Posts Tagged ‘Baby’

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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.com.

Sunscreen safety for pregnant women

Friday, June 6th, 2014

mom and child in sunSummer is here! Sunscreen is important whenever you are outside, especially if you are pregnant. During pregnancy your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than it was before pregnancy. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation (UV) which can increase the risk of skin cancer, give you a bad burn and increase signs of aging.

There are two types of rays that can cause skin damage. These are ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation (UVA and UVB). Both of these can cause premature aging and skin cancer however UVB rays are what cause sunburn. It is important to choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. But, choosing the right sunscreen to slather on can be confusing.

Here are tips on choosing the right sunscreen for you:

•    Avoid retinyl palmitate This type of vitamin A has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer and is associated with a risk of birth defects.
•    Choose sunscreen with a sun protected factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
•    Only use products that have UVA and UVB protection – also called Broad Spectrum protection
•    Use a water resistant sunscreen if you intend to go swimming
•    Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating (even if you use water resistant sunscreen).
•    Limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun rays are most intense.

Combination products

To fend off those pesky mosquitoes, there are also combination sunscreen products that include bug spray. These can be  great two-for-one products, but combination sunscreens may be more hazardous that you thought. A combination product has the possibility of toxic exposure, due to overdosing on the bug repellant. It’s safe to apply the combination lotion first, but when it’s time to reapply, skip the combination and just use sunscreen.

Read our post for specific tips on how to keep your baby safe in the sun.

Have fun outside this summer, but wear your hat, sunglasses, stay well hydrated and remember your sunscreen!

Fortune cookie advice

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

fortune cookieThe other day I opened a fortune cookie and read:  “Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.” I was surprised to see such a sentiment in a fortune cookie. I know that this concept is true for shaping a child’s behavior – if you want to change their behavior, catch them doing something good and praise them for it. Your praise reinforces the behavior which makes your child want to keep doing it. (As opposed to your child only hearing what he is doing wrong which erodes his self- esteem and makes him want to stop trying.)  But I had never considered this concept as applying to all individuals, especially to adults.

When I stop to think about it, isn’t it human nature to want to keep doing those things that you are doing well and avoid tasks that you do poorly?  As an adult, I like doing those things that I believe I do well, and I generally steer clear of those tasks that are hard for me. I also enjoy doing things that I like and I avoid doing tasks that I simply don’t like to do. Hmmm. This sounds too logical for me.

I found this fortune cookie message to be powerful – it not only applies to parents trying to shape their child’s behavior in a positive way – it applies to all individuals, at home, at work and anywhere.  Do you ever tire of hearing that you are meeting or exceeding goals at work? How do you feel when your spouse or partner recognizes your efforts? Doesn’t all that positive feedback help you to carry on and persevere? If you never received a kind word, encouragement, or a raise in your salary at your job, I bet you would assume you weren’t doing well and perhaps stop trying so hard. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in helping to shape behavior in any individual, including children with special needs. Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’s tips on positive reinforcement through rewards for ideas on how to get started shaping your child’s behavior in a positive way.

Child behavior experts have long advocated that you should acknowledge and praise a child when he gets it right. And, now, my fortune cookie agrees.

Stay tuned for more helpful information on the power of positive reinforcement in upcoming blog posts.

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. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Latina health chat

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Join us this Wednesday!

Be sure to use #WellnesWed to fully participate in the conversation.

WellnessWed Twitter Graphic

Don’t delay with delays

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

learning to walkEvery 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect. Many other babies experience delays or disabilities as they grow up. In fact, “as many as one in four children through the age of five are at risk for a developmental delay or disability,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.  The sooner a child is identified as having a condition that requires treatment, the sooner he may start receiving appropriate interventions and begin improving.  This sounds logical, right? Yet, many children with developmental challenges somehow don’t receive the help they need until much later.

When my daughter’s speech delay was evident, I asked her pediatrician “Should we wait a year and see if she grows out of it?” Thankfully, he said “Why would you wait?” His attitude was that if we started right away, there would be a chance that this small problem would not become a bigger problem later.  He was right.

If your child has a broken leg, would you wait to have it set? Of course not. If you did not intervene with the cast and crutches, your child would continue to suffer and perhaps get worse. The same is true with other types of disabilities or delays – early treatment is essential for improvement.

Good news: more help is here

The Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!  initiative was launched last week. It is a federal effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and support for children, families, and the providers who care for them. Yes, screening and intervention processes have been in place for years in the U.S. However, this initiative features a toolkit with an array of “research-based screening tools” to help pediatricians, parents, social workers, case workers, early care and education providers find help at the local level. The toolkit has resources to raise awareness about healthy development, recommended screening and follow-up practices. The Families page has info on developmental milestones, how to find services in your local area, tips and resources on positive parenting, and other helpful topics.

This initiative comes on the heels of the newly announced increase in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) rates. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data that indicate ASD rates have risen to 1 in 68 children aged 8 years (which is up from 1 in 88). The CDC says that most children with ASD are diagnosed after age 4, even though ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

What’s a solution?

Early diagnosis and early treatment.

As parents, you know your child best. If you have a suspicion that something is not right, don’t wait. Speak up and tell your child’s pediatrician. Learn about developmental milestones and see if your child is on track. If not, say something.

The Early Intervention program in the U.S. is here for babies and toddlers up to their third birthday. The Special Education program takes over for children ages 3 and older. The key is getting babies, toddlers and children identified as early as possible, and starting intervention. Find your local program for children up to their third birthday and request that your baby/child be screened for developmental delays or disabilities without a referral from a provider. And it is free to you. If your child is age 3 or older, request a screening from your child’s school.

Throughout my daughter’s childhood, I heard “Don’t wait” so many times – from doctors and specialists to special educators and therapists. As a result, we jumped on the therapy/intervention path right away, as each issue surfaced, and tackled each problem one by one (or often two by two). I am glad that I had the influence of professionals to prod and guide me along the way. The efforts certainly paid off for my child.

Bottom line

If you need to get help for your child, you now have more than enough resources to get going. The Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! initiative is there to set young children off on the right foot, and the Special Education program is there to continue to help kids up to age 21.  Hopefully, your child’s first steps will soon become leaps as you see him thrive. So, don’t delay with delays.

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 Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input – send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Nacersano.org, our Spanish-language site

Monday, March 31st, 2014

nacersano homepage

Hispanic women have babies at a greater rate each year than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, making this population the fastest growing group. And now, Spanish-speaking women and families can easily find much-needed information on how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby online at nacersano.org.

Nacersano.org, the March of Dimes Spanish-language site, offers valuable information on the specific health needs of the Hispanic community, including on the importance of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine known as neural tube defects (NTDs).

Babies born to Hispanic women are about 20 percent more likely to have a neural tube defect than non-Hispanic white women. While this disparity is not well understood, one reason may be that Hispanic women have a lower intake of folic acid. In the United States, wheat flour is fortified with folic acid, but corn masa flour is not.

The March of Dimes, through its educational print and online initiatives, is working to raise awareness about the need for folic acid among Hispanic women. All women of childbearing age, whether or not they’re planning to get pregnant, should take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, beginning before pregnancy and continuing into the early months of pregnancy. This is the best way to get the recommended amount of folic acid to prevent NTDs. Eating foods rich in folate (the natural form of folic acid) or fortified with folic acid is another way to consume this essential vitamin.

Visitors to nacersano.org can find dozens of recipes from various Latin America cultures that provide at least 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of folic acid. Users can also submit their own folic acid rich recipes to the site.

“It’s such an easy thing to make folic acid a part of your daily routine, and it can provide a major benefit to your future family,” says José F. Cordero, MD, MPH, dean of the School of Public Health University of Puerto Rico and a member of the March of Dimes national Board of Trustees. “About half of pregnancies are unplanned, so women should take folic acid daily to give your babies the healthiest start in life.”

Nacersano.org also features hundreds of health articles, ovulation and due date calculators, and educational videos to help Hispanic women and families be healthy before, during and after pregnancy.

Visitors can also ask questions about folic acid and nutrition, preconception, pregnancy and baby health. March of Dimes health experts provide personalized answers by email within 48 hours in Spanish and English. Visitors can also sign up to receive monthly free newsletters on preconception and pregnancy health, read and comment on the blog, and stay connected through various social media channels.

So, if you’re more comfortable with the Spanish language, “like” us on Facebook.com/nacersano and follow us on @nacersano and @nacersanobaby on Twitter.

Kids with challenges zoom on souped up kiddie cars

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

tot in carThere are times when I see someone doing something wonderful to help toddlers and young kids with special needs and I just HAVE to speak up and tell others. Today, I experienced such a moment.

There are all kinds of delays and disabilities: gross motor, fine motor, speech, non-verbal, social, hearing, processing, learning, and the list goes on. Here is something new for tots with gross motor disabilities (problems using large muscles of the body such as the legs to walk, crawl, sit up, etc.).

At the University of Delaware, Dr. Cole Galloway, a professor of physical therapy and a scientist, teamed up with his colleague, Dr. Sunil Agrawal, professor of mechanical engineering, with the goal of increasing exploration in children with special needs. They take basic ride-on cars available at toy stores, and adapt them to suit the particular needs of a child with motor disabilities. The result is a specially powered kiddie car that a child is able to ride.

Why is this so wonderful?

The efforts of Drs. Galloway and Agrawal have enabled children with gross motor disabilities to zoom around on these powered cars and play with classmates the same as any non-disabled child. In other words, for part of his day, a child with motor limitations can now play and compete with peers on equal footing.  The result is a child who suddenly sees himself on a par with the kids in his class or his neighborhood. He is not “different” when he is in his car. The self-esteem and social connections that develop as a result of his new experiences are profound. Of course, the added fun to his life doesn’t hurt either!

This idea is changing the lives of these kids. Literally. The video (below) describes how these adapted cars enable children to increase their mobility as well as their socialization.

PT on the car

Another cool benefit of this kind of mobile car is that it can augment a child’s specific physical therapy (PT) needs. For example, if a child has trouble keeping his head up due to his disability, powering the car by pushing a button with his head can be a fun way to work on this physical therapy goal. Talk about a motivator!

Do it yourself

The best news yet is that parents can change ordinary ride-on cars into personalized motor cars themselves, by following the instructions Drs. Galloway and Agrawal have created.  They are freely sharing this information and have made it as easy as possible to “do it yourself.”

So, watch this video (with some tissues ready), and then, pass it on (with a pair of pliers) to parents you know with little ones who struggle with motor issues. Thanks to the genius of these professors and their open hearts, kids with special needs can be just “kids.” At least for a little while.

 

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 Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input - send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

What are learning disabilities?

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

chld-in-schoolPrematurity can cause problems during infancy, childhood and well into adulthood. The long lasting effects of premature birth can cause delays in understanding, reasoning, speaking and learning. One consequence of preterm birth may be learning disabilities. Learning disabilities (LD) do not only occur in babies born prematurely – they may occur in many babies who are born full term. It is important to learn about LD so that if your child is affected, you will know what to do.

There are different kinds of LD

At some point in your child’s life, he may have trouble with listening, speaking, reading, writing, spelling, reasoning or doing math. But when it becomes more than a temporary or minor struggle, it could be the sign of a learning disability. A learning disability is a problem with acquiring and processing information. It is also called a Specific Learning Disorder. There are different kinds of LD and they can vary from mild to severe.

By definition, an LD child is bright. In fact, he has at least average intelligence, and often well above average, but somehow learning is extra hard for him. An LD child is not lazy or undisciplined – he learns differently. However, without specialized instruction in “learning how to learn,” he can quickly fall behind his peers due to the additional time and effort it requires for him to make strides and stay on track. The amount of effort required to accomplish tasks that his peers can do is off kilter. As a result, your child may become frustrated and exhausted, and if he does not receive intervention, the problem may continue to worsen.

The most common forms are grouped into the following areas:

Dyslexia – difficulty processing language- trouble with reading, spelling and writing
Dysgraphia – difficulty with handwriting
Dyscalculia – difficulty learning math –arithmetic, telling time and word problems

Other forms of LD or related disorders include CAPD (central auditory processing disorder), nonverbal learning disability, visual and motor disabilities, dyspraxia, apraxia and aphasia. A child can have a learning disability in more than one area. Click here to learn more.

A learning disability usually becomes evident when a child is in elementary school, as this is the time when he is required to learn to read, spell, write and do math. In other words, there are suddenly hard expectations put on your child, and his difficulties become much more noticeable. However, the early signs or symptoms of LD may have been present in the preschool years (such as difficulty with counting or rhyming, fine motor skills or listening) so suddenly all those difficult behaviors you noticed back then make sense now.

What should you do?

If you suspect that your child is not learning as he should, speak to your child’s health care provider. Also, check out NICHCY’s discussion on LD to see the possible signs of LD and learn what to do to have your child’s school (or another professional) test him. If your child has a learning disability, beginning intervention (usually through specialized teaching), is critical in helping your child learn how to learn and start catching up. It is also important for self-confidence and overall happiness.

Your child is in good company

Individuals with LD have gone on to become incredibly successful in every walk of life. It is said that the following famous people (along with hundreds of other famous people) suffer from dyslexia or another type of learning disability.

Director Steven Spielberg
Actors Henry Winkler, Whoopie Goldberg, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightly and Emma Thompson and Tom Cruise
Comedian Jay Leno
Entertainer Cher
Olympian Bruce Jenner
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy

I urge you to do your own internet search as you will be amazed by how many accomplished individuals have a learning disability. You can start your search here.

On a personal note

My daughter’s journey includes learning disabilities. (She was born at 38.2 weeks.) She will be the first to tell you that without her specialized schooling she would not be the young adult she is today. Even though she had all 3 of the D’s as well as CAPD, she grew up loving to read and write. (OK, so she still hates and struggles with math…you can’t win them all!) She acted in plays in high school and continues to act in Community Theater productions. She is working on writing a collection of stories for “tweens.”  Her day job is in a preschool as an assistant teacher. The kid that hated school (reading, writing and math), overcame much of her disability to become successful. The key was getting her help early.

Bottom line

There is no “cure” for LD. But, if your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, don’t despair. With the right services and supports, your child with LD can learn. In time, the focus will shift from his disabilities to his abilities. Just get help for him as soon as possible.

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

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 Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

A social skills tip for kids with special needs

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

2-kids-playing-togetherOften a child with special needs has trouble relating to her peers. The developmental delay or disability may make it hard for her to communicate at an age appropriate level. Moments at daycare, preschool, on play dates or at mother/child play groups may bring stress and anxiety to a child (not to mention loneliness and isolation).

If this is the case for your child, don’t despair. She is not alone. Many children with special needs require help with socializing. It does not come naturally to them. And, if they have a speech or language delay, or another kind of communication challenge, they may feel very frustrated at not being able to talk and play with peers.

What can you do?

Here is a tip that has helped some children I know (including my own daughter):

Many pre-teens or young teenagers love spending time with younger children. Ask a teen from your neighborhood to come over and “pretend” to be a child again, and play with your child. Have her get down on the floor next to your child and build with blocks or Legos, play with dolls, have a tea party, or do whatever your child usually likes to do. (Try to avoid having them sit and watch videos or TV, as that is non-interactive.) Let the teenager engage your little one on your child’s level. Hopefully, your child will take the cues and respond back to her. A teen will be more patient with your child than a peer would be, making it a more successful and fun playtime.

It may take a while to facilitate a relationship, but the goal is for the skills learned with the teen playmate to transfer (in time) to that of children nearer your child’s age. And, the confidence gained at learning how to play and have a conversation will help her when she plays with a child her own age.

Start with short periods of time, such as 15 – 30 minutes. Gradually work up to longer periods. The goal is to get your child to slowly move from parallel play (playing beside another child but not interacting with him or her), to interactive play (when two children talk to each other and play together).

What about social skills classes?

Of course, formalized social skills classes or therapeutic play groups are also great ways to help your child learn to socialize, but often these classes are not convenient or are costly. If your child has an IFSP or an IEP, ask the team about creating specific goals to address social skills. Many times schools will offer social skills classes that include typically developing children and developmentally challenged children in one group. The social worker or facilitator guides the group with fun activities as social skills are learned and mastered.

Bottom line

With any kind of delay or disability, relating to peers can be very challenging. Try giving your child the opportunity to practice social skills with a pre-teen or teenager. The reciprocal skills learned in their play periods may boost your child’s confidence and skill level enough to be able to cross the threshold into successfully playing with her peers. It is certainly worth a try.

What has worked for your child? If you have a tip that was helpful, please share it.

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

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 Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Bowlegs and knock-knees

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

bowlegsDo your baby’s legs curve or bow outward, not touching at the knees when the feet are placed together? It’s actually normal for the first couple of years, so no need to panic. Once your baby starts to walk, muscles will strengthen, his legs will start to straighten and they should be fairly straight by the age of two and a half.

After age three or four it’s possible that, when standing, the knees may press together but the ankles will not touch. This is called knock-knees. Overweight children are most likely to develop knock-knees because their developing bones and joints have trouble supporting their weight. This condition usually goes away once the structure of the knee matures, some time between the ages of five and seven.

Again, both bowlegs and knock-knees usually fall within the normal range of development and correct themselves over time. Occasionally, however, they don’t and the condition may be caused by a serious problem, such as an infection, a tumor, Blount’s disease (a disorder involving the shinbone), or Rickets (caused by a vitamin D deficiency). Talk with your child’s health care provider if:

• the curvature of the leg is extreme or present in only one leg
• bowlegs worsens after age two
• bowlegs still exist after age four
• knock-knees still exist after age seven
• your child is in pain or the condition interferes with normal physical activity

Although these conditions are fairly normal and usually correct themselves, it’s important to have your child’s health care provider monitor his progress. Make sure to keep all of your child’s appointments.