Keeping Track of Changes

One thing that will help both you and the doctors is to start a journal or log. This will take up time, but there’s an excellent reason for doing it: When you are in an emotionally charged situation it is difficult to track how life is trending. A log creates an objective measure of what you’re seeing and how often you’re seeing it. Plus, when your gut is telling you something is wrong, or that your child is getting worse instead of better, it’s much easier for a doctor to understand your concerns when you provide actual data.

Write down:

  1. What medications are being taken, and when dosages change. If a new side effect kicks in a month from now, the odds of remembering that you increased the dose today are pretty slim. You (and your doctor) may mistakenly conclude that your child has some new symptom and add another medication. Alternately, a future doctor may want to try a medication that you’ve already used, and it’s helpful to have a record of what was tried and why it was later rejected.
  2. What symptoms you are seeing, and how often. If your child has meltdowns, record how many, how long they last, and how severe they were. Take note of the ABCs: antecedents, behaviors, and consequences. Is there a pattern? If your child is depressed, describe how many hours she has been out of bed each day, when activities are resumed, how long her attention span is for projects, whether she’s hungry or not — whatever symptoms might be relevant.
  3. Changes in routine and outside stressors. You will want to be able to figure out if changes in behavior correlate to environmental events. Note any big changes in school schedule or family structure, as well as lesser issues like arguments with friends or even the dates of your daughter’s menstrual cycle.
  4. Things your child says or does that worry you. This is especially helpful if you’re having trouble conveying the extent of the volatility or apathy you’re seeing to the treatment team. Sometimes reading a narrative view of “a day in the life” of your child can give doctors a richer understanding of what is happening at home. Write down events and actual quotes to share with your child’s therapist.