The day-to-day reality of being a mother of a special needs child changed my career aspirations. Born with DiGeorge syndrome, my special son had failure to thrive and delay in his speech and fine and gross motor skills. After years navigating an array of specialty clinics and working closely with skilled clinicians, my special needs child is a mainstreamed first grader supported by special education services and an IEP (Individual Education Plan). My real life parenting experiences sharpened my career focus.
In my new position as the lead physician of the newly created Bon Secours Developmental & Special Needs Pediatrics practice, l bring firsthand knowledge to discussions about treating special needs children. In dual roles as mother of a special needs child and pediatrician treating a special needs child, parents have asked me…
Why is my child special needs?
Advances in medical science and technology allows children with illnesses, birth defects or complications to survive. As a result, our babies come home dependent on cutting-edge technology to live beyond life expectancy. Survival of our children can be dependent on medical devices like extra oxygen support, tracheostomy tubes or cardiac pacemakers. My son relied on a feeding tube until last year. Our children have special needs.
How many other special needs children are in the U.S.?
The 1994 National Health Interview Survey on Disability reports that approximately 30 percent of American children younger than 18 years of age had, or were at risk for, a chronic condition; 18 percent had special health care needs (Pediatrics 1998; 102; 117, An epidemiologic profile of children with special health care needs). Approximately 15 percent of children 18 years of age and younger in the United States were reported to have one or more developmental disabilities (e.g., ADHD,
intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, autism, seizures, stuttering, hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders and/or other developmental delays) (Pediatrics
2011; 127;#1034, Trends in the prevalence of developmental disabilities in U.S.
How will my child benefit from a special needs practice?
In creating a Developmental & Special Needs Pediatrics practice, Bon Secours Health System has assembled a medical team focused on the unique challenges a family with a special needs child faces from infancy through adulthood. An immediate change in the care our patients experience is a longer allotted appointment time. Because we only treat children with special needs, our practice is designed to work around your child’s schedule and challenges.
Our medical team includes a pediatrician with extensive experience in special needs children, a developmental pediatrician, and access to child life specialists, nutritionists, social workers and nurse navigators with expertise specific to the special needs child. Our treatment strategy ensures that the complete wellness care of our patients addresses medical, developmental/educational, psychological and social needs.
How will a special needs pediatric practice benefit a parent?
In our practice, parents relax in the comfort of meeting others with shared experiences. The unspoken stress of sitting in a waiting room with healthy
children is eliminated. Casual conversation with other parents about everyday
challenges you face provides needed support and encouragement. During the first years of my son’s life, I saw more than eight doctors. Our medical team works with parents to ease the daunting process of communicating with multiple doctors. Our focus is on coordinated care.
Although many families face hardships, research reveals that those with special
needs children have increased risk for experiencing financial instability, social
isolation or family disruption. Our team at Bon Secours Developmental & Special
Needs Pediatrics is committed to helping our families navigate the day-to-day realities of raising a special needs child.
Valerie L. Bowman, M.D., FAAP, with over 20 years in the Richmond area as a pediatrician, brings medical expertise and compassion to her patients at the Bon Secours Developmental and Special Needs Pediatrics clinic. She lives in Richmond with her husband and three sons.
Bon Secours Developmental & Special Needs 5855 Bremo Road, MOB North, Suite 703
Richmond, VA 23226
Article originally appeared in Richmond Family Magazine