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Scary Vaccine Realities You Can’t Argue With

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

The Internet is still buzzing about Kristin Cavallari’s revelation that she hadn’t vaccinated her eighteen-month-old son and didn’t plan on vaccinating the child she’s pregnant with. Her explanation to a Fox TV host: “I read too many books about autism and there’s studies… Now, one in 88 boys is autistic and that’s a scary statistic.” In another interview, she went on to say, “It’s our personal choice, and, you know, if you’re really concerned about your kid get them vaccinated.”

People were slamming Cavallari all over social media the day after I returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., largely focused on vaccines. Shot@Life is a movement aimed at rallying Americans to champion vaccines for children in developing countries, funded by the United Nations Foundation. I’d been part of the Blogust initiative in August, and participating bloggers had been invited to a Global Issues Fellowship.

Some good news I heard: Child mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly half since 1990. Major win. But, horrifyingly, 6.6 million children under 5 die every year.

Let me break it down for you: That’s 18,000 children a day. A child dies every 20 seconds.

Also shocking: 58 percent of deaths in children under 5 are caused by infectious disease. Again, I’ll break it down for you:

Every year, 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

That includes pneumonia, diarrhea, whooping cough and measles. Other children are disabled by diseases like polio that were long ago eradicated here. In Mozambique, mothers sometime do not name their children until they get vaccinated, likely because they do not want to become overly attached to children who might die. Parents in developing nations do not have the luxury of choice. They are not sitting around debating whether or not to vaccinate their kids. Because this is the harsh truth:

When children in developing nations do not get vaccinated, they can die.

Immunization has saved the lives of more babies and children than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years. It’s also one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent deaths: For a mere $20, a child can be vaccinated for a lifetime. Measles vaccines are just 23 cents a dose. And the vaccines are working: Deaths from measles are down 78 percent worldwide since 2000. Polio cases have plunged 99 percent; only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria still have it. As of January, India had officially eradicated polio. A world without polio is within reach.

If you think this issue doesn’t affect you, heads up: Germs don’t need a passport. 

There was a recent measles outbreak in New York City; other cases have been reported around the country in the last couple of months, including California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Measles is super-contagious—you can catch it simply by being in a room where someone infected has been, even after he or she has left. Complications are particularly common among kids younger than five years old. A pregnant woman who gets it is at increased risk for premature labor, miscarriage and low birthweight. And there’s no known cure. With millions of kids around the world unvaccinated, even diseases that have been eliminated in developed countries can return. Think: An infectious disease anywhere is a threat everywhere.

Really simple things you can do

• Follow Shot@Life on Twitter and Facebook and share updates that resonate with you. Donations are always welcome; you can make one here.

• Chronicle your child’s firsts using the Shot@Life app for kids 0 to 5—there’s a milestone tracker, and social media photo sharing so you can raise awareness about Shot@Life. You can also zap your Congressperson an email or tweet.

• Download the free app Donate A Photo and upload a pic of your child to automatically have Johnson & Johnson donate $1 to Shot@Life and other groups. Like this:

• Read and share stories written by celebs and community leaders for the Global Moms Relay Challenge now through May 11. For every share, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1—up to $250,000—to help moms and babies around the world stay healthy.

• Take the United Nations My World global survey and share your priorities for a better world.

 

Disclosure: The United Nations Foundation provided transportation and lodging for the fellowship training.  

Photo: Shot@Life UNF/Stuart Ramson

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Let’s Talk More About Kids With Special Needs

Friday, March 14th, 2014

I was on a plane when I started poring over the April issue of Parents magazine. The cover features beautiful siblings, 3-year-old Chloe and 5-year-old Daniel. Both have autism. It’s not every day that you see children with autism on the cover of a national magazine (though Parents, to their credit, had a cover last February featuring a girl with spina bifida). I let out a little “Yeah!” The stranger sitting next to me gave me a look, then tried to read over my shoulder as I flipped to the section on page 61: Life In A Special-Needs World. I hoped he did get an eyeful.

The pages were filled with information and inspiration about kids with special needs, along with profiles of kids with cerebral palsy, autism, Down Syndrome, spina bifida, and sensory processing disorder, and the results of a poll of nearly 500 parents. One finding I particularly loved: 73 percent of moms whose kids have special needs have talked to their children about people with special needs. Meanwhile, 81 percent of moms of typically developing kids have had that discussion.

How awesome is that?

When I was growing up, there wasn’t much discussion about kids with special needs. Unless you had a family member or friends with disabilities, chances are it didn’t come up. We’ve come a long way since then, a good thing for my son (Max has cerebral palsy) and ones like him. Still, unless you have a child with special needs, it’s impossible to know what parenting one is like—both the challenges as well as the many ways that our kids are just like any other. Parents’ series of informational videos spotlighting kids with special needs helps showcase that, including Life With Down Syndrome starring Siobhan O’Shea and her family.

Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome

This section is a great read whether or not you have a child with special needs. I hope the magazine’s amazing coverage of kids with special needs gets yet more conversation going about them. In order for our kids to become truly integrated in society, there needs to be more awareness of their awesome-ness. Take a sec and let editor-in-chief Dana Points know what you think—dana@parents.com.

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A Special Couple Fosters Six Children With Special Needs

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

“Do you ever get tired of hearing people ask you how you do it?” another special needs mom recently asked me. I do, but I also know that people don’t necessarily mean anything negative by it. They’re genuinely wondering how, as a working mom of two kids including one with special needs, I manage to juggle it all. That’s exactly what I wondered about an extraordinary couple I recently read about.

There are 11,000 children in state custody in Oklahoma. The 100 of them who have special needs are least likely to find home, and typically end up living in long-term hospitals or residential facilities. Misty Marksberry and partner Laura Merideth adopted one of those children, a little girl with a seizure disorder name Anastayja. Last December, she died. “Before she passed we promised her that her legacy would continue and that we would forever take care of kids like her,” Marksberry said.

And so they have, as recently reported by Fox 25 News. The couple went through special medical training, named their home Annie’s House and now foster six children, all of whom have intensive special needs. Marksberry stays home to care for them; she has even sewn feeding tubes onto dolls, so the children can see dolls who are like them. The couple are planning to adopt four-year-old Zamaria, who was epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and medical issues. They plan to adopt all the kids they foster if their parents no longer have rights. And they would like to expand Annie’s House, moving into a larger home with more space and getting a van to fit lots of wheelchairs and equipment.

Kids with special needs thrive in a home in a family-like setting, experts agree. This couple is giving these children a chance at life. As Marksberry said, “We want to give them every opportunity to be a child like any other.”

If you’d like donate to Annie’s House, click here.

From my other blog:

20 reasons to respect my child with special needs

A trend that will change our kids’ future: 3D printing

Disability rip-offs: You want me to pay 30 bucks for a spoon?

 

Life with Cerebral Palsy
Life with Cerebral Palsy
Life with Cerebral Palsy

Image: Screen grab/Fox 25 video

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Youngest Kindergarteners More Likely To Be Held Back, Says A New Study

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Here’s news that may influence parents’ decision on when to enroll their tots in kindergarten: The youngest kindergarteners are about five times more likely than the oldest students to be held back, says a new study from The University of Missouri. And retention could have an impact on a child. Says study author Francis Huang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Missouri University College of Education,”Requiring children to repeat a grade…can affect children’s self-esteem and their ability to adjust in the future.”

The study also found that children who were shorter were more likely to be held back a year than taller peers with the same classroom difficulties. Kids with higher attentiveness, task persistence and eagerness to learn were less likely to repeat a grade.

While many parents opt to enroll their kids in kindergarten as soon as they can to avoid paying for another year of daycare expenses, if your tot is on the younger side then you may have to be more proactive about making sure his or her’s needs are met in the classroom. “Since older kindergarteners can have as much as 20 percent more life experience than their younger classmates, teachers need to meet students where they are developmentally and adjust instructions based on a student’s ability,” says Huang. “Studies have shown that only a small number of teachers modify classroom instruction to deal with a diverse set of students.”

From my other blog: 

On giving in to your kid’s quirks

7 ways to encourage play for kids with special needs

How to respond when people ask what’s “wrong” with your child

 

Photo of girls in kindergarten class via Shutterstock

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How Autism Moms Parent Differently

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Moms who have kids with autism are less likely to set rules than other parents, says a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. These moms more frequently rely on positive reinforcement, encouraging good behavior rather than focusing on the bad.

Researchers asked 1000 mothers of kids ages 6 to 18 in Belgium and the Netherlands to complete a questionnaire about parenting tactics; 552 of them had a child with autism. Moms of kids with autism were more likely to adjust their approach to suit their children’s needs. They were also less controlling than other parents—yet more involved in problem-solving for their kids.

The results may come as no surprise to autism moms or to mothers of kids with other special needs. My son, Max, has cerebral palsy, and I’ve had to experiment to find the right discipline tactics. For years, Max didn’t yet cognitively understand a lot, and so threatening a punishment had no effect. Often the best approaches I found was to praise him for behaving well. When he said “No” instead of screeching in frustration, for example, I’d say “That’s great that you are using your words!” (Positive parenting also works well on feisty “typical” 9-year-olds who may or may not be my daughter.) What’s also worked for us in terms of setting rules is having a reward system in place. Max knows that if he finishes his homework, he is allowed to watch one YouTube video of fire trucks, one of his fascinations. Fellow blogger Lisa Quinones-Fontanez of Autism Wonderland finds it helpful to have a list of house rules (including “Walk nicely—no running” and “Listen to Mommy and Daddy”) that she can point to and go over with her son.

Recently, when Max refused to stop stomping his legs against the floor as he watched TV—a habit he developed months ago that showed no signs of abating—I decided to let him deal with the consequences. One framed photo had already fallen off the wall and broken, as a result. Then it happened again. This time, Max wailed for a long time.  ”I’m sorry!” he said, again and again. And you know what? He’s stopped stomping.

Parenting and disciplining kids with special needs has its special challenges. And yet, in many ways, it’s like parenting any kid: You have to adapt your approach to suit your child.

From my other blog:

The question I shouldn’t have asked about my child with special needs

7 ways to encourage play for kids with special needs

On giving in to your kid’s quirks

Photo of boy sitting in field via Shutterstock

Take our super-quick quiz and find out what your parenting style is.

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

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