Concussions are More Common in Teens than Once Thought

A research letter was published in the Journal of American Medical Association on Tuesday, June 25 which concussionsummarized findings from a recent Canadian study examining concussions in teenagers.  The Canadian research team found that concussion rates in adolescents are much higher than previously thought.

What is the prevalence of concussions in teens?

1 out of every 5 teenagers completing the research project indicated that they had sustained a concussion.  These numbers are high, and there are some flaws with generalizing these numbers to the population as a whole.  This was a survey research project in which the examiners asked teenagers a series of questions about head injuries and academic performance.  Although the likelihood of 1 in 5 teenagers having sustained a concussion is probably not realistic, it is known that head injuries are quite common at rates that are greater than suspected in the past.

Why is it important to know the incident rates of concussions?

The importance of knowing about the incident rates of concussions is that there are numerous known behavioral and emotional variables associated with head injuries.  Adolescents who have sustained a head injury are at risk for learning problems, substance abuse, and emotional concerns.

What does this mean as a parent or teacher?  If you notice a teenager exhibiting a sudden change in academic performance, behavior, or emotional regulation, you want to have an evaluation immediately.  Speak to your child’s pediatrician about a possible neurological or neuropsychological evaluation in order to help determine the possible cause for the changes, as one possible reason might be a sustained head injury.

To read the full Chicago Tribune article on this study, click here.  To learn more about North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Neuropsychology Diagnostic Program for children and teens, click below.

How to Handle Fireworks and Your Child’s Sensitivity to Noise

By the time the 4th of July rolls around, summer is in full swing!  Kids spend their days at camp; families spend more timefireworks relaxing, and everyone enjoys spending time outside in the sun. The 4th of July is a fun time to gather friends and family and celebrate with food, games and (of course) fireworks!

While these July 4th traditions bring excitement for many children, there are kids with hypersensitivities who do not look forward to the noisy day. Below are 5 strategies that can help your sensitive child enjoy the day as well.

5 Ways to Help Your Child with Hypersensitivities Enjoy the 4th of July:

  1. Prepare your child for the day by providing them with explanations of where you are going, what you will do there, and what they will hear. This will help them to understand what to expect from the day without being fearful. You can also prepare them for the noise by having a family music night where everyone bangs on pots and pans around the house!
  2. Watch a video, either online or on television, that has fireworks in it.
  3. Bring cotton balls or ear plugs to the fireworks event to help decrease the intensity of the sound.
  4. Ask friends who lives near a local fireworks show if you can watch from their home. Being indoors will also decrease the intensity of the sound.
  5. If your child still won’t have an enjoyable time during fireworks with the above strategies, consider having a babysitter stay home with your kids. She can plan fun holiday games and crafts to celebrate at home.

Have a safe and wonderful 4th of July!

For more ideas on helping your child, click here to read about activities to address your child’s tactile hypersensitivities.
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A Mother’s Role in Raising a Confident Daughter

As girls grow and develop, their overall sense of self-worth and confidence grows and changes.  Sadly, in confident daughteradolescence, a girl’s confidence and sense of self-worth often plummets.  This is due to the fact that beginning in the preteen years, body image becomes the barometer by which many girls measure their self-worth.  Confidence becomes one with how a young girl looks, and as a result, how she feel about herself.  The message our young girls receive is this: Women in our society are valued based on their physical attractiveness.  A mother is the main role model in her young daughter’s life.  Her daughter subconsciously takes in how her mother carries herself, regards herself, and thinks about herself. For this reason, mothers play a pivotal role in how a young girl navigates this challenging time. Read more

A New Childhood Health Issue: Overweight but Undernourished

If a child is overweight, it is easy to assume that he is getting more than enough of his daily recommended nutrients… right?  The answer is, not always.   Even if a child appears to be well-nourished or over-nourished, this does not mean that he actually has proper nutrient status from a physiological perspective.overweight kids

What nutrients might be lacking and why?

CalciumChildhood and drinking milk are often thought to go hand-in-hand. But many kids avoid milk and instead drink juice or sweetened beverages with little nutritional value. Other food sources of calcium might not be at the top of most kids’ lists, such as dark leafy greens, beans, tofu, and quinoa.

Inadequate calcium intake can cause the following problems:

  • In combination with excess weight bearing on a child’s developing bones, a lack of calcium can put kids at risk for fractures and joint problems.
  • A lack of calcium in childhood can cause a diminished reserve of calcium in later life.  Calcium is used in the body for blood clotting, muscle contraction, and nerve signal conduction processes.  Calcium also works to buffer acid-base balance in the blood. It is stored in the bones, and pulled out from the bones for these functions. Your body stockpiles calcium from the diet into the bones much more effectively during childhood and the young adult years than after age 30. Read more

DSM-5 Changes in Autism

With publication of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in May 2013, DSM-V Changeschanges to diagnostic labels, symptom criteria, and specifiers of Autism have been put into action.  Perhaps the most obvious change is the exclusion of Asperger’s Disorder in the latest manual.  Not to say the syndrome no longer exists, rather the nosology has been altered.  Asperger’s is now subsumed under the broad diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Apparently, the “spectrum” is now greater than ever, but thanks to a variety of specifiers, the child’s strengths and weaknesses can be easily communicated.

Other Changes to the DSM-5:

  • The creation of a single category for communication and social interaction symptoms.  The focus is less on the actual language impairment, per se, but more on the qualitative social aspect of impairment.
  • Diagnosis now requires at least two restricted and repetitive behaviors, with the old manual requiring only one.
  • Criteria have been clarified to reflect the variations in behaviors, interests, and sensory experiences.

What this means for rates of diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the future remains to be seen.  Criticism has abounded, with some predicting inflation in diagnosis while others fear the many costs associated with potential under-diagnosis.  Nonetheless, it is important to realize that with the changing in terminology, treatment of Autism has remained stable and continues to be evidence-driven.

For more on Autism read When to Screen Children for Autism and Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders and Potty Training and Autism: The Complete Guide.  To learn more about the Chicago Autism Clinic, click below or call us at 877-486-4140.


The Role of the Speech Pathologist in Treating a Cleft Palate

It can be scary and heartbreaking to watch your child with a cleft palate struggle.  When treating a cleft palate, a multi-cleft palatedisciplinary team approach is the best way to provide the highest level of care to your child and your family. Allowing multiple team members to communicate often and coordinate approaches will result in a more comprehensive plan of care overall.  One indispensible member of this team is the speech pathologist.

How a Speech Pathologist Can Help Your Child with a Cleft Palate:

A speech pathologist is a critical part of your child’s cleft palate team.  Speech pathologists provide support from the early days by assisting with feeding and into childhood as your child masters speech with the continuous changes they will undergo the first few years of life.

From birth, feeding a child with a cleft palate may be a concern for parents. A speech pathologist will be able to provide strategies for adaptive techniques and useful tools to ease this difficulty. He or she will work closely with nutritionists and nursing specialists to provide the most effective care for your child and to ensure your child can maintain adequate nutrition orally.

As your child grows and develops, regular, consistent assessment of your child’s articulation skills is critical to determine if any production errors are the result of structural difficulties or compensation for your child’s weak/insufficient muscles.  The cleft palate team will determine if your child’s speech and language is appropriate for development.  A trial period of speech therapy may be suggested prior to an additional surgery. A speech pathologist will also screen for hearing impairments, which may co-occur with a cleft palate.  This can cause difficulty with understanding and/or acquiring sounds and language.

Finally, the role of advocate is also a critical piece to the team offered by the speech pathologist. The speech pathologist can assist you by providing information regarding useful websites, helpful publications and information regarding local school districts and the care that is available to you and your family.

Helping your child with a cleft palate can be a difficult journey, but with the right help, your child will overcome the challenges of this condition.

Do you have more questions about helping your child with a cleft palate?  Click here to learn about our speech pathology program or call us at 877-486-4140.

Tips to Integrate Children with Autism into Day Camp

Camp should be a fun summer experience that all kids can enjoy.  Sending your child to summer camp with new peopleautism and a new routine can be a scary thought for most kids.  The difficulty of this transition is much more pronounced for kids with autism.  There are ways to make this transition easier on kids with autism, so they don’t miss out on this fun, childhood experience.

Tips to transition to a camp setting for kids with autism:

  • Meet the counselors, staff and new teachers before the program begins.
  • Let the counselors, staff and new teachers know to what your child best responds, for example, first/then sentences, praise, or certain words.
  • Explain any “triggers” that may cause your child with autism to have a tantrum.
  • Take a tour of the facilities with your child before you send him for his first day.
  • Show your child a schedule of what his day will look like at camp so he is not surprised.
  • Read your child a social story about camp, following directions, and making friends. Read more

Nutrition Implications of Pediatric Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects in the pediatric population are a serious condition. Many defectscongenital heart defects require surgical intervention to correct or improve the problem. Often, there are nutrition-related implications associated with heart defects. Here is more information about how nutrition may be affected to help you understand this aspect of your child’s health.

The Link between Nutrition and Congenital Heart Defects:

  • Digestion and absorption of nutrients. The major job of the human heart is to pump blood throughout the body. The blood carries nutrients and oxygen to be used for energy and to support all body functions. With a heart defect, blood circulation may be suboptimal, since the heart may not be pumping strongly or efficiently. This can result in poor blood flow to the gut, which means that the gut is not getting the nutrients and energy it needs to perform digestive functions effectively. Nutrients may not be absorbed well, which can lead to poor weight gain and general intolerance of feeds (diarrhea, reflux, delayed gastric emptying). Read more

Questions About Medication For Children

For many children, therapy or accommodations are not sufficient to support their needs.  It is often that these children will need child medicationpharmacological intervention to help improve their attentional regulation, impulse control, emotional regulation and/or behavioral self control. Parents should be honest with their pediatrician about medication as well as ask several questions about ensuring the best care.

Questions Parents Should Ask When Determining If Medication Is The Right Choice For Your Child:

  1. What are the side effects of the medication? All medications have side effects and it is important to be aware of what to possibly look out for.
  2. How long should the child be on medication?  It is important to ascertain if the medication is likely a temporarily solution or long-term.
  3. What therapies would be beneficial for the child to participate in while taking medication?  It is often that medication alone is not sufficient. Children will often benefit from specific therapies and interventions to help teach emotional and behavioral regulation.
  4. Who should I tell? My advice about medication is to always inform the academic staff as to when a child starts medication. Many times, the teacher would be able to have a greater watch over the child and monitor whether or not there are experiencing any negative side effects.

Medication is often warranted in a child’s treatment regime. It is always important for parents to ask good questions and work with a treatment team in order to ensure the best success of their child’s social and emotional development.

Eating Disorders in Children and Teens

Eating disorders are a scary topic for parents. It is critical to be aware of signs that your child may be at risk for developing an eating eating disorderdisorder. The earlier you can get professional intervention, the better outcomes your child will have. You may be able to prevent the eating disorder from taking over your child’s life and causing serious health affects. The longer a child struggles with an eating disorder, the more difficult it can be for him or her to overcome it. The eating disorder becomes a coping mechanism they rely on to feel in control, and is something to focus on to avoid other issues. Eating disorders are mental health diagnoses, and involve disordered thinking, beliefs, and behaviors around food and body image. They should be treated and managed by a team including at minimum, a physician, a mental health counselor, and a registered dietitian.

Warning signs your child may have or be developing an eating disorder:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Eating the same things every day, often in very controlled amounts
  • Self- imposed rules around eating Read more