Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

There’s an app for that

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

boy using computerThere has been a lot of response to my blog posts that focus on learning disabilities. It seems that lots of parents of preemies are struggling with how to help their child who is learning to read or write. I came across this list of apps, recommended by parents, that I thought I’d share. These apps help kids with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia in particular. Check it out at NCLD, and let me know if you can add any to the list.

Parents helping parents is key to helping our kids.

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). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

IVF, triplets and more

Monday, April 21st, 2014

In this video, Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks with a woman about fertility treatment and how to lower one’s chances of getting pregnant with twins, triplets or more.

Egg safety

Friday, April 18th, 2014

egg huntEaster egg hunts are fun for kids of all ages. With a little caution, you can make sure your family stays safe from Salmonella and other food poisoning illnesses caused by eating contaminated eggs.  If you don’t celebrate Easter, this info on egg safety will still come in handy, especially with summer picnics around the corner.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an estimated 142,000 illnesses each year are caused by consuming eggs contaminated with Salmonella. The FDA has put regulations in place to help prevent contamination of eggs on the farm and during shipping and storage. But consumers play a key role in preventing illness associated with eggs. In fact, the most effective way to prevent egg-related illness is by knowing how to buy, store, handle and cook eggs — or foods that contain them — safely.

Follow these safe handling tips to help protect yourself and your family, courtesy of the FDA:

When buying eggs

•    Buy eggs only if sold from a refrigerator or refrigerated case.
•    Open the carton and make sure that the eggs are clean and the shells are not cracked.
•    Refrigerate promptly.

Store raw eggs in their original carton and use them within 3 weeks for best quality.

Rules for eating hard boiled eggs

•    Cooked eggs, including hard-boiled eggs, and egg-containing foods, should not sit out for more than 2 hours. Within 2 hours either reheat or refrigerate.
•    Use hard-cooked eggs (in the shell or peeled) within 1 week after cooking. Cooked eggs for a picnic should be packed in an insulated cooler with enough ice or frozen gel packs to keep them cold.
•    Don’t put the cooler in the trunk — carry it in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of the car.
•    If taking cooked eggs to work or school, pack them with a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box.

If you enjoy making egg salad, deviled eggs or other delicious egg dishes, here are more egg safety tips, for you.

A safe egg hunt

All these “rules” got your head spinning? For a worry-free egg hunt, either hide the eggs an hour or two before the hunt and put them in the refrigerator right after the hunt, or better yet, use plastic decorative eggs if you are going to keep them out overnight or after the hunt. You can keep the decorated hard-boiled eggs in the fridge until ready to eat or adorn your table.

IEP reviews in April

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

meetingIf your child has a disability and has an IEP, you may already know that April is usually the month when mandatory yearly reviews and IEP updates happen.

An IEP is short for Individualized Education Program. It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a disability,  age 3 and older. It is a document that lists all of the educational services that your child will receive, if he qualifies. Here is a quick review and resources to help you with the process. (See prior posts, for info on IFSPs for babies and toddlers.)

The IEP is:

INDIVIDUALIZED – specific for your child’s needs. It is not one size fits all.

EDUCATIONAL – it should look at three main areas of your child’s life:  the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities.

A PROGRAM or PLAN – all of the services your child will receive are laid out and detailed in writing.

What’s in an IEP?

The IEP may include special education, related services and/or supplementary aids and services. The IEP is first based on your child’s “present levels” which is a snapshot of your child’s function. In other words…what he is able to do now as compared to his non-disabled peers. Then, based on his present levels and his delay or disability, the IEP sets measurable annual goals.

The IEP should specify:

• Who will provide the service (eg. the speech therapist, regular ed teacher, special ed teacher, reading specialist, physical therapist, etc.).

• What kind of service will be provided, such as curriculum modifications or adaptations, the types of related services or aids- (eg. specialized reading curriculum, speech therapy etc.).

• Where the service will be implemented (eg. the regular ed classroom, playground, counselor’s office, etc.).

• When parents will receive reports on how well your child is doing. By law, you need to receive progress reports at least as often as children without disabilities. Often a school system will send home the IEP progress reports with Report Cards.

• When the goal will be achieved (eg. by the end of the marking period or by the end of the year).

• How the goal will be measured and how you will know the goal has been achieved (eg. a benchmark, such as a test score that shows if the goal has been reached).

Remember, an IEP is a living document that can be changed or updated by the IEP team, of which parents are members! It must be reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, but it can be reviewed and updated more often if necessary.

Need more help?

A great place to go to understand your options and how to prepare for IEP meetings is on NICHCY’s website. In particular, you can find guidance on how an IEP team can write IEP goals. Keep in mind that NICHCY’s site will only be up until September 2014. Fortunately, you can find help by visiting your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI), which is an information resource for parents of children with disabilities. Every state has at least one PTI. Each one has a different name. For example, one of the PTIs in California is named Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center while the PTI in New Hampshire is called the Parent Information Center. Whatever the actual name, each is commonly known as a PTI.

Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). CPRCs do the same work as the PTIs, but they focus on reaching underserved parents of children with disabilities, such as those living in a specific area in the state, those with low income, or those with limited English skills. Locate your state’s Centers  and read more about how PTIs and CPACs can help you.

You can also find excellent guidance on how to write IEP goals at Wrightslaw.

Lastly, review previous News Moms Need blog posts to zero in on where you need a refresher. Here is a Table of Contents of many prior posts, including several on IEPs.

Bottom line

April not only brings showers for May flowers; it is the month when most school systems begin reviewing and tweaking IEPs. With the resources in this post, you will be prepared and ready to play an active role in the process.

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). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

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.

Anne Geddes supports March of Dimes

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Jack Holding Maneesha

World-renowned photographer Anne Geddes is lending her talent to support the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign and World Prematurity Day 2014. She will be taking an exclusive image this week that will be released specifically for the campaign in November. We couldn’t be more thrilled!

Ms. Geddes is a longtime advocate for children and babies, and says the issue of preterm birth is close to her heart. One of her earliest and most iconic images is this one called “Jack Holding Maneesha,” a photograph of a baby born prematurely at 28 weeks. This year, Maneesha celebrates her 21st birthday.

If you want to know more about this exciting collaboration, read our news release.

What is dyscalculia?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

math bead boardPrior blog posts have focused on the different kinds of learning disabilities (LDs) that often affect preemies (as well as children born full term). Today’s post focuses on a learning disability in math, also known as dyscalculia. Although it is not noticeable in babies or toddlers, your preemie may still be affected by this kind of LD, so it is good to know about it and keep an eye out for warning signs.

Every child has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. But some have more intense problems (learning disabilities) in a particular area such as reading (dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia) or math. For my daughter, her most difficult struggle was in math. “I hate math! Why do I have to do this?!”  I can’t tell you how many times I heard these words from my daughter. I can’t say I ever loved math, but I just didn’t understand the intensity of her dislike. But once she was diagnosed (through testing) with a math LD, it all became clear to me.

What is a math disability?

The experts at NCLD (National Center for Learning Disabilities) explain it best: “Individuals with dyscalculia have significant problems with numbers: learning about them and understanding how they work. Like other types of LD, the term dyscalculia does not capture the specific kinds of struggle experienced in such areas as math calculations, telling time, left/right orientation, understanding rules in games and much more.”

Dyscalculia is not a one-size-fits-all disability. There are varying degrees (mild to severe) and various kinds of math difficulties that may be present. No two kids with dyscalculia are exactly alike.

Similar to the other kinds of LDs, dyscalculia does not go away. Your child will not “outgrow it.” It is a lifelong disability; however, it CAN be managed. With the right kind of teaching methods, supports and/or accommodations, your child with dyscalculia CAN learn math.

Early warning signs of a math learning disability include difficulty…

• recognizing numbers or symbols

• remembering your phone number

• counting

• sorting items

• recognizing patterns of numbers

Later warning signs include difficulty…

• telling time

• knowing left from right

• estimating

• visualizing a number line

• counting by 2’s, 3’s, etc.

• reading a map

• memorizing multiplication facts

• counting change

• keeping score in a game

• experiencing intense anxiety when doing any kind of math work in school or at home

• retaining information (learning a concept one day but not recalling it the next)

• understanding word problems

• understanding formulas

See NCLD’s warning signs by age (from young children through adults).

Is a math LD common?

Although you may never have heard of dyscalculia, the NCLD reports that it is the next most common form of learning disability after dyslexia. As many as one in every seven kids may have a math learning disability.  That’s a lot of kids!

What can help your child?

Knowing what kind of learner your child is can make a huge difference. For instance, if your child learns best through visual and kinesthetic teaching, then seeing and touching/feeling or manipulating math items will be the best way for her to learn a concept. If a child learns best through auditory modes, then be sure that the teaching method includes verbal instructions. Many kids with LD (like mine) learn best through a combination approach – visual, kinesthetic and auditory. Attack the senses from all angles to help her understand and internalize the information presented.  The good news is that once she learns the concept the way her particular brain learns, she is unlikely to forget the information. (Yay!) Here are other strategies that may help:

• Getting extra time on tests or eliminating timed tests

• Using manipulatives (such as a bead counting board, magnets in the shape of numbers, or any other kind of object that your child can touch, hold, feel and work with.)

• Drawing pictures of word problems

• Using assistive technology (such as a calculator or a specialized math computer program)

As with other LDs, getting a clear diagnosis is key in knowing how to help your child. You can either ask the school district to test your child, or have her see a specialist for private testing. Once you have the results you will know where to focus treatment. NCLD has a full page of resources that may help.

Keep in mind that a child with a math learning disability may also have dyslexia or dysgraphia or other disorders that complicate learning. When this occurs, it becomes even more challenging for your child to learn. For instance, how can a child do a math word problem when she struggles with reading and understanding language? For this reason, getting help as early as possible and monitoring progress is very important.

Bottom line

Usually, a learning disability in math can be managed successfully. It takes getting the proper diagnosis as early as possible, getting the right program in place, continually advocating for your child, and providing plenty of positive reinforcement.

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 (just keep scrolling down). As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Laundry pods can be dangerous

Monday, March 17th, 2014
Tide Pod

Tide Pod

Laundry pods are those prefilled pillows of super-concentrated laundry detergent designed to make your life nice and easy. (Pods are made for dishwashing, too.) They have become quite popular since 2012. But, since early 2012, poison-control centers nationwide have received reports of nearly 7,700 pod-related exposures to children age 5 years and younger. Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is now warning the public of this health hazard.

These pods are sometimes pretty, looking a bit like candy, and are enticing to little folk. Some toddlers have swallowed the pods and gotten seriously ill (excessive vomiting, trouble breathing) requiring hospitalization. Others have gotten the concentrated detergent in their eyes causing severe irritation.

Parents and caregivers, it is extremely important to keep this detergent well out of reach of children. Make sure the container they are in has a safety latch and that it is stored on an upper shelf outside the reach of curious tots.

If a child does chew on a pod, call the poison-control helpline immediately (800-222-1222).