By Noah Menaker
LEND Trainee in Pediatric Dentistry
As a pediatric dentist and oral healthcare provider, my experience with the RCDC LEND program has provided a new avenue for growth and development as a professional working with the material and child healthcare community. Much of what people think we do as pediatric dentists involves cleaning, restoring or extracting teeth, however there is a significantly more complex component that involves providing comprehensive care for those children and adolescents that may be disenfranchised and disadvantaged for a variety of contributory factors. LEND has allowed interdisciplinary engagement with providers outside of my direct healthcare network to foster a greater sense of collaboration when planning and providing care for our patients with emotional, psychological and developmental disabilities. Prior to beginning my training with LEND, I would have rarely if ever interacted with psychologists, social workers, speech-language pathologists and advocates in my work day, and this opportunity has allowed me to broaden my horizons and think outside the box with regards to patient care. The MCH community requires involvement from a diverse array of key players in order to achieve best outcomes for patients and their families, and LEND provides an education that has allowed me to gain a greater understanding of my role in this community as a pediatric dentist.
LEND focuses on providing resources for working with patients with neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, which is essential when providing care to pediatric and adolescent populations. As more and more children are diagnosed with varying degrees of developmental delays or disabilities, having a better understanding of the resources available and the role you can play in their care is extremely valuable. Pediatric dentistry is the end of the line for oral healthcare when it comes to children, adolescents and adults with special healthcare needs, and many of the patients that are seen at RCDC for evaluations and resourcing need to be served by a specialty-trained pediatric dentist who has advanced education in working with this population. Many parents will come to our office with a sense of dread and despair, because they are worried that this dental visit is going to be yet another stressful and unsuccessful experience that their child may fail at when engaging in relatively routine activities like visiting the dentist. What LEND has done is enabled me to think even more holistically when it comes to engaging with my patients with special healthcare needs and their families so that I can reduce that level of stress and create a happy and healthy environment for their child. RCDC helps give parents answers when they need them most, and pediatric dentistry tends to fill that void in the oral healthcare system with these patients.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Cristina James is the Data Coordinator, Associate Training Director, and Family Discipline Coordinator in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Child Development at Indiana University School of Medicine. She has over 10 years of professional experience and a life-long lived experience in neurodevelopmental disorders which, combined with her analytical skills, allow her to effectively span across functions to help provide and improve many LEND outcomes.