Keeping your child’s eyes safe

29
Aug
Posted by Sara

eyeDid you know that August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety month? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “nine out of ten eye injuries are preventable, and almost half occur around the home.” Here are some safety guidelines from AAP to help prevent eye injuries:
• Make sure that any chemicals, such as detergents and cleaning fluids, are kept out of reach of children.
• Take a look at your children’s toys and watch out for sharp parts, especially for very young children.
• Teach your children how to hold scissors and pencils properly when they are young. That way as they get older, they will maintain these good habits.
• Looking directly into the sun can cause severe eye damage. And make sure that they never look directly at an eclipse of the sun.
• If you are working around the house with tools, either your child should not be in the area, or she should wear safety goggles.
• Keep your child away from power lawn mowers. These can launch rocks or other objects, making them dangerous projectiles.
• If your child is playing sports, make sure she is wearing eye protection that is appropriate for the sport.
• Children should be kept far away if you are lighting fires. And your child should NEVER be near fireworks of any kind.

Typically if dust or other small particles get in the eye, tears will actually clean the eye and wash them out. However, if a more serious eye injury occurs, make sure you call your pediatrician or go to the emergency room right away. For more information, you can read our previous post about healthy eye care for your baby and child.

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs

27
Aug
Posted by Barbara

mom and daughter in poolGetting a change of scene, even for a day, is GOOD for you and your child with special needs. And now, it is getting easier to do.

I have blogged about the importance of taking time for yourself, and have posted tips on traveling with a child with special needs. But, often parents of kids with special needs don’t go on vacation as a family because they feel that their child’s special needs may not be met at hotels, restaurants or in theme parks. But, the chronic stress associated with your daily life can catch up with you; it is not good physically, emotionally or mentally for you to never re-new your energy. Here is some good news if you are thinking of spending a day at a theme park or going away for the Labor Day weekend.

My two grown kids and I just got back from a vacation where we visited several theme parks. We had a fabulous time going on rides, swimming at the hotel pool, and just spending time together. The breaks from our usual routines were much needed, and we all returned home with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

At the various theme parks we visited, I was heartened to see accommodations for individuals with special needs. “Family Restrooms” are common, where you can take your child into a restroom in privacy, comfort and safety. Ramps or special entrances enable buildings with attractions to be wheelchair-accessible. Amphitheaters are outfitted with numerous seating sections for groups that have a family member in a wheelchair. Sign language interpreters accompany certain shows, and braille can be found on park maps. Many theme parks have staff especially devoted to making sure that guests with disabilities or special needs are accommodated and welcomed. Often sports stadiums or ball parks have days especially dedicated to individuals with disabilities.

At many of the restaurants we went to, gluten free menus were prominently displayed. At our hotel, we observed accommodations for guests with disabilities:  the outdoor hot tub had a chair lift to assist individuals who cannot go down steps, and special room accommodations were available for hearing impaired guests.

Often you can find theaters that offer “sensory friendly” movies or performances, where the lights are dimmed but are not fully off, the sound or music is lowered, and families can bring their own snacks. Children are not discouraged from getting out of their seats to dance or wiggle around on the floor.

Although the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been the driving force behind many of the physical changes in public places, organizations or businesses often go above and beyond the requirements of the ADA to make sure their guests are able to take full advantage of their offerings. The inclusive, welcoming attitude of these organizations is apparent and makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to spend a fun day with your entire family.

Bottom line

If you are heading out of town for the weekend, thinking of going to a theme park or sports stadium for the day, or simply wish to go to a restaurant to eat, check out the website of the venue or call them to see the kind of accommodations they offer.  The information is usually listed under Guest Services, Accessibility Guide, Access Guide, Disability Services, or a similar title. With so many recent positive changes, there are fewer reasons to stay home and not take full advantage of a wonderful family outing.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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

Join our Twitter chat on pregnancy

25
Aug
Posted by Lauren

Pregnancy chatAre you pregnant? Do you have questions about pregnancy? Join us on Thursday, August 28th at 2pm EDT for a Twitter chat and get your questions answered.

We will be joining the National Institute of Child Health and Human development (@NICHD_NIH) and the Federal Drug Administration Office of Women’s Health (@FDAWomen) to discuss:

• common pregnancy myths
• how to reduce health problems during pregnancy
• how long your pregnancy should last
• important info about labor and delivery

Jump in the conversation any time to ask questions or tell us your story.  Follow #pregnancychat.

We hope to see you then!

If you have questions, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Vaccines and your baby

22
Aug
Posted by Sara

hapy babyIn the first 2 years of life, your baby gets several vaccines to protect her. Most parents dread watching their baby get these shots. But rest assured, vaccinations (also called immunizations) can be more painful for you than for her! She may be uncomfortable for a minute, but these important shots help protect her from some serious childhood diseases like polio, chickenpox, measles, mumps and the flu.

All children should be vaccinated for their own health and so they don’t spread infections to others. This schedule shows each vaccine your baby gets up to 6 years. It also shows how many doses she gets of each vaccine and when she gets them.

How do vaccines work?
Tiny organisms (like viruses and bacteria) can attack your body and cause infections that make you sick. When you get an infection, your body makes special disease-fighting substances called antibodies to fight the organism. In many cases, once your body has made antibodies against an organism, you become immune to the infection it causes. Immune means you are protected against getting an infection. If you’re immune to an infection, it means you can’t get the infection.

Vaccines usually contain a small amount or piece of the organism that causes an infection. The organisms used in vaccines are generally weakened or killed so they won’t make you sick. The vaccine causes your body to make antibodies against the organism. This allows you to become immune to an infection without getting sick first.

Some vaccines have a live but weakened organism. These are called live-virus vaccines. While live-virus vaccines are usually safe for most babies and adults, they’re not generally recommended for pregnant women.

All childhood vaccines are given in two or more doses. Your baby needs more than one dose because each one builds up her immunity to that particular disease. A second or third dose is needed to fully protect her. These doses work best if they’re spread out over time.

Are vaccines safe for my baby?
Vaccines are one of the best ways to avoid serious diseases caused by some viruses or bacteria. For vaccines to be most successful, everyone needs to get them.

Most babies don’t have side effects from vaccines. If they do, they usually aren’t serious. Some vaccines may cause a low fever, a rash or soreness at the spot where the shot was given. Although your baby may seem like he’s getting sick after a vaccination, these reactions are good signs that his immune system is working and learning to fight off infections.

Your baby should get vaccinations and boosters regularly, all the way through age 18. (Adults need vaccinations, too. You can read more about adult vaccinations before, during or after pregnancy, here.) If you have any questions about vaccinations, ask your baby’s health care provider for more information.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

20
Aug
Posted by Barbara

roller-coaster-rideAll children have their highs and lows, but for children with special needs, the extremes tend to be more extreme.  The typical ups and downs of childhood have higher highs and lower lows.

The lows

It is hard to watch your child be frustrated because she can’t do the things that her peers can do. Your child’s frustration may take the form of crying, meltdowns or sadness (depending on your child’s age). When you stop to think about it, it seems very reasonable. Adults react much the same way. But, with toddlers or children, they don’t have the maturity to understand their condition, or the patience to wait until they acquire certain skills. In many cases, they may never acquire the same skills as their peers. Thus, the lower lows.

Along with the lower lows come the “two steps forward and one step back” type of progress that is so common among children with special needs. This is so frustrating – for a parent and especially for the child. You tend to feel like you are on a roller coaster ride – no sooner do you get up in the air and are so happy about progress, when you take a bit of a plunge and feel low again.

The highs

On the flip side, the highs are much higher. When your child achieves a milestone that she had been struggling with (that comes easily to her siblings or her peers), the happy dance is much more jubilant! You celebrate each and every accomplishment, no matter how small. The small steps are big steps to a child with special needs. In fact, every step is a big step. The joys of watching your child inch forward has a much more intense meaning.

Progress is a wiggly line

What has helped some of the parents I know who have children with special needs is realizing that it is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to pace yourself and look at this as one long journey. You may get lost or a little off track now and again, and even need to take breaks to re-fuel or get new directions. But, overall, you will stay on your path and get to your child’s unique destination…eventually. It is important to remember that you need to look at progress as a kind of wiggly line. Look at the overall progress, not minute to minute progress.

Bottom line

Remember that this path has its uniqueness and gifts, too. After all, if we were all the same, this world would be so boring. Try to look past what your little one can NOT do, and focus on what she CAN do. Then, all of the prospects for her future brighten up considerably.

 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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

Do you have your measles vaccination?

18
Aug
Posted by Lauren

vaccinationMeasles is a disease that is easily spread and causes rash, cough and fever. In some cases, it can lead to diarrhea, ear infection, pneumonia, brain damage or even death. Measles spreads through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will most likely get the disease. Measles can cause serious health problems in young children. It also can be especially harmful to pregnant women and can cause miscarriage or premature birth.

This year the U.S. is experiencing a record number of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that between January 1 and August 1, 2014, there have been 593 confirmed measles cases reported. This is the highest number of cases since the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated from this country in 2000.

The majority of the people who get measles are unvaccinated. Children under 5 and adults over 20 are at higher risk for getting complications from the measles virus, including hospitalization and death.

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against the measles disease, as well as the mumps and rubella diseases. Your baby gets the MMR vaccine in two doses: the first between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years.

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make sure you’re protected against measles. If you need to get vaccinated, get the MMR vaccine before pregnancy. Wait at least 1 month before trying to get pregnant after getting the shot. The MMR vaccine is not recommended if you are already pregnant.

To read more about vaccines before, during and after pregnancy, click here.

If you have further questions on measles or vaccines, feel free to email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Eye care for your child

15
Aug
Posted by Sara

baby-eyesTaking care of your eyes is very important at all ages. Visual information helps children develop and to process the world around them from the time they are babies. Difficulty seeing can result in problems in learning as well as relating to the outside world. Most vision problems can be treated and corrected, but it is important to identify them as early as possible.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend regular vision checks:

Newborns
The first vision exam should occur before your baby even leaves the hospital nursery. Newborns should have their eyes checked for infections, structural defects, cataracts, or congenital glaucoma.

Premature infants will need a special eye exam done by a pediatric ophthalmologist. A pediatric ophthalmologist is an eye doctor trained and experienced in the care of children’s eye problems.  Preemies are at risk for a condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). ROP happens when a baby’s retinas don’t fully develop in the weeks after birth. The retina is the nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye. ROP usually affects both eyes. If your baby has ROP, getting treatment right away is very important.

Six months
Pediatricians should screen infants during their well-baby check-ups to make sure they have proper eye alignment. This means that their eyes are working together. They should continue to look for signs of eye disease.

Three to four years
At this age, both the eyes and vision should be examined by your child’s health care provider for any abnormalities that may cause a problem with educational development. Concerns will result in a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Five years and older
Regular screening of visual acuity and other eye functions should be completed every year during the well-child exam. The visual acuity test is used to determine the smallest letters you can read on a standardized chart or a card held 20 feet away. There are other ways to check vision in very young children if they do not yet know their letters or numbers.

Although routine eye exams are important, as a parent you may notice signs that your child is having difficulty seeing. According to AAP, some of the signs that a child may have a vision problem include:
• sensitivity to light
• poor focusing and poor visual tracking (following an object)
• abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes (after 6 months of age)
• persistent (lasting more than 24 hours) redness, swelling, crusting, or discharge in the eyes
• excessive tearing of the eyes
• frequent squinting
• drooping of one or both eyelids
• pupils (the center circle of the eye) of unequal size
• eyes that “bounce” or “dance”
• inability to see objects unless they are held close
• a white pupil instead of black in one or both eyes
• any cloudiness in the eye

If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure you contact your child’s health care provider right away. If caught early, many eye problems can be treated and corrected.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

From summer to school – the big transition

13
Aug
Posted by Barbara

preschool classThe transition from summertime to the school year can be a daunting one for any child. For a child with special needs, it can be especially difficult. And, for her parents, this journey can be very stressful and anxiety provoking. Whether your child is returning to preschool or elementary school, there is so much to think about.

In two prior blog posts, I shared tips on how to survive the transition from summer to school, especially if your child has trouble transitioning from one activity to another in his daily life:

•    Re-entry: life after vacation will help you cope with the changes of re-establishing your “old” routine after having been away on vacation. Creating a memory book to document last year’s successful transition to preschool/school will help your child realize that he can do this…again.

•    Summer to September covers topics such as meeting the teacher, changing bedtime hours slowly, making medication adjustments, and learning to cut YOURSELF some slack. If your child has an IFSP, IEP or 504, it is very helpful for your child to meet her teacher and for you to hold planning meetings before school starts. It is also helpful for your child to visit the classroom.

Here are some other ideas to help ease the transition.

Create a “cheat sheet”

The first week of school is hard on teachers, too. One teacher may have 25 students to get to know. To help ease the transition for your child, and to keep it manageable for her teacher, create a “cheat sheet.” This short page of bullets will describe your child’s toughest challenges, and what the teacher can do to help ease the transition. Depending on whether your child has a formal diagnosis, an IEP or a 504 plan, or if she is just extra sensitive to change and transition, a “cheat sheet” can help your child’s teacher deal with the rough patches during the first week of school. It should include certain triggers and the most obvious areas of difficulty.

For example, if your child has sensory issues and hates sudden loud sounds, you might have a bullet that says “Diana has a hearing sensitivity. The popping of balloons, sound of fire drills or kids screaming will cause her to put her hands over her ears or cower underneath her desk.”

Likewise, if your child needs extra time to process speech, you can say “Speak directly and slowly to Diana and wait for her to process your words before expecting her to reply to you. If Diana is quiet, she is processing your sentences. She needs extra time to understand all of your words.”

Keep the page short, with just the most important items listed in bullet form. You want the teacher to be able to know the most important tips without having to read pages and pages about your child. Then, follow-up later in the week and ask for an appointment to have a conversation.

Use a communication journal

Often parents and teachers use a daily communication journal to discuss your child’s day. The teacher or classroom assistant jots down any issues (or achievements) that occurred that day. It is a way for you to learn about your child’s day without depending on your child to tell you. You can then add your own comments about homework issues, sleep problems (which may affect mood or attention span the next day), or achievements that occurred at home. Communication journals are often a part of an IEP, so that both the parent and teacher are fully aware of a child’s day/evening, which will take the guesswork out of figuring out why your child is acting in a particular way. A journal can be a way of identifying small problems before they become big ones.

Be patient

It may sound obvious, but patience is paramount. Heading to school is very, very hard for a child with special needs. The changes in routine, scenery, friends and personalities is a lot to take in! Your child may hold it together while at school and then have an enormous meltdown the moment she gets home. Try to understand that she is coping as best she can and try to have patience.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Click on “Help for your child” and scroll down to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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

Depression during pregnancy: what you need to know

12
Aug
Posted by Sara

sad woman with coffee mugDepression is a serious medical condition. It is an illness that involves the body, mood and thought. It affects the way a person feels about themselves and the way they think about their life. So many people were shocked and saddened by the news about Robin Williams. But unfortunately, depression is far more common than many of us realize. And regrettably, many people still feel that depression is a sign of weakness and do not recognize it as the biological illness that it is.

As many as 1 out of 5 women have symptoms of depression during pregnancy. For some women, these symptoms are severe. Women who have been depressed before they conceive are at a higher risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy than other women.

Signs of depression
Depression is more than just feeling sad or “blue.” There are physical signs as well. Other symptoms include:
• Trouble sleeping
• Sleeping too much
• Lack of interest
• Feelings of guilt
• Loss of energy
• Difficulty concentrating
• Changes in appetite
• Restlessness, agitation or slowed movement
• Thoughts or ideas about suicide

It may be hard to diagnose depression during pregnancy. Some of its symptoms are similar to those normally found in pregnancy. For instance, changes in appetite and trouble sleeping are common when you are pregnant. Other medical conditions have symptoms similar to those of depression. A woman who has anemia or a thyroid problem may lack energy but not be depressed. If you have any of the symptoms listed, talk to your health care provider.

Treatment options
Since depression is a serious medical condition, it poses risks for you and your baby. But a range of treatments are available. These include therapy, support groups and medications.

It is usually best to work with a team of health care professionals including:
• Your prenatal care provide
• A mental health professional, such as a social worker, psychotherapist or psychiatrist
• The provider who will take care of your baby after birth

Together, you and your medical team can decide what is best for you and your baby.

If you are on medication and thinking about getting pregnant, talk to your doctor. You will need to discuss whether you should keep taking the medication, change the medication, gradually reduce the dose or stop taking it altogether.

If you are taking an antidepressant and find that you are pregnant, do not stop taking your medication without first talking to your health care provider. Call him or her as soon as you discover that you are expecting. It may be unhealthy to stop taking an antidepressant suddenly.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any signs of depression, please talk to your health care provider or someone you trust. Help is available and you can feel better.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Breastfeeding a baby with a cleft lip/palate

11
Aug
Posted by Lauren

mom loving babyA 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.