Posts Tagged ‘child’

Preparing your child for a natural disaster

Friday, May 29th, 2015

storm clouds, hurricaneNatural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, or hurricanes, can affect children differently than they do adults. Disasters cause an extreme amount of stress for anyone but children have unique needs. According to the CDC:

Children’s bodies are smaller and more vulnerable than an adult’s.
• Children are more likely to get sick or severely injured in a disaster.
• They breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults do and therefore will breathe in more toxins or debris.
• They have thinner skin that is more easily hurt.
• Since children have less fluid in their bodies, fluid loss (such as dehydration or blood loss) will have a more significant effect on their health.
• They are more likely to lose body heat.

In an emergency, children need help from adults.
• Children may not know how to react, so older children may look to adults for cues. Younger children may scream or cry.
• Some children may not be able to explain where or how they are hurt.
• Children cannot make medical decisions for themselves and will need an adult to get medical treatment.

Disasters can be more stressful for children.
• Children may feel out of control.
• They do not understand the situation.
• They have less practice recovering from difficult experiences.

If you have young children, one of the most important things that you can do to keep your family safe in a disaster is to make a plan.  Planning for a disaster means knowing what to do in each possible situation.

Prepare: Before creating your disaster plan, it’s important to know what types of emergencies are likely in your area and the best way to respond. Different events may require different strategies. You can find more information about tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, and hurricanes on our website. If you are pregnant or have a young infant, these factsheets will help you understand your unique needs and prepare for an unexpected event.

Talk: Spend time with your family discussing natural events that may occur in your area. Use simple words that even very young children can understand.

Practice: Practice your family evacuation plan so that during an emergency you can leave quickly and safely. Find the safe spots in your home for each type of disaster. For example, during an earthquake you would want to practice “drop, cover, and hold on” under a sturdy desk or table. During a tornado, you would want to seek shelter in a lower level room without windows.

Respond: Stay as calm as you can, since your reaction is likely to influence how your child responds. If you need to go to a shelter, bring any medications you or your children need. Also, bring small toys that will make them feel at home.

Recover: If appropriate, let children help in clean-up and recovery efforts. This can help to increase their sense of control. Try to get back into normal routines as soon as you can.

Ready.gov has a lot of information that can help you make an emergency preparedness plan. And if you have a baby or child with special needs, make sure you read our post Preparing for disasters when you have a child with special needs.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

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.

 

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.

Have you found your child’s passion?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

building with blocksWhen you have a child with special needs, your mind tends to always center on the milestones you hope your child will achieve, and often forget that there are many things your child can already do, and often do very well. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in therapy and homework. Often, you only see the areas that need improvement, and don’t see (for lack of time or energy) the areas of talent or achievement. (Does this sound familiar?) When this happens, it is time to pause and breathe. And better yet, change your focus to take time to celebrate.

My daughter always loved to dance – you name the kind -she did it. Then that passion moved to drama, which is where she really found her niche. As a tiny tot, she used to memorize the dialogue to different shows or movies, and then act them out with her dolls, word for word. Later in high school, she joined the theater troupe. For a kid who had a speech and language delay, seeing her speak on a stage (often reciting Shakespeare), was mind boggling to me. Theater was her passion, and despite any struggle she was experiencing at the time, her dancing or theater pulled her through, and ended her day on a happy note. Even now, as she is a young adult, she participates in community theater productions.

Keep introducing your child to new things

All children have interests and passions. Does your child take things apart and then put them back together? He may be mechanically inclined. Does he build spectacular Lego cities and characters? He may become an architect or builder one day. Does your child dress in awesome couture-like outfits, draw, paint, play an instrument, enjoy storytelling, or participate in sports? You get my point – the list is endless and the possibilities are limitless. If you do not see a passion at the moment, keep introducing her to new things and watch as one emerges.

Very oftwatering flowersen, your child’s passion can be cultivated so that it becomes more than just a pastime. But even if it doesn’t become something more substantial, the accomplishment of any hobby or interest is something to celebrate. Cultivating a talent is a process. Like a flowering bulb pushing up through the spring earth, one doesn’t know what color the blossom will be, or how big or sweet the smell. You just have to water it and give it sun and protection, and then watch as it blooms on its own.

So, this is a gentle reminder to pause, breathe and focus on the positive moments in your little one’s life. Then, sit back and enjoy the moment as you see your little one in a whole new light.

What is your child’s passion? How did you help her to find it? Please share your tips.

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,  select “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). You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts. We welcome your comments and input.

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

 

 

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.org.

Medication dosing mistakes are common

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

medicine syringe for kidsWhether you have a child with special needs or not, chances are you have given him medication at some point. A recent study published in Pediatrics revealed that many parents made mistakes when giving their child medication. “Medication errors were common: 39.4% of parents made an error in measurement of the intended dose, 41.1% made an error in the prescribed dose. Furthermore, 16.7% used a nonstandard instrument.”

The study compared parents who used milliliter-only cups or syringes with parents who used teaspoon or tablespoons to describe how they measured their child’s medicine. The researchers found that parents who described measuring the medication in teaspoons or tablespoons were twice as likely to make a mistake in giving the correct dose.

In addition, many parents did not understand the correct amount of medicine to give their child and mixed up the measuring terms. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “Parent mix up of terms like milliliter, teaspoon and tablespoon contribute to more than 10,000 poison center calls each year.”

Why does this happen?

One reason is because all spoons are not created equal. Dosing mistakes happen because people confuse teaspoons with tablespoons. Did you know that one tablespoon equals three teaspoons?!

Another reason is that people use everyday kitchen spoons instead of medication measuring spoons which are specifically designed to give an accurate dose. Again, the differences in the spoons can produce very different amounts of medicine given to your child.

What can you do?

• When measuring meds, use the oral syringe, dropper, or cup that comes with the medication. Do not use one medicine’s cup for another medicine. Measure carefully and exactly.

• Do not use kitchen teaspoons or tablespoons because there is a wide variety of kitchen spoons which can hold vastly different amounts of liquid.

• If you are giving a non-prescription medication (such as Tylenol or any over-the-counter medicine), be sure to give the dose that is based on your child’s weight, not his age. If in doubt, ask a doctor, nurse, physician assistant or pharmacist.

• Keep a log. Use your smartphone or a notebook to record the medication, date, time and amount that you gave your child. It is very easy to forget when you gave your child a medication, especially if you are giving more than one medication at different times during the day. Parental fatigue, multitasking and stress can also cause you to forget.  In addition, a medication “log” is very important if more than one person is giving medicine to your child.

• If in doubt, ask your child’s health care provider or your pharmacist. It could save your child’s life.

Learn more

• Check out the AAP’s video guide on how to measure meds and read about useful medication tips here.

The study’s authors suggest that children’s liquid medications only be prescribed in milliliters to help eliminate dosing mistakes or confusion. The AAP and CDC support this change. What do you think?

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.

Help for sensory issues

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

child in ball pitSensory issues can make or break your child’s day, and yours. Last week I discussed the different kinds of sensory problems that many kids experience. Today I offer some treatment options based on parent feedback.

For all of the senses, and especially for tactile sensitivities (touch), Sensory Integration (SI) therapy, a specific kind of therapy used by occupational therapists, has been a popular form of treatment. A recent study showed that a group of autistic children who received SI therapy reduced sensory difficulties in contrast to the children who did not receive SI therapy. It is thought that this form of therapy helps your child’s brain adapt to sensory information so that he can make adjustments in his daily life.

The therapy is lots of fun – it usually involves balls, swings and other game-like movements that engage the senses. It also can include wearing compression clothing to help decrease sensory seeking behavior. Although it has been around for several decades, SI therapy has not been studied until more recently. The American Occupational Therapy Association has information about sensory issues and SI therapy on their website and on this factsheet. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reminds parents there is limited data on the use of sensory based therapies and recommends that parents and pediatricians work together to determine if SI therapy would be appropriate for your child.

Treatment for eating issues

Since good nutrition is important for health and growth, you may find yourself at your wits end to get your child  to eat a balanced diet. For children with aversions to many foods, occupational therapy may help, too. There are various methods that a therapist may use to gradually get your child used to different textures or tastes.

You might also ask your pediatrician if multivitamins or other supplements are recommended, especially if your child’s taste issues has made it so that he does not eat many foods. I used to open vitamin capsules and mix them in my daughter’s food (such as spaghetti sauce) in order to ensure she got her daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals. Smoothies with vitamins or protein powder may also be a good substitute or addition to a meal.

Another option is to speak with a Registered Dietitian (RD) who specializes in children’s eating issues; they are trained to know how to create balanced diets and often have experience with children who have sensory issues. Ask your child’s doc or call your local hospital for a referral.

Other treatments

Some parents report that acupuncture as well as other kinds of treatment have helped their child decrease sensitivity.  Again, consulting with your child’s pediatrician is important before deciding on a treatment plan.

Where to get more info

  • The March of Dimes’ online community Share Your Story offers a way for parents to share their experiences and treatments for children experiencing sensory problems. Feel free to log on and join a discussion or ask a question.  Parents sharing ideas and information is key to helping your child overcome obstacles.
  • Email AskUs@marchofdimes.org and request additional resources. We can refer you to a list of books written for children (to help them understand why they feel sensitive) as well as books written for adults (to help you understand your child’s sensory issues). We’re happy to help you!

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.

Sensory difficulties in children

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Itchy shirt. Icky foods. Hair brushing is a nightmare. Shoes won’t stay on. Sounds make him cringe.
child dislikes food

Picky child or sensory dysfunction?

Our five senses: taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight help us navigate so much of our world. But for some children (and even adults), their senses are especially heightened and can interfere with daily life in a negative way.

•    Taste and smell
Parents often complain that their child can’t tolerate the taste or smell of many foods. Feeding their child becomes a nightmare. When my daughter was little, she would only eat approximately 10 foods (if that). She did not like the taste or smell of most foods and could not stay in the same room when I was cooking broccoli or another offending food.  She preferred sweets to salty treats, and a vegetable would not pass her lips (she would rather die fighting!).  Even if cajoled or bribed (yes – I bribed her) to eat a new food, she would often gag on it because the taste, smell or texture was too awful for her. As she grew up she would relate that she wanted to eat more foods, and was not happy that she had such a limited range of foods she found acceptable to eat. But, alas, it was not something she could control.

•    Sound
child coveringn earsAnother common sensory complaint is that of a hearing sensitivity. Certain sounds or noises are painful to hear. I am not talking about a rock concert or music being cranked on the highest volume. The bothersome sounds could be the barking of a dog, the crinkling of tin foil, the din of the voices in a cafeteria, the sound of a blender, hair dryer or vacuum cleaner. Typical sounds are abnormally loud to a child with a sound sensitivity and may cause him to cover his ears (at best) or disengage socially (at worst).

•    Touch
Other children are extra sensitive to touch. For example, they hate the feeling of certain clothes against their skin. They dislike getting dressed or undressed, and may have a vast wardrobe but will only wear three outfits! Clothes that are scratchy, have tags or are not soft enough for their skin will be tossed aside.  They may resist going into a bath (or getting out of the bath) due to the uncomfortable sensory changes on their skin. Similarly, applying sunscreen becomes a feat in and of itself.

•    Sight
Lastly, some children are extra sensitive visually. For example, bright lights, flashing lights and the change from indoor light to sunlight can make them close their eyes or head in the opposite direction.

Any one of the above sensory issues can wreak havoc on your child’s life – and yours. Some children have difficulties with more than one sense, too. There is debate as to whether sensory dysfunction is a diagnosis in and of itself, or if it is a symptom of a larger diagnosis (such as ADHD, autism, or another disorder). The important thing to remember is that for whatever reason, and whatever you want to call it, these sensory issues are real challenges in your child’s life.

In many cases, these sensitivities may be reduced through occupational therapy (read this post on OT) and through other kinds of treatments. If your child is extra sensitive, speak with his pediatrician and ask if OT or another kind of treatment may be helpful.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on treatment options and helpful hints for the above sensory issues.

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.org.

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.org.

More resources for meltdowns

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

child having a meltdownMany parents commented on last week’s post about avoiding and handling tantrums and meltdowns in children. This week, I am referring you to a couple of sites for more info, both for young children and for older kids, too. I think you will find the information to be unique to children with special needs as their tantrums or meltdowns are usually related in some way to their underlying disorder. For example, a child with sensory issues may find getting dressed in the morning to be an uncomfortable experience (at best), which then triggers a meltdown. Likewise, the child with a math learning disability may find the very sight of a math text book extremely anxiety provoking. In other words, usually the behavioral outburst is related to the child’s delay or disability in some way. The key is to fully understand your child’s diagnosis and learn the triggers that will bring on a meltdown or tantrum.

Here is a good fact sheet which may help parents who have kids with a developmental delay or a disability.  NCLD offers info on how various learning disabilities or other diagnoses can affect behavior. I’ve even seen tantrum tracker apps which allow you to identify and track your child’s triggers and establish rewards for appropriate behaviors.

I hope one of these resources will help you to help your child. And remember, you are not alone!

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.org.