Home Visiting Program

14
Mar
Posted by Sara

The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) is designed to support at-risk families during pregnancy and early childhood. Home visiting family support programs match parents with trained providers, such as nurses or parent educators. These providers then visit the family at home one to two times a month from the time a mother is pregnant through the first few years of the child’s life.

We all know that children do not come with instruction manuals so these home visits can be invaluable to vulnerable families that may not have access to outside support or lack experience or knowledge of basic parenting skills.  The providers help the families access the information and resources that can support the physical and emotional health of babies and entire families. During their time in the program, the parents receive support and information about how children grow and learn. They are taught about providing a safe and enriching environment for their children.

The program is federally funded and locally administered and has been shown to reduce health care costs, reduce need for remedial education, and increase family self-sufficiency.  Here is why, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts:

Reduced health care costs

• Mothers who participated in the Nurse-Family Partnership in Pennsylvania were 26 percent more likely to quit smoking while pregnant.

• A home visiting program in North Carolina, Durham Connects, has been shown to pay for itself by the time a baby is 3 months old, through reductions in use of government medical assistance.

• Children who have strong bonds with their parents have better lifelong emotional health and a lower risk of later problems, including alcoholism, eating disorders, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

Reduced need for remedial education

• In first grade, children who participated in Healthy Families New York were nearly twice as likely as other at-risk children to be able to follow directions, complete work on time, or work cooperatively with others—the foundational skills needed for a lifetime of learning.

• Parents that participated in Parents as Teachers were more likely to read aloud, tell stories, say nursery rhymes, and sing with their children. These activities are key to successful brain development and lifetime language skills.

Increased self-sufficiency

• Mothers who participated in Healthy Families Arizona were found to be five times more likely than other similar mothers to be enrolled in an education or a job training program.

• Mothers who have more years of formal education have higher family income, are more likely to be married, and have better-educated spouses. They work more but do not spend less time breastfeeding, reading to their children, or taking them on outings.

• Children of better-educated mothers also do better in math and reading at ages 7 and 8. Better-educated mothers are more likely to invest in their children through books, providing musical instruments, special lessons, or the availability of a computer.

To learn more, click on this link. Contact your congressman if you wish to support renewing funding for the MIECHV program.

LDs – What they ARE and are NOT

12
Mar
Posted by Barbara

alphabet magnets

There are many misconceptions about learning disabilities (LDs), which often affect preemies. Here is a quick review of LDs – first, the misconceptions, and then the truth.

LDs are NOT…

• the result of laziness.

• caused by a child’s home environment or cultural factors.

• the same as autism.

• the same as an intellectual disability (formerly called “mental retardation.”) In fact, persons with LDs have average or above average intelligence, and some are gifted!

• all the same. There are various kinds and degrees of LDs (mild to severe) and a child can have more than one kind.

• curable, and a child will NOT outgrow them. But they are treatable and most kids that receive appropriate educational interventions and supports overcome obstacles.

• associated with blindness or deafness.

LDs ARE…

• often unidentified or under-identified. Many students (as much as 15%) struggle in school as a result of having a learning disability that is not diagnosed or treated.

• prevalent.  Almost half (42%) of kids receiving special education services are children with learning disabilities. Roughly 2.4 million children in public schools in the U.S. have been identified as having LDs.

• more common in boys. Two thirds of students identified with LDs are boys.

• treatable. Through appropriate educational programs, kids with LDs are able to learn in school and succeed in life.

• brain based disorders, and often co-exist with attention problems.

• often seen to run in families.

The key to success is…

• getting a diagnosis as early as possible.

• getting help and support in place. “Specific learning disability” is one of the 13 conditions that qualifies a child for special education and related services.  (The other 58% in special ed have the remaining 12 qualifying conditions.)

• providing positive reinforcement so that a child’s self-esteem is not damaged.

• understanding your child’s diagnosis so that you can be an effective advocate for him. Arm yourself with information. See prior posts for general info on LDs, and specific info on dyslexia, dysgraphia and even dyspraxia and CAPD (cousins to LDs).

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

Source:  Data for this post provided by NCLD’s 2014 publication of “The State of Learning Disabilities: Facts, Trends and Emerging 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. 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.

Join our chat on morning sickness

11
Mar
Posted by Lindsay

Join us Thursday March 13th at 1 PM ET.

Morning Sickness Tweet Chat

Developmental milestones at 7 months

10
Mar
Posted by Lindsay

Dr. Siobhan Dolan talks about baby’s developmental milestones at the age of seven months. Visit our website to watch more videos on developmental milestones at different ages.

Is your baby’s sleep machine on too loud?

07
Mar
Posted by Ivette

Sleeping babyWhen I was first pregnant with my baby girl, my boss at the time gave me a sleep sheep, a sleep machine that attaches to the crib and looks like a cute little sheep. I remember when I opened the box, she said, “Everyone says this is THE BEST thing to give new moms.” Boy, was she right! My sleep sheep is heaven-sent! I’m still using it for our second baby, who is really more of a toddler now. He knows that when the sheep is on, it’s time to sleep. And while my kids drift off to sleep, I can begin cleaning up the disaster area they left throughout the house without tiptoeing around and worrying that I’ll wake them.

If you use sleep machines for your babies, too, here’s something you want to hear. A study in this month’s Pediatrics journal found that using a sleep machine at high volume can damage your baby’s hearing. The researchers found the volume on some baby sleep machines can be too high for adults! The researchers recommend you place the sleep machine as far away as possible from your baby, never place or attach it to the crib and keep the volume low.

I’ve often wondered if our sleep machine is on too loud. Just to be on the safe side, I think I’ll be making some changes!

Learn more about safe sleep for your baby.

What is dysgraphia?

05
Mar
Posted by Barbara

chld-in-schoolPremature birth can lead to long-term challenges, such as learning disabilities.  Dysgraphia is a learning disability (LD) in the area of writing. It is a processing disorder, not just a problem with penmanship. It could mean your child has trouble holding a pencil or pen, forming letters and numbers, or spelling correctly. It can also mean your child struggles to organize his thoughts in his head and put those thoughts down on paper. Written work may be unclear and unorganized. In short, dysgraphia includes difficulty in all of the aspects of acquiring and expressing written language. Although dysgraphia may affect many preemies, it is also seen in children who are born full term.

Understanding writing

Writing involves a complex series of steps.  First, a child must learn how to form letters and understand combinations of letters and how they form sounds. Then he must learn how to put them all together in a coherent way using paper and pencil. The paper/pencil part requires eye/hand coordination and a certain amount of muscle strength and dexterity. And then there is another aspect to writing – organizing ideas in his head and being able to transfer his thoughts down on to paper. Whew…that is a lot of stuff going on just to write a few paragraphs on a piece of paper!

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), dysgraphia can be due to visual-spatial processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the eyes see) or language processing problems (when the brain has trouble making sense of what the ears hear).

Because writing depends so much on interpreting and using language, many children with dysgraphia also have other learning disabilities, such as dyslexia (reading), or other language impairments. Some may have attention problems, too. If your child has more than one challenge, the act of writing can become overwhelming. (And he is surely not going to like doing it.)

What are the warning signs of dysgraphia?

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia because often children with an LD (or LDs) are mistaken for being lazy or unmotivated. The symptoms of dysgraphia vary widely depending on the age of your child. NCLD provides lists of signs or symptoms by age group, from very young children through adults.

How is dysgraphia treated?

Unfortunately, dysgraphia (like other LDs) is lifelong. But, fortunately, there are different treatments that may help a child overcome obstacles.

  •      A child may benefit from occupational therapy, as it may help increase hand coordination and muscle strength to improve writing stability.
  •      A child may also benefit from specialized instruction in school (through special education). Specialized writing programs can help a child with letter formation. Other programs help with topic and paragraph organization (such as graphic organizers).
  •      There are also ways around the problem – such as learning to type on a computer or boy on computerusing voice activated computer software which types a child’s words. Many children with writing problems find using a laptop or other computer to be the ticket to success for them. (My daughter started learning keyboarding skills in first grade (as part of her IEP), as a result of her dysgraphia. The fluent sentences that emerged from the computer shocked her teacher so much that she thought that I had helped her with her work! We were all amazed at what my daughter was able to do once we shifted all her written work to a computer.)

Where can you find more info?

If you suspect that your child has dysgraphia or any kind of LD, speak with your child’s pediatrician. You can also ask that your child be tested through your local school system. Of course, there are professionals who can test him outside of school, too. Getting a clear diagnosis and help as soon as possible is very important.

NCLD provides a list of helpful writing resources,  including a Resource Locator,  specific to your location and type of help needed.

Bottom line

With any disability, it takes time to find the right treatments to put in place. Then it takes lots of patience and tons of practice. During this time, your child may not want to have anything to do with drawing or writing. I can understand this, can’t you? I don’t like being forced to do things that are particularly hard for me.  But, hopefully, with the right therapy and program, and tons of positive reinforcement, your child will begin to overcome or learn to compensate for his challenges.

The sooner the disability is diagnosed and treatment is targeted and begun, the sooner your child can improve. As with any disability, the earlier it is diagnosed and treated, the happier your child will be.

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.

Got the munchies?

03
Mar
Posted by Lindsay

sweet treatsYou’re pregnant and can’t stop nibbling. But that’s OK because you’re eating for two, right? No, not really. You only need 300 extra calories per day to support your baby’s growth and development. But you don’t have to give up all the foods you love when you’re pregnant. You just need to eat smart and make sure that most of your choices are healthy ones.   You may find that your interest in food changes, perhaps a lot, during pregnancy. The old joke about pickles and ice cream came about for a good reason. You may not be very hungry during the first months. But you may want to eat everything in the house during the later months! Every woman is different, so if you don’t crave anything, that’s OK, too.

Watch your portions—you may be eating more than you think – and if you’re a grazer who eats “just a little” but all day long, keep an eye on your end-of-day total consumption. Those little doses of calories can add up to a lot! It will help you if you avoid lots of sugar and fat in your diet, too, so nosh on berries or bananas instead of bread pudding or sticky buns.  fruit

The important thing is to eat healthy foods that you like, handle them safely, and avoid foods that might be harmful throughout your pregnancy.

Watchdog group honors March of Dimes

28
Feb
Posted by Lindsay

We are thrilled to announce that the March of Dimes is being honored as a top charity by Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar. Philanthropedia is a web-based nonprofit group that rates charities according to their financial responsibility and outstanding work, helping donors to give wisely. Philanthropedia’s panel of 74 experts identified the March of Dimes as 1 of 16 high-impact nonprofits working in the field of people with disabilities, and named it second in that category.

“We are pleased and humbled to be cited by Philanthropedia experts as a top nonprofit in our field,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.

Starting in 1955 with a signature victory to eliminate polio in the United States, the March of Dimes has led many successful public health campaigns that improved infant health, including:

• Reducing serious birth defects of the brain and spine by 26 percent through folic acid fortification of the nation’s grain foods in the late 1990s;

• Bringing mandatory newborn screening programs to every state to ensure that each baby is tested for more than 30 conditions that, if undetected and untreated, can lead to serious disability or death;

• Launching a nationwide prematurity prevention campaign. The March of Dimes recently announced that the U.S. preterm birth rate dropped for the sixth consecutive year in 2012 to 11.5 percent, a 15-year low.

In addition to this new honor, the March of Dimes is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity and meets all 20 standards listed on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Web site Give.org.

“We are very proud of our fiscal stewardship,” added Dr. Howse. “We receive financial support from more than 3 million volunteers, thousands of corporate sponsors, and state and federal agencies. With this support, we fund the innovative research, education, and community programs that are designed to deliver results and bring us closer to that day when every baby in every community is born healthy.”

New nutrition labels may be coming

27
Feb
Posted by Ivette

When I’m grocery shopping, I often find myself looking at the nutrition labels on food packages and trying to make sense of all the information I’m reading. Once I’m home, I end up trying to figure out if the serving size on the label is the actual size of the serving I have on my plate. Thankfully, it looks like things might get a little easier when it comes to eating healthy.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing changes to nutrition labels to make it easier for you to know exactly what and how much it is you’re eating. Some of these changes include more emphasis on total calories, added sugars and nutrients such as Vitamin D and potassium. The FDA may also be changing serving sizes to some foods so the nutrition label more accurately shows what most people usually eat. Who drinks half of that 16oz bottled iced tea?

Below is an image of a nutrition label as they are now (on the left), and an image of the new label. What do you think? The FDA says the new label is open to the public for comment for the next 90 days. Share your thoughts!Nutrition labels

What is dyspraxia?

26
Feb
Posted by Barbara

child using forkDyspraxia is a complex motor skill disorder that interferes with the activities of daily life. It can be mild or severe and affects every child differently. It is also called developmental dyspraxia and developmental coordination disorder.  It affects boys more than twice as often as girls. Dyspraxia is a lifelong disorder that can be managed but not cured.

What are some warning signs?

In babies and toddlers, signs of dyspraxia include delays in reaching developmental milestones, such as not rolling over or crawling, and later having trouble learning to walk. In young children, some of the signs of dyspraxia include being clumsy, having trouble using utensils to eat, being unable to tie shoe laces, ride a bike or catch a ball, having difficulty with speech and not completing tasks.

As you can see, dyspraxia does not have one specific sign or symptom. Having trouble talking is very different from not being able to catch a ball. But, all of these symptoms share the common basis of planning and carrying out a motor task. But, just to muddy the waters a bit, some children with dyspraxia still achieve major developmental milestones. (Are you confused yet? Wait, there’s more.) Yet, other children may have some of the signs or symptoms of dyspraxia but they are due to another diagnosis entirely. (Think of a runny nose…it could be due to a cold, the flu or allergies. The symptom is the same for each diagnosis.)  So…

How can you tell if it is dyspraxia or not, and what should you do?

In order to know if your child’s symptoms are due to dyspraxia, a developmental delay, a vision problem, or a different diagnosis entirely, it is important that a professional evaluate her. First, discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician at an office visit. He may recommend an additional evaluation by another expert. In addition, you can have your child evaluated through the early intervention program in your state for babies and toddlers, or through the special education system for children age 3 and older.

How is dyspraxia treated?

The kind of treatment a child receives depends on the type of symptoms and severity she is experiencing. Treatment  should be individualized. For example, if a child has trouble speaking (can’t form words properly, has trouble with the volume of her voice, etc.), then speech therapy would probably be appropriate. If a child has trouble with buttons, zippers, using a fork or knife, brushing teeth, is extra sensitive about hair brushing, or tags on clothing drives her to distraction, then occupational therapy may be helpful. If a child has trouble with moving around (she bumps into things, seems uncoordinated or clumsy, has trouble riding a bike, and generally has a tough time negotiating her space), then physical therapy may be in order.

In many cases, a child needs more than one kind of therapy in order to overcome obstacles. And, as a child grows and develops, the therapy needs to be adjusted to address her current issues and age.

It is worth noting that children with dyspraxia are often challenged by having other disorders at the same time, such as a learning disability, a speech and language disorder and/or attention problems. This is why it is important for a child to be diagnosed accurately and to receive appropriate treatment as early as possible.

Good company

shoelaces undoneDaniel Radclliffe, the actor who plays Harry Potter in the film series, has openly discussed his dyspraxia. He has trouble with handwriting and tying shoes, and admits he struggled in school.  Evidently, he has been able to focus on his gifts and talents to become a world famous actor. (Or perhaps there was just a little bit of magic thrown in?) But seriously, hard work and perseverance are always factors in learning to be successful despite a disability.

Where can you get more info?

You can learn more about dyspraxia and other learning disabilities at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).  They have a short video that is helpful in understanding the different facets of dyspraxia. The NIH also has information on dyspraxia.

Bottom line

Although dyspraxia is a lifelong disorder, it can be managed through appropriate treatment. If you are concerned about your child’s development, be sure to speak with her health care provider or ask that your child be evaluated. Intervention at any time, is valuable.

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.