Posts Tagged ‘preterm birth’

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.

Smoking – a risk for preterm birth

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

cigarette-buttsWe’ve all read the articles, seen the ads, maybe even known someone who has had lung cancer. But many pregnant women still smoke. Did you know that smoking nearly doubles a woman’s risk of having a premature baby? We need everyone’s efforts to help women quit.

Not only is smoking harmful to Mom, it’s also harmful to your baby during pregnancy. When you smoke during pregnancy, your baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar. These chemicals can lessen the amount of oxygen that your baby gets and oxygen is very important for helping your baby grow healthy. Smoking can also damage your baby’s lungs.

Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to be born prematurely, with birth defects such as cleft lip or palate, and at low birthweight. Babies born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, including lifelong disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems), and in some cases, death.

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke are proven to be bad for babies’ health. All the more reason for both Moms and Dads to try to quit. With counseling and social support, smoking cessation programs have yielded a significant reduction in preterm birth.

Know someone who is trying to quit? Lend ‘em a hand. Want help quitting? Try http://smokefree.gov/.

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.

Reflections on Jacqueline Kennedy

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

With the awareness and news coverage this week of the Kennedy assassination, I fell to thinking about the strength of Jacqueline Kennedy.   Not only had she lost her husband but a few months before she had also lost her infant son as a result of premature birth.
 
Mrs. Kennedy had a history of difficult pregnancies.  She had a miscarriage in 1955, followed by a stillbirth in 1956.  While Caroline was full term, John Jr. was a preemie and of course, her final child, Patrick died after only living 40 hours from what we now call Respiratory Distress Syndrome.   Sadly, this occurred 27 years before the March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990.

Mrs. Kennedy was a heavy smoker and smoked throughout her pregnancies.  This was before the US Surgeon General’s warning was known to the public. Although smoking was more common in those years, no one was aware of the repercussions of smoking during pregnancy. Today, it is still a risk factor for stillbirth, low birth weight babies and prematurity. The Great American Smokeout was yesterday; if you do smoke, please consider quitting.  Smokefree.gov has tips. 

I also want to highlight the possible effects of stress in pregnancy. There are several types of stress that can cause problems during pregnancy.  Negative life events, like death in the family, long-lasting stress such as depression and being the wife of the President, could have also played a role.
  
The loss of any child is difficult; I cannot image the pain she went through.  Premature birth can and does happen to any woman.

Early intervention services chat

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Many children with special needs were born prematurely. Special needs could encompass anything from vision and hearing concerns through feeding issues and delays and disabilities. Do you know what to do if you suspect a problem or delay?

Join us on Twitter Wednesday Nov. 20th at 1 PM ET for a chat about early intervention services. If your child is delayed, there is a federally funded Early Intervention program that can help. We’ll tell you about it. Be sure to use #preemiechat to fully participate.

Also, check out weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child.  It appears every Wednesday. We welcome your comment and questions.

Going home after the NICU

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

mom-and-preemieOne in every nine babies in the U.S. is born prematurely and most spend some time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Life isn’t easy for them or their parents.

Join our chat about what it’s like once you bring your baby home from the NICU, the challenges, the fears, the daily miracles, the joy. Our guest will be Amanda Farr Knickerbocker, @Micropreemie, mom to a micropreemie & creator of the amazing site understandingprematurity.com.

Please join us on Thursday Nov. 14th at 1 PM ET. Share your story, ask questions. Be sure to use #nicuchat to fully participate.

Preterm birth rate drops to 15-year low

Monday, November 4th, 2013

preterm birth rateThe United States’ preterm birth rate dropped for the sixth consecutive year in 2012 to 11.5 percent, a 15-year low.

Six states – Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont – earned an “A” on the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card as their preterm birth rates met the March of Dimes 9.6 percent goal. The US preterm birth rate improved to the lowest rate in 15 years, but the change wasn’t enough to earn it a better grade. The nation again earned a “C” on the Report Card.

The March of Dimes estimates that, since 2006, about 176,000 fewer babies have been born too soon because of improvement in the preterm birth rate, potentially saving about $9 billion in health and societal costs.

“Although we have made great progress in reducing our nation’s preterm birth rate from historic highs, the US still has the highest rate of preterm birth of any industrialized country. We must continue to invest in preterm birth prevention because every baby deserves a healthy start in life,” says March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. “A premature birth costs businesses about 12 times as much as uncomplicated healthy birth. As a result, premature birth is a major driver of health insurance costs not only for employers.”
 
The national preterm birth rate peaked in 2006 at 12.8 percent after rising steadily for more than two decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The 2012 rate is a 10 percent improvement since the 2006 peak and the best rate since 1998. When compared to 2006, almost all states had lower preterm birth rates in 2012.

Want to see how your state measured up? The Report Card information for the U.S. and states are available online at: marchofdimes.com/reportcard.

US preterm birth rate declines

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Early and tinyThe US preterm birth rate fell for the sixth consecutive year in 2012 to 11.54 percent of all births, the lowest it has been in 15 years and a 10 percent decline since the 2006 peak of 12.8 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statics report issued today.

“This is great news and it means thousands more babies were spared the serious health consequences of an early birth,” said March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. “This sustained improvement over these past six consecutive years shows that when infant health becomes a priority, babies benefit. We thank our many state and local health department and hospital partners and physicians and nurses for their dedication to the health of moms and babies. With their continued support, and with the right policies and bold leadership, we look forward to continued health improvements for newborns. We will continue to implement proven interventions and accelerate our investment in new research to prevent preterm birth so one day every baby will get a healthy start in life. ”

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.

Study shows we can reduce unnecessary early deliveries

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

A study published today in Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that hospital-based quality improvement programs across many states can be remarkably effective at reducing early elective deliveries of babies.

The rate of elective early term deliveries (i.e., inductions of labor and Cesarean sections without a medical reason) in a group of 25 participating hospitals fell significantly from 27.8 percent to 4.8 percent during the one-year project period, an 83 percent decline.

The March of Dimes, which partly funded the study, calls the findings good news, because babies delivered before full-term are at increased risk of serious health problems and death in their first year of life.

“This quality improvement program demonstrates that we can create a change in medical culture to prevent unneeded early deliveries and give many more babies a healthy start in life,” says Bryan T. Oshiro, MD, of Loma Linda University School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

“Reducing unnecessary early deliveries to less than five percent in these hospitals means that more babies stayed in the womb longer, which is so important for their growth and development,” says Edward R.B. McCabe, MD, medical director of the March of Dimes. “This project saw a decrease in the proportion of babies born at 37 and 38 weeks and a corresponding increase in the 39-41 week range during the one-year period studied. Additional studies, perhaps over a longer period of time, could clarify whether such quality improvement programs can also bring down a hospital’s overall preterm birth rate.”

This was the first project of a collaborative with perinatal quality improvement advocates from state health departments, academic health centers, public and private hospitals, and March of Dimes chapters from the five most populous states in the country: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas. These five states account for an estimated 38 percent of all births in the United States.

The March of Dimes urges hospitals, health care providers, and patients to follow the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines that if a pregnancy is healthy, to wait for labor to begin on its own. The final weeks of pregnancy are crucial to a baby’s health because many vital organs, including the brain and lungs, are still developing.

“A Multistate Quality Improvement Program to Decrease Elective Deliveries Before 39 Weeks,” by Dr. Oshiro and others, appears in the April 8 online edition of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol. 121, No. 5, May 2013.