The Wotsit test

There is a piece of medical equipment that you cannot buy in Foyles or Blackwells; I would be surprised if it existed in the elegant medical supply shops on Harley Street; I have never seen it on the medical suppliers websites (although I’m sure that it is available online).

A packet of Wotsits is an essential piece of my toolkit. 

Performing the Wotsit test is very simple: observe the child in the playroom; watch their reaction when offered a bag of luminous orange snacks (or better still, when someone else starts eating “their” bag of Wotsits); observe when the parent tries to remove the bag to clean their hands or to “go and see the doctor”.  

It’s a reassurance for my gut feeling that a child is well or unwell. A child that demands a bag of their personal treats (or reacts when somebody else eats their  treats) 

Parents have their own version of the Wotsit test which they use all the time. They tell us about things that aren’t quite right; that makes their child “different” from their normal. 

“Off her feeds”

“He’s just quiet”

“She won’t even watch Peppa Pig” (this sets all my alarm bells ringing)

For some reason, the Wotsit test has to be translated into medicalese before doctors take it seriously.  We try and quantify feed volumes and write our notes to describe lethargy and malaise. We’re not so good at just accepting that “not right” or “different” is a valid concern in itself. 

The problem with the Wotsit test is that it works brilliantly for children who eat Wotsits. It’s not so good for children who don’t. 

I was thinking about this more today as we talked about children with complex needs and the care that they receive.  Most families that I meet with extensive experience of hospitals have an organised way of sharing information with healthcare professionals. I quite often get handed a printout with a summary of diagnoses, operations, and medications. It’s incredibly useful, but it’s not all the information I want. 

I want the non-medical stuff too. I want to know what makes families worried and why they think their child is different. I want to know if they’re ignoring me because they don’t like being in hospital or because they’re not well. I want to know if they hate bubbles or not; if their feed usually makes them tickle; if having hugs and cuddles are things that they only want when they feel ill. 

I want to know your Wotsit test. And I will try to listen. 

If I don’t, please feel free to throw a packet of Wotsits at me. 


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