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But with fewer than 500 doctors certified as adolescent medicine specialists between 1996 and 2005 -- some states have none -- most families will need to hunt a pediatrician or family physician with the communication and social skills and, perhaps more importantly, the true interest to engage a teen.
"Adolescents have so much energy. They see the world so differently than you or I," says Biro, Cincinnati's adolescent medicine chief, who wasn't part of the report and says society's stereotype of sex and drugs isn't the typical teen.
The relationship starts with the doctor making clear that the adolescent has a right to patient confidentiality that grows with age, although he or she must work with the parents, too.
As Biro describes the balancing act: "As long as you're not hurting yourself, another person or getting hurt by another person, I will hold that information confidential. ... If there's a direct health risk that could involve their life, then I will share that."
Then comes recognizing that the early teen years are when kids move from concrete thinking to more abstract thought -- they begin to connect the dots, Biro explains. They may assume the doctor connected the dots the same way, meaning a girl who complains of stomach pain may not volunteer that she's fears pregnancy.
"It's not that they're withholding information. They figure they've just told you everything you need to know because the rest of it you should be able to figure out," Biro says. "I prove to them I am indeed about as smart as mud and I have to ask them more probing questions."
On the Net:
Society for Adolescent Medicine:
Adolescent medicine report: http://www.iom.edu/
Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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