Archive for the ‘Help for your child’ Category

Research shows a consistent bedtime routine helps children

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

parents reading to child“Dinner, bath, books, bed.” That was my mantra when my kids were little. They knew the routine once I started getting dinner ready. The moment the dishes were in the dishwasher I would bring them straight upstairs to get ready for bath time, and to pick out a book. Once the story was read, it was time to hop into bed.

It helped ME to keep them in this routine. (After all, a mom needs to be off-duty, too!) And now, new research has shown that it helps KIDS to have a consistent bedtime routine, as well.

In a multinational study, mothers of 10,085 children (from infants to age 5) in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States were surveyed about their children’s sleep habits – both daytime naps and nighttime. They completed a questionnaire which was then analyzed by the researchers.

The results?

The children who had a consistent bedtime routine slept better, longer, and woke up less during the night. They also fell asleep sooner than those who did not have a consistent routine.

Parents reported fewer behavior problems the next day in the kids that had a consistent bedtime routine. (I know that if I have not had a decent night’s sleep, I can be grouchy and irritable the next day. It seems reasonable that the same would be true for our kids.)

It is interesting that the results were consistent across many different countries. Kids are kids, no matter where they live. They all need good, solid, restorative sleep. These data suggest that a bedtime routine can be key in helping your child sleep well every night.

More good news

It is never too late to establish a routine. Also, this study suggests that the younger your child is when you start, and the more consistent you are with keeping up with the routine, the better the outcome will be. Plus, reading to your child has many known benefits for language development.

Do you have a bedtime routine for your child? How is it working?

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

See other topics on how to help your child, here.

 

 

Is it an allergy or a cold?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

blowing a child's noseWhen cold symptoms last more than a week or two, or develop about the same time every year, it may be due to an allergy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, (AAP). Typical cold symptoms accompanied by an itchy throat, eyes, ears, mouth or skin are usually signs of an allergy. Other allergy symptoms may include coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, as well as rashes, hives and an upset stomach.

I know that allergies are no fun. Runny nose, itchy eyes, feeling like a marshmallow has invaded my head – these are a few of the annoying things that plague me at this time every year. In my case, I know I am allergic to pollen, grass and trees. Going outside can be a challenge (especially if I insist on breathing). Carrying a tissue pack everywhere I go is an absolute MUST for me. I have learned to live with my allergies and can tell the difference between when my symptoms are due to an allergy or a cold.

When your child has any of these symptoms, how do you know if it is a cold or an allergy?

To know for sure if it is an allergy or not, let your child’s pediatrician determine the cause of the symptoms. He may be able to tell in just one visit, or he may recommend that you take your child to a pediatric allergist (a doctor with advanced training in allergy and asthma). To make the most of your visit, try keeping a diary of your child’s symptoms, along with factors such as where you were (eg. a home with a cat or outside on the grass). Also, keep track of issues such as lack of concentration or attention. The more information you can give your child’s health care provider, the easier it will be to determine if your child’s symptoms are due to an allergy or not.

If it is an allergy, the doctor may recommend medications that can make your child more comfortable. Usually, some lifestyle changes can help, too.

What can help keep allergies at bay?

The AAP suggests:
• if your child is allergic to pollen, keep him indoors in the early morning when pollen levels are at their highest
• bathe your pet frequently to keep him from spreading pollen around your home
• keep windows closed, especially at night, and run your air conditioner to help remove allergens
• do not let your pet sleep in your child’s bedroom.

In addition, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has a section on their website that guides you through allergy symptoms, types, and treatments. It includes info on managing allergies at home, school, and the importance of knowing triggers.

What happens if allergies are severe?

In some cases, a child may have an allergy severe enough to warrant carrying an EpiPen, a pen-like inject-able needle that provides epinephrine (a hormone) to halt an allergic reaction. In other cases, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be suggested, to gradually desensitize your child to the allergen, and lessen symptoms. Your child’s health care provider will be able to evaluate him and make specific recommendations.

Allergies can affect your child’s life in a negative way, so early and continued monitoring of his symptoms by you and his health care provider will help to give him the best outcome possible.

See other topics on how to help your child, here.

 

When can your baby go home from the hospital?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

giving birthIf you just gave birth and are wondering when your baby will be discharged from the hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released guidelines for health care providers to use to decide when your baby can go home.

Careful consideration is given to the following factors:

  • The mother’s health and readiness to care for her child – Is she healthy? Does she have support at home?
  • The baby’s health – Has the baby successfully had at least two feedings in the hospital (either by breast or bottle)? Is the baby healthy?
  • The car seat – Do the parents have an appropriate one and do they know how to use it properly?
  • Life at home – Is the home safe for a baby? Are there illicit drugs, alcohol, a history of abuse, neglect or domestic violence in the home? Is there a history of mental illness in a parent?
  • Access to care – Does the mother have access to follow-up care for herself and her baby? Does she have transportation? Does she currently use or know of a clinic or doctor’s office where she and her baby can go for care?

The answers to these questions will help providers determine when a baby can be discharged from the hospital. The goal is to ensure that both mother and baby are cared for appropriately so that neither one will have issues that require going back into the hospital. By double checking on mom, baby, and home life ahead of time, the transition to home will be as safe and smooth as possible.

Preemies? Health problems?

Keep in mind that if your baby was born prematurely or with a medical condition, there will be additional considerations to review before your baby will be ready for discharge. Read our article on Leaving the NICU to learn more.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

For posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

 

Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

things to do I am not one who can easily relax. Usually, I need a brick wall in front of me to make me stop (or a cliff will do fine, too). Adrenaline runs through my veins. I am continually creating and updating my to-do lists (or as I call them, my must-do lists) and the I-don’t-have-time-to-relax attitude often overtakes me.

Now, I KNOW, that I need to relax, for the sake of good health and a clear mind. I KNOW I need sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. But, when the list of all that needs to be done is before my eyes, or in my hand, or on my phone, I have a very hard time turning away from it and shutting down my mind. Does this happen to anyone else out there?

As parents, we have the responsibility of providing for our children – financially, physically, emotionally and in every other way that they need. Parents of children with special needs face additional tasks to conquer, from appointments with specialists, to IEP meetings, to figuring out a system with continual twists, turns and dead ends. For pregnant women, stress related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Unless we purposefully have a method or a way to shut off the engine and refuel it, we risk burn-out and ill health.

But, easier said than done.

A few years ago, I took up yoga, as I knew that it offered health benefits. Among the benefits is a curious thing called “mindfulness.” Now, I am a science geek at heart, so the touchy-feely aspect was not really something I gravitated toward. But, I gave it a try anyway. What is this thing called “mindfulness?”

Well, it is a way to help shut out the noise of everything around you (and even your own busy mind), and just…be. At first I was not able to just sit and “be.” Be what? I am a do-er. Not a be-er. But, I kept going to yoga class thinking that there must be something to this, and to just give it time.

relaxing at workEventually, (after about a year!) I got comfortable and even good at sitting down on my mat, crossing my legs, uttering OOOOOOOMMMMMMM a few times, and becoming “present in the moment.” My yoga instructor would say “you have nowhere to be, nothing to do, but to be here, present.” I would concentrate on my breathing (never did that before!), and work on blocking everything out of my mind (much harder than it sounds).

During class, I give myself permission to put the world on hold for an hour. My must-do list will be there when I am done, and my noisy world will return, but for this one hour I honor myself, I rest my mind, I invigorate my body, and I …..relax. What a concept!

When my son was in first grade, he received a writing assignment; the topic was “my favorite thing to do.” He wrote “My favorite thing to do….is to relax. I like to go home, lie on the couch, put my feet up and just watch a movie.” (His teacher was not too happy, as she expected to hear he liked to play a sport or build a Lego creation, but I found it enlightening.) His favorite thing, was letting go, relaxing….just “be”ing. Hmmmm. Kids GET this.

April is Stress Awareness Month, so, as you rush around, going from appointment to appointment, crossing off items on your must-do list, remember that you can only go so far without re-fueling. The stop-rest-relax portion of your day is as important as the go-go-go part. It does not have to be through yoga, but find something that helps you relax your body AND mind. Then, when you pick up and go again, you will be refreshed and able to handle whatever comes your way. Believe me, if I can do it, you can, too.

So, try this as your new mantra for today:  stop – rest – relax.

And tomorrow?

Repeat.

 

For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

Do you know your baby’s different cries?

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

infant cryingYes…babies cry a lot; but, they cry for a reason. Your baby may be hungry, have a dirty diaper or he may not feel well. He may need to burp, have gas in his tummy, or simply need to be cuddled (which is a really good reason to cry). Crying is the only way your baby can tell you that he needs something. It is his language before he can speak.

Soon you will learn to recognize the differences in your baby’s cries. His cries will not all sound the same. The “I’m tired and need to go to sleep” cry will sound different from the “Ouch – my diaper rash hurts” cry. Likewise, the cries due to hunger will sound somewhat different from the cry when a stranger holds your baby. The more you pay attention to the slight variations in cries, the more you will learn to anticipate and react to your baby’s needs.

Do preemies cry more often than full term babies?

Some studies show that premature babies are more likely to be fussy than babies who are born full term. They may be harder to soothe, cry often, and have trouble eating and sleeping. If your baby is fussy, it may be comforting to know that you are not alone. Some babies who have been in the NICU have trouble getting used to the quiet of home. Your baby may sleep better with some background music or a low level of noise in your home.

Remember to never shake your baby when he cries—this can seriously hurt him. If you can’t soothe your baby or you think he cries way too much, talk to his health care provider. Babies can get sick very quickly and the sooner you seek medical attention, the quicker your baby will get better.

What if your baby cries constantly?

Your baby’s doctor can also tell you if he thinks your baby may have colic, which is intense crying lasting more than 3 hours a day. About 1 in 5 babies develop colic – usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas.

There’s no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby’s discomfort. One way is to walk him in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying him tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing his back. The pressure against his tummy may relieve his discomfort.

Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby’s health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby discomfort. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.

Remember Mom

As important as it is to care for your baby, it is also important to care for yourself. Moms of babies who have colic or are very fussy are often sleep deprived. Enlist the help of your partner, relatives and friends, so that you can take time out to sleep, eat well and even go for a stress busting walk. The time you spend nourishing your body and mind will help give you the patience to deal with your crying baby.

For tips on how to soothe your crying baby, visit us.

For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

Helping babies with FASD

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

baby in distress

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause your baby to have serious health conditions, called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Alcohol can also cause your baby to:

• Be born too soon (prematurely)
• Have birth defects (heart, brain and other organs)
• Have vision or hearing problems
• Be born at low birthweight
• Have intellectual disabilities
• Have learning disabilities
• Have sleeping and sucking problems
• Have speech and language delays
• Have behavioral problems

What can you do?

The earlier a child is diagnosed with FASD, the sooner interventions can begin, and the child can start making progress. Special services that can help a child with FASD include early intervention, special education, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other services. This blog series can help you learn how to access services for babies and toddlers or children ages 3 and older.

Not all babies born with FASD will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. According to Mother-to-Baby, “There are reports of withdrawal symptoms in infants whose mothers consumed alcohol near delivery. Symptoms included tremors, increased muscle tone, restlessness and excessive crying…Once your baby is born, it is also recommended you tell your pediatrician about your alcohol use during pregnancy. Your baby can be evaluated for effects of alcohol exposure. Services and support are available for children with alcohol related problems.”

Additional resources

The FASD Center for Excellence has information, including screening, diagnosing, intervention programs and resources.

The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) has a resource list and several fact sheets that may be very helpful to parents of children with FASD, such as FASD Identification.

March of Dimes’ role

In 1973, March of Dimes grantees were the first to link drinking alcohol in pregnancy with a specific pattern of birth defects and intellectual disabilities they called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Since then grantees have continued to study how alcohol harms the developing brain, and to discover better ways to prevent and treat FASDs in alcohol-exposed babies.

Here is more information, including resources on how to quit drinking alcohol. The good news is that FASD is entirely preventable by avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.

If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. View other posts in the Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child series, here.

 

IEP season is here

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

kids at schoolIt’s April. Finally. This was one winter that I thought would never end! The beginning of spring usually signals the start of beautiful weather as well as IEP meetings, if your child is receiving special services. If you are new to this process, read this post to learn about IEPs.

The law says that your child’s IEP must be reviewed every year. Usually, schools start this process in the spring, so that they are all set to start services in the new school year. However, you should know that you can ask for a meeting to review an IEP at any time. You do not have to wait until the spring to review or change your child’s IEP. It MUST be done at least once per year, but it can be done more often, too.

Here are two great resources to help you through the process:
All About the IEP  and What You Need to Know About IEPs & IEP Meetings.

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You can also view other posts on IEPs in the Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child series, here.

Avoid a tragedy – learn safe sleep strategies

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

cropped sleeping babyEvery so often, we hear a tragic story from a new parent. Last week, a three week old baby died of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). This post is in memory of that baby, and our hearts go out to the family.

It is important for parents and caregivers to know safe sleep strategies. Please help us get the word out: ALWAYS, put your baby to sleep on her back, in a crib without bumpers, blankets, stuffed toys or loose bedding.

Back to Sleep and Tummy to Play is an easy way to remember that all healthy babies should be put to sleep on their backs every time until their first birthday. Do not put your baby to sleep on her side, either. Most babies will roll over both ways by the end of the 7th month, but always start them out going to sleep on their backs. You can give your baby tummy time to help strengthen her back muscles when she is awake and you are watching her.

About 4,000 infants (less than one year of age) die suddenly and unexpectedly each year in the United States, according to the CDC. SIDS is the leading cause of death in babies between 1 month and 1 year old. Most SIDS cases happen in babies between 2 and 4 months old. We don’t know what causes SIDS, but certain things can put babies at higher risk:

  • Bed sharing – do not sleep in the same bed as your baby. Sleeping in the same room is suggested, just not the same bed. Bed sharing is the biggest risk factor for SIDS in babies under 4 months of age.
  • Sofa or couch sleeping – do not let your baby sleep on the couch or soft surfaces, including pillows. Nearly 13 percent of infant sleeping deaths are sofa-related.
  • Wearing too many clothes or sleeping in a room that is too hot.
  • Sleeping on her tummy or side.

Read more about safe sleep, mom and baby care and other tips for reducing the risk of SIDS.

If you have questions about putting your baby to sleep, send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org or ask your baby’s health care provider.

If you or someone you know has lost a baby due to SIDS or an unknown reason, the Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education Center offers bereavement packets to families. Just email us with your mailing address and we will send one to you.

See other topics in the series on Delays and Disabilities- How to get help for your child, here.

Oh to be understood!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

child learning to readHelping a child with attention or learning problems is a feat that most parents find intensely challenging. You may know that your child is bright, yet she can’t seem to keep up with her peers at school and is becoming increasingly difficult to manage at home.

Children with disabilities have a hard time expressing their frustrations, as they don’t fully understand what they should be doing. As a parent, you have expectations for your child, but you don’t see what they see. You can’t fully grasp their struggle.

In order to help your child, you first need to have an accurate idea of what she is experiencing. By getting in her shoes, even for a little while, you will develop an appreciation for her struggles, and have a starting point from which to start your journey of setting up interventions.

What if you could see what your child sees?

I’d like to introduce you to a novel web based resource for parents of children with learning or attention issues, called (appropriately) Understood. Developed by a team of professionals from the National Center for Learning Disabilities along with lots of input from parents, they created a digital resource that can show you what your child is “seeing.”

The section entitled “Through your child’s eyes” has simulations to help you understand your child’s struggles with organization, attention, reading, writing or math. Once you can see what your child sees, and feel what she feels, it will help you to find patience when you thought you had none, and find energy to create an appropriate program for her.

When my daughter first went to a school that specialized in teaching children with learning disabilities, one of the exercises the parents had to do was similar to one on this website. Even though it took place many years ago, I remember it to this day. It was eye opening and mind boggling. We parents had NO IDEA our kids were seeing the world the way they were, and were faced with such a huge mountain to climb every day. Many of us felt guilty – we simply did not know the pain our kids were in every day. But, how could we have known? Until we were shown exactly how our kids were struggling, we did not truly understand. Life changed for me after that day. I had a different perspective and attitude about my daughter’s disability, not to mention a newly discovered abundance of patience that I did not know I possessed.

The simulations on Understood will help you to see the world through your child’s eyes, so that you can develop patience, empathy and most importantly an action plan specific to your child’s needs.

For other posts in this series, see the Table of Contents.

Understanding intellectual and developmental disabilities

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Raising a child with developmental disabilities is a long road filled with challenges. It is best to have information and support to help you along the way.

Since March is National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, it gives us an opportunity to increase understanding about these disabilities, and to get the word out on support services that exist to help families. Equally important is learning how some disabilities can be prevented.

Developmental disabilities (DDs) include a wide group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. About one in six children in the U.S. has a developmental disability or a developmental delay.

DDs are diagnosed during the developmental period or before a child reaches age 18, are life-long, and can be mild to severe. They impact a person’s ability to function well every day.

Developmental disabilities is the umbrella term that includes intellectual disabilities (formerly referred to as mental retardation), which is an impairment in intellectual and adaptive functioning. For example, individuals with intellectual disability may have problems with everyday life skills, (such as getting dressed or using a knife and fork), thinking, understanding, reasoning, speaking and the overall ability to learn. See this fact sheet to learn more.

DDs also include: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, fragile X syndrome, hearing loss, vision impairment, muscular dystrophy, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, among other disorders.

Developmental disabilities may be due to:

• Genetic or chromosomal problems
Premature birth
Exposure to alcohol during pregnancy
• Certain infections during pregnancy

However, in many cases, the cause is unknown.

Some disabilities can be prevented

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, learn how some disabilities and birth defects can be prevented.

Families need support

This blog series offers lots of resources – check out the Table of Contents for a list of what to do if you suspect your child may have a developmental delay or disability.  The series is updated every Wednesday.

You can also join our online community, Share Your Story, where parents of children with developmental delays and disabilities support one another.

In addition, here are a couple more resources:

The Arc: For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities – For more than 60 years, and with nearly 700 chapters in the U.S., the ARC provides supports and services for people with disabilities and for affected families.

AIDD – According to their website, the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities works to advance the concerns and interests of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through an array of programs funded under the Developmental Disabilities Act. AIDD is dedicated to ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are able to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of community life in the United States and its territories.