Posts Tagged ‘ sexual abuse ’

10 Things I Learned From Pediatricians

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

I was in New Orleans for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) annual conference this past weekend, where roughly 8,000 pediatricians convened to share the latest research and policies surrounding kids’ health. If you’ve been following the news (or our blogs) this week, you’ve probably already heard about some of the big stories to come out of the meeting, including research showing that boys are experiencing puberty at earlier ages and the AAP’s conclusion that there’s no evidence showing that organic food improves health or lowers risk of disease. Beyond that, these are among the takeaways that stuck with me:

1. In a presentation by one of our advisors, Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital and author of the must-be-bookmarked blog Seattle Mama Doc, Dr. Swanson noted that that more and more parents are confusing experience for expertise. Though she didn’t single out this person, you can consider Jenny McCarthy a perfect example: Her experience with her son’s autism is clearly being confused by some as having an expertise in autism.

2. Another doctor spoke about the importance of a pediatrician getting a family history from patients. It’s not easy, since lots of families don’t necessarily know their health history. In fact, one study showed that only 1/3 of people have ever tried to gather and organize their family’s health history. Have you? It’s most helpful for docs to have info on three generations: yours, your parents’, and your grandparents’ (and, of course, your partner’s parents and grandparents).

3. Along those lines, it’s really important to let your pediatrician know if anyone in your family (or your partner’s family) has died suddenly, or if there’s a new family history of cancer. Your child’s doctor can use this information to consider recommending certain health screenings, either now or down the line.

4. Firearm safety was a big focus at this year’s meeting. Did you know that when you look at the rate of deaths in children up to age 14 in 23 high-income countries, 87% of them occur in the United States?

5. The AAP’s position has not changed: The safest home for a child is one without guns. The next-best option is a home where guns are stored safely (as in locked up), unloaded and separate from the ammunition.

6. Pediatricians are noticing a disturbing trend in the country, where they may find themselves limited by the kinds of information they can share with patients. One example is asking parents whether they have a gun in their home–and then talking to them about gun safety. You may remember the controversial Florida law that passed in 2011 restricting pediatricians from having this conversation. The law was determined to be unconstitutional and was overturned, but Florida’s governor is appealing it.

7. Sexual abuse was the subject of a crowded session. One doctor shared this stat: When a child decides to share that she has been abused, she’s more likely to tell a peer than anyone else. (Abused children tell their peers 53% of the time; an adult relative 32% of the time; a non-related adult 10% of the time, and school personnel 3% of the time. 2% of kids tell someone who falls into an “other” category.) This means, said the expert, that there’s an “underground railroad” of kids who know about other kids being abused. She made a point that we didn’t address in our recent story about sexual abuse: We have to teach our children that if a friend tells them that he’s been abused, they should try and help this friend tell an adult who can do something about it.

8. Several sessions dealt with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)–more than I can remember from past conferences. It’s encouraging to know that 70% of those children who experience trauma have no lasting symptoms. Of the 30% who do have lasting symptoms, though, half recover, and half have a chronic form of PTSD. So it’s important to make sure a child who has suffered a trauma–whether that’s abuse, a car accident, witnessing a violent episode, among other examples–gets help.

9. For everyone with a child who has a food allergy, or diabetes, or asthma, or a similar chronic disease: Emergency medical bracelets are always a good idea, especially if your child goes to a day care center or school. Your child’s usual caregiver or teacher may be very well aware of his condition and how to manage or treat it, but new caregivers or substitute teachers can definitely benefit from the info.

10. Last week, a report came out noting that three major health organizations around the world recommend that kids under 6 get three hours a day of physical activity instead of the one hour that’s currently suggested by groups like the AAP. For those of us who have a child younger than 6, this can feel daunting. (And by younger than 6 we’re not talking about, say, newborns–this guideline is meant for kids who are awake at least 12 hours each day.) But a professor who gave an interesting talk called “The Reluctant Athlete: How To Get the Sedentary Child Off the Sofa” put it into context. The one-hour recommendation is for “moderate to vigorous” activity–and that’s just hard for a young child to pull off–so changing it to three hours gives kids more time to be active. It works out to about 15 minutes per hour, which seems doable.

 

Image: Female pediatrician checking cute baby with stethoscope via Shutterstock.

 

 

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Would You Know If Your Child Were Being Abused? Are You Sure?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Yesterday’s news that Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison was the latest chapter in a long, sad story that opened a lot of people’s eyes to the realities of child sexual abuse. It’s been almost a year since the country learned that a well-respected former Penn State football coach was accused of raping several young boys over decades. And in that time, we’ve seen that this was not a crazy, isolated case–in fact, it almost felt like the tip of the iceberg, with so many similar stories coming out, including from Horace Mann and Poly Prep, two prestigious private schools right here in New York.

In our November issue, out now, we have a feature by Jessica Snyder Sachs about child sexual abuse–how to prevent it, how to recognize warning signs, and how to broach the topic with a child you suspect may be (or have been) abused. It also includes age-appropriate advice on talking to your child about sexuality and boundaries. Knowing the right things to say can up the chance that your child will feel comfortable coming to you if she ever feels scared or confused.

But the message that stuck with me is that we can’t assume our kids will come to us. In fact, only 1 in 5 children who’ve been abused will report it while it’s actually happening–the vast majority wait until they’re older to discuss it. As Robin Castle, child sexual abuse prevention manager at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, explains, “It’s very, very hard for a child to disclose, even under the best of circumstances.” Even if you have a close relationship with your child–even if you feel he or she would surely tell you if something was wrong–you simply can’t rely on that when it comes to sexual abuse.

So we must be aware of the red flags. Please read our story, and share our story, and if it makes you question anything–including events from your own childhood–you can utilize the resources listed at the end.

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