Archive for the ‘Help for your child’ Category

Vocabulary at age 2 may predict kindergarten success

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

parents reading to toddlerThe size of a child’s vocabulary at age two may predict how well he will do in kindergarten, according to a new study. The larger the oral vocabulary, the better prepared he will be for school.

The study looked at 8,500 children in the United States. The researchers found that:

  • preemies or babies with a very low birth weight, and babies whose mothers had health issues had smaller vocabularies.
  • children with parents who frequently interacted with their children and read to them on a regular basis had larger vocabularies.
  • girls tended to have a larger vocabulary than boys.
  • children from higher socioeconomic homes had larger vocabularies.
  • children with larger vocabularies at 24 months of age did better in reading and math and had fewer behavioral problems.

The researchers believe that interventions should be started early enough so that children who are at risk due to medical/health problems or socioeconomic disadvantages, have the time to develop and catch up. Interventions need to be targeted especially to toddlers who are living in disadvantaged homes.

Keep in mind that no two children develop exactly alike. Some are early bloomers while others are later bloomers. And one study cannot predict an individual child’s development.

What can you do?

The single most effective way to help your baby expand his vocabulary is to read to him. Start when your baby is born, and read every day. Reading aloud helps promote language skills – vocabulary, speech and later on, reading comprehension. See this post to learn just how important reading is for your baby and to learn where to get books. See the AAP’s article for tips on how to make it fun. And remember, the best parts about reading to your little one are the snuggles and cuddles that go along with it.

If your baby is showing signs of a developmental delay, speak with his health care provider, or contact your Early Intervention Program and ask for a free screening. If your child qualifies, he may receive personal, targeted intervention (such as speech therapy) to help him catch up.

Don’t delay with delays!

Have questions? Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

The study appeared in the journal Child Development.

Learn how to help your child in our Delays and Disabilities series.

Kids with special needs head back to school

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

school-bus-and-stationeryThe start of school is an exciting time for most children and their parents. Many children with special needs eagerly anticipate the start of a new school year. But lots of kids are incredibly anxious at the thought of all the unknowns: new classroom, teacher, friends or school.

If you are the parent of a child with special needs, how are you feeling about the start of the new school year?

Are you…

Scared or fearful – Will your child’s particular needs be met?

Afraid – How will your child react to new smells, lights, sounds and routines?

Overwhelmed – Is your child going to a new school? Are you wondering whether he will be able to handle the transition?

Unprepared – Do IEP meetings make you feel like you don’t know what you are doing?

Alone – Do you feel like you are the only parent with your concerns?

Worried – Is your child going to do well in a class with “typically developing” peers?

Insecure – Are you wondering when to swoop in and help your child versus sitting back and watching him and the school handle any hiccups or problems?

Nervous – Will your child make friends? Will he be by himself on the playground?

If you are experiencing any or all of the above emotions, you are not alone. There is no doubt that starting a new school year is hard on students AND parents. But, when you mix in the complications of dealing with a disability and the necessary accommodations or supports that need to be in place in order for your child to succeed, it can be very stressful!

This blog series, and all of the resources listed in each post will help you tackle whatever comes your way. By being prepared, you will calm your nerves. Hopefully, you will become excited, confident and in-control. Your little one will sense your positive outlook and enthusiasm, and it will rub off on him, too.

Check out these tips to smooth the back to school transition for your child. Learn helpful ways to make the transition from summer to school do-able and realistic, including changing bedtime hours, adjusting meds and meeting your child’s teacher.

Please share your feelings about the new school year – good, bad, up, down, and anything in between. Got any tips? Let’s hear them. We all learn from each other.

 

Have questions?  Text or email them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We are here to help.

Children with Congenital Heart Defects and Their Use of Special Educational Services

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

A guest post by Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Teacher and studentsSome new research gives us encouraging information showing that children living with birth defects are getting the services they need. Specifically, several of my colleagues and I found that children with congenital heart defects (CHDs) received special education services more often than children without birth defects.

This is important news, because earlier studies have shown us that children with some types of CHDs have a greater chance of having problems with brain development and function as compared to children without birth defects. Knowing that children with CHDs may benefit from—and are receiving—special education services is reassuring. Special education services are those specifically designed to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability.

So what do these findings mean? They demonstrate the importance of developmental screening—short tests usually conducted by a child’s doctor to determine if their basic learning skills are where they should be—for all children with CHDs to ensure they receive the services they need. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children receive these screenings at 9, 18 and 24 or 30 months of age during well visits with the doctor. Screenings may include observing, talking with, or playing with the child to see how he or she plays, speaks, behaves, and moves.

CHDs are heart problems that occur before birth and are the most common type of birth defect in the United States. About 1% or nearly 40,000 births each year are affected by CHDs. Of these, about 1 in 4 is considered a critical CHD, in which surgery or other procedures are needed within the baby’s first year.

Some of the specific findings from the study show that
• Children with CHDs and no other birth defect were 50% more likely to receive special education services than those children without birth defects.
• This increased use of special education services occurred in children with critical CHDs and in children with noncritical CHD.

For this study, we looked at information about children born with a CHD from 1982 to 2004 in metropolitan Atlanta; we also examined a similar sample of newborns without a birth defect. After linking information about these children to special education services they later received (from 1992 to 2012), we determined that children with CHDs more often received those services than children without birth defects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our partners not only conduct research such as this to identify the scope of the issue and how it is being addressed, we also
• Fund programs and conduct research to help us determine where and when birth defects occur and whom they affect;
• Track CHDs among teens and adults to learn more about their health issues and needs; and
• Collaborate with partners such as the March of Dimes to provide information to families, experts, and organizations to address CHDs.

We at CDC and in particular the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) along with our partners, including March of Dimes, strive to help ensure individuals born with these conditions get the care they need throughout their lives.

To learn more read the Key Findings document and the research article abstract.

dr-coleen-boyleThe March of Dimes wishes to thank Dr. Coleen Boyle for this guest post. Dr. Boyle is the Director of NCBDDD and has authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed and other scientific publications.

Brain bleeds in premature babies

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

brainThe younger, smaller and sicker a baby is at birth, the more likely he is to have a brain bleed, also called an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). If you or someone you know has a baby with a brain bleed, it can be a very scary and upsetting experience.

Bleeding in the brain is most common in the smallest of babies born prematurely (weighing less than 3 1/3 pounds). A baby born before 32 weeks of pregnancy is at the highest risk of developing a brain bleed. The tiny blood vessels in a baby’s brain are very fragile and can be injured easily. The bleeds usually occur in the first few days of life.

How are brain bleeds diagnosed?

Bleeding generally occurs near the fluid-filled spaces (ventricles) in the center of the brain. An ultrasound examination can show whether a baby has a brain bleed and how severe it is. According to MedlinePlus.gov, “all babies born before 30 weeks should have an ultrasound of the head to screen for IVH. The test is done once between 7 and 14 days of age. Babies born between 30-34 weeks may also have ultrasound screening if they have symptoms of the problem.”

Are all brain bleeds the same?

Brain bleeds usually are given a number grade (1 to 4) according to their location and size. The right and left sides of the brain are graded separately. Most brain bleeds are mild (grades 1 and 2) and resolve themselves with few lasting problems. More severe bleeds (grade 3 and 4) can cause difficulties for your baby during hospitalization as well as possible problems in the future.

What happens after your baby leaves the hospital?

Every child is unique. How well your baby will do depends on several factors. Many babies will need close monitoring by a pediatric neurologist or other specialist (such as a developmental behavioral pediatrician) during infancy and early childhood. Some children may have seizures or problems with speech, movement or learning.

If your baby is delayed in meeting his developmental milestones, he may benefit from early intervention services (EI). EI services such as speech, occupational and physical therapy may help your child make strides. Read this series to learn how to access services in your state.

Where can parents find support?

Having a baby with a brain bleed can be overwhelming. The March of Dimes online community, Share Your Story, is a place where parents can find comfort and support from other parents who have (or had) a baby in the NICU with a brain bleed. Just log on and post a comment and you will be welcomed.

You can also leave a comment here on our blog, or send a question to AskUs@marchofdimes.org where a health education specialist is ready to assist you.

 

Breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip or cleft palate

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

cleft lipBreastfeeding can be challenging for any mom. But, for the mother of an infant with a cleft lip or cleft palate, it can be daunting.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I am featuring a very helpful post on breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip or cleft palate, written by our March of Dimes blogger and Lactation Counselor. Thank you Lauren, for this post filled with useful, practical tips.

 

A cleft lip is a birth defect in which a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening. A cleft palate is a similar birth defect in a baby’s palate (roof of the mouth). A baby can be born with one or both of these defects. If your baby has a cleft lip, a cleft palate, or both, he may have trouble breastfeeding. It is normal for babies with a cleft lip to need some extra time to get started with breastfeeding. If your baby has a cleft palate, he most likely cannot feed from the breast. This is because your baby has more trouble sucking and swallowing. You can, however, still feed your baby pumped breast milk from a bottle.

Your baby’s provider can help you start good breastfeeding habits right after your baby is born. The provider may recommend:

• special nipples and bottles that can make feeding breast milk from a bottle easier.

• an obturator. This is a small plastic plate that fits into the roof of your baby’s mouth and covers the cleft opening during feeding.

Here are some helpful breastfeeding tips:

• If your baby chokes or leaks milk from his nose, the football hold position may help your baby take milk more easily. Tuck your baby under your arm, on the same side you are nursing from, like a football. He should face you, with his nose level with your nipple. Rest your arm on a pillow and support the baby’s shoulders, neck and head with your hand.

• If your baby prefers only one breast, try sliding him over to the other breast without turning him or moving him too much. If you need, use pillows for support.

• Feed your baby in a calm or darkened room. Calm surroundings can help him have fewer distractions.

• Your baby may take longer to finish feeding and may need to be burped more often (2-3 times during a feed).

• It may help to keep your baby as upright as possible during his feeding. This position will allow the milk to flow into his stomach easier, which will help prevent choking.

How breastfeeding can help your baby:

• His mouth and tongue coordination will improve, which can help his speech skills.

• His face and mouth muscles will strengthen, leading to more normal facial formation.

• If your baby chokes or leaks milk from his nose, breast milk is less irritating to the mucous membranes than formula.

• Babies with a cleft tend to have more ear infections; breast milk helps protect against these infections.

If your baby is unable to breastfeed: 

• Feed your baby with bottles and nipples specifically designed for babies with clefts. Ask your baby’s health care provider for recommendations.

If you are concerned if your baby is getting enough to eat, or if he is having trouble feeding, speak with a lactation counselor, your baby’s provider or a nurse if you are still in the hospital.

If you have any questions about feeding your child with a cleft lip or palate, email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Tips for family travel with your child with special needs

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

air travelIt is the end of July already, and many summer programs or camps are beginning to wind down. Some families like to take a few days or more to spend together. But, often traveling with a child who has complicated or special needs can be difficult.

Here is a blog post on how you can vacation with your child with special needs. It includes tips on what to do ahead of time, how to enhance communication while on your trip, and how to implement a positive reward system to help encourage desired behaviors. This post also includes travel ideas, such as the best places for your family to go with your child.

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs reviews special offerings and assistance available in many theme parks, sports stadiums and ball parks as well as hotels, pools and restaurants, thanks to the ADA. Even airlines will let individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities pre-board flights, to make life easier for you and your child.

There is no need to stay home when you and your family can get a change of scene and pace with just a little pre-planning and inquiring. vacation-family-carHopefully, these posts will give you the tools you need to make it work for you and have an enjoyable vacation.

If you have had a good experience at a particular destination, we’d love to hear about it. Please share.

 

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

See other posts in the Delays and Disabilities series, here.

Happy 25th Anniversary ADA!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

wheelchair symbolThere is so much that we have in our country that enables individuals with disabilities to access buildings, streets and facilities safely and without difficulty. A sidewalk ramp, an elevator, handicapped parking spots, wider doors to allow wheelchairs to pass through, sign language interpreters, tweeting sounds at street crosswalks, and braille on elevators are just a few of the enhancements that people with disabilities utilize today.

But it was not always this way.

I remember a time when my classmate who was in a wheelchair, could not enter a bathroom stall in a public restroom, because the door was not wide enough for her wheelchair to pass through. I’m sure other people remember times when individuals with disabilities could not get on a bus, get down a curb to cross a street, or find an elevator instead of stairs to get to the second floor of a building. Simply put, daily life was so much harder and often prohibited a person from going places, being independent or living life similar to a person without disabilities.

But all of this changed on July 26, 1990, when the American with Disabilities Act, or ADA, was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The law removes barriers and establishes that reasonable accommodations be made available to people with disabilities.

What is a disability under the ADA?

The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.” In addition, the disability does not have to be severe or permanent, either. For example, a pregnant woman who is temporarily unable to perform her job due to pregnancy must be treated the same way as another temporarily disabled employee.

How does the ADA help people with disabilities?

The ADA is not only there for physical enhancements in our environment; it seeks to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability, much the same way the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on sex, race or religion.

The ADA website describes in detail the ways in which this law helps individuals with disabilities access jobs, schools, public places (such as day care centers, recreation facilities, movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, pools and many other places), and services such as telephones, cell phones, pagers, call-waiting, and operator services.

You can read more about how this law is far reaching and important in the lives of individuals with disabilities at ADA.gov or Disability.gov.

So, happy anniversary ADA. And thank you for helping to become an equalizer when it comes to access and opportunity for so many Americans.

 

Fathers help mold their children’s future

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

dad and babyAlthough this blog is called “News Moms Need,” this week we’d like to give a shout-out to dads. Fathers provide a specific kind of nurturing and support to babies and children. Research suggests that fathers who are active and present in their children’s lives may have a positive effect on their future development.

All fathers, and especially those of children who are born prematurely, with medical conditions or disabilities, play a vital role in their children’s care. They diaper, feed and soothe babies, attend IFSP or IEP meetings, advocate for their children, help with homework, and pitch in when and where they are needed.

In a study that looked at the experiences of first-time fathers of late preterm infants, the authors noted “Fathers believed they had the ‘best job in the world,’ yet saw fathering as the ‘biggest job ever.’ Fathers viewed fatherhood as an opportunity for personal growth and reflected on how their lives had changed since the arrival of their infant.”

Just as fathers are instrumental in molding their young children, they are also deeply affected when something goes wrong. We have heard from dads who lost a baby or child, and the grief they experience is deep and constant. Although they may grieve in different ways from the mom, they nevertheless experience profound pain.

Here are some facts about the increasing role of dads in the lives of their children:

  • Twenty percent of fathers (1 out of 5) are now the primary caregivers of preschool-aged children when the mother is employed.
  • The number of stay-at-home dads (in a home where the mom works) has doubled in the last 25 years.
  • In the last 40 years, the number of father-only families has more than tripled.
  • In one national survey, 95% of fathers reported they participate in bathing and diapering their children several times per week.
  • A recent government report stated “Although fathers continue to spend less time on childcare than mothers, this gap has narrowed over the past 10 years and dads are increasingly performing caregiving activities traditionally done by mothers.”
  • A Pew Research study reports, “The amount of time parents spend with their children continues to go up. Fathers have nearly tripled their time with children since 1965.”

There is no doubt about it – mothers and fathers bring a different dynamic to parenting. Both are critically important in the long, joyous but often arduous road of parenting, and deserve to be acknowledged.

To all the dads out there: what advice would you give a man as he is about to become a father for the first time?

 

Comments or questions? Send them to AskUs@machofdimes.org.

View posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities, here.

Living with loss

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

yellow butterflyFor families that suffer from the unspeakable pain of losing a baby, their grief continues for a lifetime. It may ebb and flow; it may be more acute at anniversaries or when something triggers a memory. It may even seem to be out of mind for periods of time, but it is never gone completely. A woman starts loving her baby from the moment of conception and this love continues throughout her entire life. Similarly, the feelings of sadness and loss continue because a parent’s love has no end.

At the March of Dimes, women have written to us after suffering a miscarriage or stillbirth, asking when they will “get over” the loss of their baby. This is a question that is impossible to answer. Your life will go on – all the chores, jobs, responsibilities and even parties continue. But, the reminders will be there always, with the sadness and deep disappointment to go along with it.

I know a woman who lost her baby boy 31 years ago. She had tried for years to become pregnant, so her pregnancy was an especially joyous time for her. The immense happiness was followed by intense grief on the day of her son’s birth, as he lived for only a few hours. Even though she eventually went on to have a healthy baby, she still mourns the loss of her son. She marks her son’s birth and death every year, and continues to remember him. Her pain is palpable, even though so many years have gone by since that heartbreaking time.

Acknowledging and talking about the loss of her baby has helped her to know that her son was real, and that her grief is legitimate. She had bonded with her baby from the moment she learned she was pregnant. To ask her to forget about this tiny person would be ridiculous.

The pain of losing a baby is one that many women struggle with for life. Perhaps it is because the baby never got the chance to grow up and follow his dreams. Or, maybe it is because the mom is denied the natural desire to nurture her child and watch him grow up. Losing a child is like a double wallop- you lose your child and the dreams that go along with him.

It’s so unfair.

If you have suffered a pregnancy or infant loss, you may want to reach out to others who will understand your unique pain. You may find a local support group in your area, or you can join our online community, Share Your Story where you will meet other women who know what living with loss is all about. You are not alone.

The March of Dimes has written a booklet called From Hurt to Healing to help families understand their grief. It explains grief and how men and women grieve differently. It talks about how to deal with your feelings, tells you how to ask for help, how to deal with family and friends, how to help other children understand. And it suggests ways to remember your baby. Two other booklets, What Can You Do? and When You Want to Try Again are part of a packet the March of Dimes offers free to bereaved parents who have suffered a loss. If you would like to receive a packet, send your name and address to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You will never forget your baby, but in time the power of love will help you find the strength to move forward and love again.

 

Comments or questions? Send them to AskUs@machofdimes.org.

View posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

Fourth of July – fabulous or frightful?

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

fireworksHolidays can be an especially stressful time for children with special needs; Fourth of July celebrations are no exception. Here are some tips to get through the holiday weekend happily.

 

Fireworks

It seems that people either love them or steer clear of them. The colors that light up the night sky are beautiful to watch. But, for children with sensitive hearing, it can be a painful experience. Learn how you can help your child enjoy a fireworks display without discomfort or a meltdown.

Even though fireworks may be legal to use in some areas, it does not mean they are safe. Use extreme caution if you will be handling fireworks. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand and take the time to learn about fireworks safety.

Firecrackers

The loud burst of noise from firecrackers can cause hearing problems. In fact, firecrackers can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing protection should be used whenever you are around firecrackers, as they can cause immediate hearing damage.

Sparklers

These little bursts of flames can heat up to 1,200 degrees! Although they look tempting to touch, every year, many children under the age of 5 end up in the emergency room due to injuries from sparklers. If you insist on using them, closely supervise the use of sparklers and be sure the lit end stays away from faces – especially eyes. Better yet, avoid them altogether or use glow sticks for some bright, colorful fun.

Noisemakers

Poppers, pop-its, snappers or other noisemakers that make popping noises when thrown on the ground, can be extremely hard for kids to tolerate, even without sensitive hearing. (They also make dogs go crazy!) If your child suffers from sensitive hearing, keep her away from these noisemakers.

26american-flagWith a little knowledge and some planning,  your child can enjoy the holiday, without distress or a trip to the ER.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day everyone!

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.