Guest Writer: Crystal Wong, MD (UW Family Medicine)
A good primary care doctor is worth their weight in gold. When you’ve invested years of visits and developed a trusting relationship with your Pediatrician it can be difficult to give that up. However, eventually everyone becomes an adult. With adulthood comes an entirely different mix of medical concerns, healthcare maintenance regimens and therapies. Additionally the adult healthcare system is entirely different to navigate. Just as a dermatologist could not be expected to know how to perform brain surgery; a Pediatrician cannot be expected to perform all aspects of adult primary care. Everyone deserves an excellent primary care doctor to perform regular health care exams, keep track of ever changing health screening recommendations, be available to evaluate acute medical concerns, and help navigate our complex medical system.
The late teenage years are a good time to think about transitioning to an adult primary care doctor. It’s also often the time teenagers start feeling a bit awkward about seeing a Pediatrician (think toy-filled waiting rooms targeted at children). Adult primary care doctors can be Family Practitioners, Internal Medicine doctors, or some OB/GYNs.
A good start would be to first discuss this transition with your current doctor. Some Pediatricians feel more comfortable than others about taking care of older teens and young adults. Additionally, you might discover that your primary care doctor is a Family Practitioner who can continue care throughout adulthood. If you and your Pediatrician decide on a transition, ask them if they have any recommendations for local adult doctors that would be a good fit. Often, doctors know of colleagues that are especially adept at working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders or special needs. Adult family members may also have a primary care doctor they can recommend. Additionally you may have friends, or know of other parents with a child on the spectrum, who have a suggestion. If this leads to a dead end, you can also contact us at the Seattle Children’s Autism Center to help you troubleshoot this aspect of adult transition.