or even to find out that they have moved out of the area. Patients often don’t bother to call the office to say that they will not need the appointment. So these factors could mean that your wait might be shorter than you think it is.

When you call, be polite. Being angry or demanding will not help. Clinics want to get your child in as quickly as possible. I know it can be frustrating for parents, but patience and kindness will get you so much farther with the person on the phone rather than treating him or her like an adversary.

Call, ask if there’s been any cancellations and say thank you if they say no. Be nice, be polite, make them want to help you.

2. Ask the office if they know of any other therapists that have openings

There are often other clinicians available that you might not know about. For the most part, these offices are in regular contact with each other and tend to know when another office is hiring a new therapist or if one is leaving. This information will give you a lot of leverage and you’ll be able to get in if you act fast and move your referral.

3. Don’t be insistent on seeing a certain therapist

You may have heard great things about one particular therapist and desperately want to get in with him or her. Don’t fall into that trap. Yes, there are some that have stellar reputations, but one won’t have a miracle cure that the others don’t know about. You may be wasting valuable time trying to get that “one” therapist when you could be with a less well known one who is equally good.

You may be wasting valuable time trying to get that “one” therapist when you could be with a less well known one who is equally good.

4. Go out of network

Most parents won’t even consider this, but you should definitely look into it. Very few people know what their out of network benefits are. They may not be all that bad. I see several patients in my clinic who have insurance plans with which I am not in network. Most of them pay only a few dollars more than my in-network patients.

Also, make sure that your doctor hasn’t restricted your child’s referral to “in house” only. Many doctors are simply employees of hospitals and clinic systems. Any referral to a specialist may be automatically directed to an in-house specialist unless you specifically tell them otherwise. You are free to take your child anywhere you want, not only to where the doctor refers you.

5. If you can’t get an appointment, ask to speak to a therapist on the phone

Don’t use this option in order to ask the therapist to bump you up on the list. Use it to ask them what you can do to help your child at home. There are things that you can be doing now to help your child. You just need to know what they are.

Remember, always be pleasant and make sure they know who you are!

Jason Miller