Useful Communication Strategies Importance of the First Question

When seeing a new referral it is very important to clarify the perception (both adolescent and parental) of why the adolescent has been referred to you. Adolescent-parent discrepancies may be readily revealed, even at this early stage in the consultation! In several studies, the professional's lack of interest in the wider impact of the condition is reported by young people to impede effective communication (9,10,17). This is readily addressed by always starting the consultation with a non-disease-related question, for example, "What have you been up to since we last met?" rather than "How is your arthritis?" A useful aide-memoire is to draw a text box in the corner of the notes page with a reminder of an important event to ask about at the next visit, e.g., joined new football team, took part in a play, etc. The mere fact that you have remembered will convey the message that the young person has being listened to and that the rest of their life is important. Adolescent health professionals need to understand that the social context of health behaviors for adolescents can be very different from those of children and adults. Asking their opinion rather than making statements like, "When I was your age ..." is obviously the preferred strategy during this stage of development.

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