That ongoing niggle that all is not right with your child...

 Dr Grace Kiiru - Australian Trained & Wollongong Based Paediatrician  Tue 30 October 18


Whether it's your newborn or your teen... parents know to trust their gut instinct.

But while it’s one thing to trust your gut instinct, it’s another to know just where to go for help.

We’ve all been there. The inconsolable infant, the child who is complaining of a sore tummy, the pre-schooler who seems less able to communicate and interact like other kids, the spiralling emotional outbursts, or your teenager is suddenly moodier than ever, and your gut tells you that this goes beyond teenage hormonal imbalance.

Whilst some may say they’re just after attention seeking or ‘normal’, your warning bells are ringing... So, what do you do?

Firstly, as a parent, you always trust your gut instinct. You know your child better than anyone, and you can be their greatest advocate.

While a trip to the GP is the number one destination for any parent, sometimes, the answers are out of reach. Then what?

Moments like these – a paediatrician can be invaluable in your quest to discover any underlying issues or if further investigation into a behavioural diagnosis may be required. They bring valuable insight into challenging situations with a world of experience at their disposal. To help parents and carers, we’ve clarified this issue by finding out just when you can benefit from seeing a paediatrician – and how to tap into their wealth of knowledge.

But first... the isolation of parenthood.

It’s worth briefly reflecting on why we sometimes question our judgement as parents in the first place.

While the answer is a complex one, part of it may lie in the fact that we are more isolated than ever. Many parents no longer live in a physical village – though we increasingly consult virtual villages online for a range of parenting advice. As our lives speed up, and ‘down time’ disappear; parents can retreat further away from our local communities and into the respite of our homes.

But at what cost?

The knock-on effect of this shift can mean that we worry in isolation. Aside from the emotional effects of such isolation, a loss of parenting perspective may set in. Sometimes, these simple questions may go unanswered for quite a while, causing ongoing concerns and anxiety within the home.

Some examples include a child screaming for an hour around dinner time? Or, ‘do all children find it as hard to go to sleep as mine?’ Or, ‘why does my child seem to be so distracted when I talk to them?’

While these questions can be partly answered online through parenting forums and such; a paediatrician can be the true lifesaver in such moments of (very normal) questioning.

So, when to contact a paediatrician...  

To help kick-start this conversation for you, Parents Guide interviewed Dr Grace Kiiru, a highly experienced and Australian trained female Paediatrician based in Wollongong

Firstly - we asked Dr Grace the question that many parents are too embarrassed to perhaps ask. And that is:

What is the difference between a Paediatrician and a GP?

A paediatrician has six or more years extra training in Paediatrics and Child Health Medicine through the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Their expertise in developmental paediatrics, acute and chronic medical conditions is well worth tapping into.

This established clinical toolkit enables a paediatrician to specialise more specifically in the health and well being of babies, children and teens. This includes assessing, diagnosing and treating all medical, behavioural, environmental, psychological and social concerns.  

To give you some idea regarding what to expect from a paediatrician such as Dr Grace, she will visit you in hospital and give your baby its first check-up before you are discharged and answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding your child’s or your family’s health. She will see you again after your 6 weeks immunisations for the final newborn check-up and talk to you about any feeding, development, attachment or health concerns you may have.  

What happens for a paediatrician in a typical day?

Across the course of just one day, Dr Grace will assess premature and term babies, refluxy, colicky or unsettled babies, children with sleep-related concerns, or poor weight gain, or the behavioural challenges of toddlers (e.g. excessive tantrums). She treats areas like toileting concerns, medical issues like asthma or eczema; plus all medical and behavioural issues in school-aged children and teens.

Most importantly to us as parents perhaps, Dr Grace says her day is most productive when working with families and care givers to not only diagnose the condition but also working out solutions that are holistic and practical.

Why should we trust our gut instinct and see a paediatrician?

The short answer is that while a G.P. is the best first step, sometimes a paediatrician is needed to go much deeper into the issues affecting your child or teenager, and more importantly – get answers.

Their six years of specialist training has equipped them to drill deeper into a range of clinical presentations.

To do this, Dr Grace often works closely with school counsellors and educators - or with the family members themselves to really understand what is contributing to the child's behaviour or symptoms – or perhaps an underlying undiagnosed medical or behavioural condition - and then treat.

Dr Grace is a mum of two, so she also understands first-hand the pressure faced by parents and the worry that takes hold when we question 'is my child normal?'. She is able to quickly assess whether a child is meeting the usual benchmarks and milestones - and sharing that information with parents is a critical part of her role too.

Can paediatricians help kids who are getting ‘lost in the system’?

Absolutely. Dr Grace notes a growing number of appointments focused on behavioural problems where a child can get 'lost in the system' at school, and sometimes incorrectly perceived and categorised as 'naughty' or difficult'.

It is these cases, a good paediatrician’s skill set can really shine - and have a life-changing impact on the child and the whole family. Dr Grace's comprehensive assessment of a child who is repeatedly behaving and acting out aggressively at school, for example - can often highlight a few underlying causes including but not limited to complex family dynamics, to bullying, to a diagnosis of ADHD or Autism. 

Can you diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders quickly?

Dr Grace recently completed the Mini-ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) training in Canada. ADOS is the gold standard tool for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It involves expert observations as a child is put through a sequence of standardised activities to assess the child’s skills in communication, social interaction and imaginative play. It can be completed at her practice in as little as 20 minutes. She uses the Mini-ADOS as well as the Social Responsiveness Scale together to accurately and quickly assess ASD. 

Do paediatricians provide follow up support after initial diagnosis?

Definitely. A Paediatrician’s role is not limited to just the diagnosis or the discovery of underlying factors - it is the action plan that follows which matters greatly – to ensure the cause is being effectively treated. This is again, where a good Paediatrician’s knowledge can shine through, and provide often life-changing advice for the family.

They will connect the parent and child up with the various support services and programs - and share all the available options out there. This is kind of holistic case management can make all the difference. As a paediatrician, Dr. Grace's ability to link families with timely intervention and therapy can put things back on track.

Want to know more? If you have any questions, or want to see a local paediatrician - Dr Grace Kiiru's Wollongong Office is contactable on (02) 4243 8991 – or just make an appointment online (CLICK HERE). A GP referral is necessary.

Dr Grace Kiiru has admitting rights to Wollongong Hospital for Paediatric care and Wollongong private for newborn care. Her inpatient work consists of the care of children with acute paediatric problems admitted through the Emergency Department as well as the care of children with chronic and complex medical problems. 

So, parents, trust your gut! If you are an Illawarra Parent and have worries about your child - paediatricians like Dr Grace Kiiru can help.

After all, it does take a village to raise a child, so build the village you and your child deserve – and reach out for informed help when you need it most. You can find more information on Dr Grace Kiiru by clicking here...


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