Posts Tagged ‘preemie’

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.

LDs – What they ARE and are NOT

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

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.

What is dysgraphia?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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.

PREEMIE Act signed into law

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

On Nov. 27th, President Barack Obama signed into law S. 252, the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, a bill to reauthorize federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

“The PREEMIE Act represents the federal government’s commitment to reducing the devastating toll of preterm birth,” stated Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes.  “By signing this bill into law, President Obama has enabled vital research and education on the prevention of prematurity to continue.  The March of Dimes is deeply grateful to him, as well as the authors of the PREEMIE Act – Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ) – for their tireless efforts to ensure that no baby is born too soon.

“Today, one in every nine U.S. infants is born preterm.  Due to concerted efforts by the March of Dimes and our partners, this number has gone down for the past six consecutive years, but it is still too high.  Prematurity can lead to a host of adverse health consequences for these babies and place a terrible strain on their families.  In addition, preterm birth carries a significant cost to businesses and our economy.  The average premature birth costs 12 times as much as a healthy birth.  The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act will sustain the vital federal investment in promoting healthy pregnancies, healthy infants, and healthy families.”

Preterm delivery can happen to any pregnant woman; in many cases, the cause of preterm birth is unknown. Preterm birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, and those babies who survive are more likely to suffer from intellectual and physical disabilities. In addition to its human, emotional, and financial impact on families, preterm birth places a tremendous economic burden on the nation.  A 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine found the cost associated with preterm birth in the United States was $26.2 billion annually, or $51,600 per infant born preterm. Employers, private insurers and individuals bear approximately half of the costs of health care for these infants, and another 40 percent is paid by Medicaid.

S. 252 was endorsed and strongly supported by a wide range of organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of City and County Health Officers, and more.

The original PREEMIE Act (P.L. 109-450) brought the first-ever national focus to prematurity prevention.  The Surgeon General’s Conference on the Prevention of Preterm Birth required by the Act generated a public-private agenda to spur innovative research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and support evidence-based interventions to prevent preterm birth. The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act reauthorizes critical federal research, education and intervention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality.

Twitter chat on losing a baby

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Tiffany Bowen, wife of Stephen Bowen of the Washington Redskins, went into labor at 24 weeks. She was expecting twins, not an emergency c-section. Two tiny babies were born and struggled for weeks. One of their boys survived, Skyler did not.

Join us @modhealthtalk for a chat about losing a baby, on Monday Nov. 18th at 8 PM ET. Tiffany Bowen, @Skylersgift, will be our guest. Come listen to her story and share your own. Find out how Tiffany and Stephen have used their experience to help others through Skyler’s Gift Foundation.  Share your experience. Be sure to use #losschat so others can see your story.

 

Preemie chats this weekend

Friday, November 15th, 2013

wpd2013

This is Prematurity Awareness weekend and we’ll be involved in chats on both Saturday and Sunday. Join us on Saturday as part of the day-long World Prematurity Network relay. We will be talking about parenting in the NICU at 1 PM ET. Make sure you use #worldprematurityday to fully engage.

On Sunday, which is actually World Prematurity Day, we will be discussing and sharing birth stories. Please come share your unique story with us throughout the afternoon. We can learn a lot from each other. Use #birthstories to be included in the thread.

We look forward to seeing you with us.

Is your preemie ready to fly?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

airplane1Even after a premature baby has been discharged from the NICU, she may not be ready to go on an airplane just yet.  Although today all commercial planes have pressurized cabins, believe it or not, the oxygen concentration in the air is not as high as in a typical room at sea level.  For healthy people, that means that we simply need to breathe more deeply or more rapidly to get the same amount of oxygen.  We do this without even thinking about it and our bodies easily make the adjustments needed.

But preemies may be different.  A lot may depend on what your baby’s oxygen saturation levels were while she was in the NICU.  For a baby whose oxygen saturation was measuring close to 100 percent, a plane ride may not be a problem.  But for a baby whose oxygen saturation levels were even a little lower–90-95 percent, for example—the drop in oxygen concentration may be a cause for concern.

Flying on an airplane also increases the chances that your baby may catch a cold or other respiratory tract infection.  Planes carry many people in an enclosed compartment.  And they actually recycle all or part of the air circulating in the cabin.  This has led to a greater transmission of infections among all passengers.  Of course all babies are vulnerable to these illnesses, but preemies are at an increased risk—especially during their first winter.

If you were thinking about taking your preemie on an airplane, make sure you talk to your baby’s health care provider.  Many neonatologists actually advise parents not to take babies on airplanes for several months after leaving the NICU.  Your baby’s health care provider knows her breathing and medical history and is the best person to help you make the decision whether traveling by plane is a good idea.

Re-entry: life after vacation

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

suitcase-on-bedLife after vacation can be rough.

No sooner had you gotten used to your surroundings away from home and begun to relax when you need to gear up for your trip back home.  It may take a while to re-adjust and get up to speed with your work and home life.

If you have a child with special needs who went on vacation with you, adjusting back to life after vacation can be especially challenging. In my post last week, I talked about how to go on vacation with your special needs child…successfully. But now I want to focus on what I call “re-entry” – coming home and getting back to normal. Often re-entry is much harder that you can imagine.

So many kids struggle with changes to routine. But a child with challenges may have an even deeper struggle with change of any kind. “Sameness” seems to be the name of the game.  A child with special needs often reacts negatively to tiny changes in his life.  Small things (such as bed sheets, pajamas, breakfast cereal) need to be kept the same or a meltdown will ensue. If you went through the pains of helping your child adjust to going away, and after a period of adjustment your child settled in and had a good time, you may be in for a tough time when you arrive back home as you try to change back to his new “old” routine. For many special needs children, transitions are like going into a black hole –they are scary and cause great anxiety.

How can your help your child adjust to going home?

It is important to prepare your little one for the transition home. A photo of your home, his room and toys should be in his communication book. Point to it and explain to him you will be going home. If you know you are taking a plane or a long car ride to get home, show him the picture of a plane or car so that he knows what will be happening next. But, be careful not to tell him too early, as children don’t have a clear sense of time and would expect that shortly after you point to the pictures in his book, he will then be back home.

Once you arrive home, positive reinforcement can work wonders. Rewarding all the things he is doing “right” can go a long way in keeping the peace. If you have a sticker chart or reward system in place, keep it going throughout the transition home. Remember, re-entry is really hard for your child. He is not trying to annoy you or be difficult. It’s just the way he’s wired…so try to be patient.

As you slide back into your routine, make a book of your vacation memories. You can print out the photos of your trip and make a book so that your little one can “read” it from time to time and remember that he was there. This will help for the next time you wish to travel to a place as he will remember that he had fun on a previous trip. The more you go away (even on short day trips), the more memory books you can create. These books will be a testament that your little one is making progress. It will help him become confident in his ability to accept change and maybe even learn to like it.

Should you go away again?

It is hard to break routine and inject new people, places, foods, smells, beds and countless other new senses into the life of your special needs child.  But, the more times your child is successful at transitioning through change, the more successful he is going to become at it. That is not to say it is easy, but over time it usually becomes less hard. As your child becomes more verbal, he can express to you what will help him be successful. Sometimes simple things such as allowing an extra few minutes to leave the house so that he can say “good bye” to each of his stuffed animals before he leaves may allow you to get out of the house without a meltdown. It is different for every child.  Learn what works for your child and try to be patient.

Hopefully, in time, your get-aways will become a welcome change…as they should be.

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

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

A father’s role in the NICU

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

NICU dadYour beautiful baby has arrived. But he or she was born prematurely or is sick, and needs special care. Your joy over your baby’s birth may be mixed with worry and heartache. This is not how you expected fatherhood to begin.

The birth of a premature or sick baby is stressful and difficult for all family members. But it can be especially rough on you. You may worry about your baby and your partner, as well as other children at home, demands from your job and financial concerns. While each father develops his own way of coping with the birth of a premature or sick infant, this information may help make this difficult time a bit easier.

You may feel many conflicting emotions after your baby is born. These emotions, from anxiety and fear to anger and resentment, love and pride, helplessness and hope, can be very intense. All of the feelings are normal and most men experience some of them. As your baby gets stronger, your negative feelings may lessen. Expect this to be an emotional roller coaster ride for a while.

Keep in mind that the birth of a sick child can put stress on the relationship between you and your partner, as well as your relationships with other family members. It’s important to share your feelings with your partner through your baby’s illness, so that you can support each other and come through this experience a stronger team.

Read more about keeping your relationship strong, ways to help your partner and your baby, how to let others help you and how to take care of yourself in our article for dads. Being a NICU dad can be difficult, especially if your baby is very sick. You should take pride in all the things you do to help your baby and your partner, and realize that you are making a difference.

Chat on premature birth

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

texting3Join us on Twitter for a chat about premature babies. Moderated by @USNewsHealth, experts on the chat will be from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the March of Dimes.

Do you have a preemie? Share your experiences in the NICU and when you finally took your baby home. Join us on Twitter this Thursday, May 23rd and 2 PM ET.  Let’s discuss the topic and learn more. To join the conversation, simply follow the hashtag #Preemie.