The family first used a scene from the movie “Aladdin” to connect to their son. (JD Hancock/Flickr)
By Kathy Shield
Owen Suskind was a normal toddler, learning to speak in full sentences and happily playing in the backyard with his older brother, Walt.
Owen wasn’t merely watching these movies, he was hearing them and learning through the characters.
That all changed at age 3, when Owen stopped speaking, and in the space of a single month, his entire vocabulary was reduced to one word: juice. Owen was diagnosed with late-onset regressive autism. Though his developmental trajectory was typical for children with this form of autism, this fact offered no comfort to his parents.
Today, Owen has grown into a relatively self-sufficient young man. He graduated from a college-like program for young adults on the autism spectrum and is now living semi-independently in an apartment. Continue reading
By April Laissle
California is well behind almost every other state when it comes to caring for its kids, according to an annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and its Oakland-based partner, Children Now.
The report looks at four indicators of children’s well-being: family stability, economic stability, health, and education. This year, California inched up one spot to 40th overall, but ranked 26th in the health category.
Some of that progress is due to the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, though advocates say there is still work to be done.
“We have increased the number of children now that are on Medi-Cal,” said Jessica Mindnich, research director at Children Now. “But do these kids actually have access to doctors and to dentists? Are they able to get in in a timely manner?” Continue reading
Bernice Arnett, school nurse for the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, is in charge of student health at the district’s seven public schools. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: School nursing is more than Band-Aids and ice packs. Nurses help students with complex medical conditions and tough home lives. Bernice Arnett is a nurse for seven schools in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District — two Central Valley towns just south of Modesto. This month, our ongoing health series called Vital Signs focuses on prevention. Arnett talks about how she’s working to keep students and families in her community healthy.
By Bernice Arnett
There have been days where I have visited all seven sites in one day. But I was doing reactive nursing rather than proactive nursing. There were times that I’d have to actually triage in my head what I should go do first.
You treat the whole student. Sometimes you treat the whole family. And a lot of times, families are desperate. They don’t know where to turn. Continue reading
Study participant Tia Geri explains how her artificial pancreas works. (April Laissle/KQED)
By April Laissle
This week seven children are participating in a Stanford research study in a somewhat unusual setting — a hotel in Newark, outside San Francisco. Researchers are testing an “artificial pancreas” on these children who all have Type 1 diabetes. The device is the latest advance in diabetes management technology.
“We’re trying to push this system to the limit by having the kids eat a lot and get out and run.”
The artificial pancreas is an android phone loaded with software mimicking the function of a real pancreas. Using bluetooth, the device communicates with two monitors attached to the patient’s body; one that keeps track of blood sugar levels and another that pumps insulin into the body when those sugar levels are too high. It determines when and how much insulin to release and sends that information to the insulin pump without patient intervention.
Researchers say the device could simplify the lives of those with diabetes by taking the guesswork out of treating the disease. Continue reading
By David Gorn, California Healthline
CMS officials last week approved a state plan amendment for the state of Washington that includes autism therapy as a Medicaid benefit.
It’s the second state in a month to receive that go-ahead from the federal government, and it means autism coverage should be a Medi-Cal benefit in California, as well, according to Kristin Jacobson, president of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage, a not-for-profit autism advocacy group.
The budget passed this week by the California Legislature omitted autism therapy as a Medi-Cal benefit.
Autism advocates hope one day soon CMS will make it clear that applied behavior analysis treatment — known as ABA therapy — should be a required benefit for all states receiving Medicaid, including California. Continue reading
A Human Rights Watch study found that most children working in tobacco fields got sick with nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness. (Getty Images)
By Debbie Elliott, NPR
Kids under 18 can’t buy cigarettes in the U.S., but they can legally work in tobacco fields when they’re as young as 12.
One of those kids is Eddie Ramirez, 15, who works the fields in the summer.
“The rows are narrow and the tobacco is really big. You just feel like you’re suffocating or can’t breathe really well.” – Eddie Ramirez, 15
“It just sticks to my hand,” he says of the plant. “It’s really sticky, you know, and really yellow.” It’s nearly impossible to wash off, he says.
A new report from Human Rights Watch says the practice of children farming tobacco is hazardous and should be stopped. The group interviewed more than 140 kids in 2012 and 2013, including Eddie, who work on tobacco farms in the South.
From the sparse mobile home he shares with his mother in Snow Hill, N.C., Eddie describes feeling lightheaded and queasy after a 12-hour day in the tobacco fields. Continue reading
While headaches and fatigue are the most common concussion symptoms, nearly one in five patients may also suffer emotional symptoms. (Paul-W/Flickr)
By Brian Lau
That big hit your child took on the football field was over a week ago. He says his headaches are gone — but he’s just not himself. He can’t sleep and he just snapped back at you when you asked him how he was doing. You wonder if this is just normal teenager behavior or a sign of the concussion.
Frustration, irritability, and sleep difficulty a week or more after injury may signal a more serious concussion.
Concussions are diagnosed by physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, difficulty thinking clearly, or fatigue after a head injury. But those physical symptoms may evolve into emotional symptoms during the days and weeks after an injury according to a study
published Monday in the journal Pediatrics
Yes, headaches and fatigue were the most common symptoms immediately following a concussion, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. But emotional symptoms such as frustration, irritability, restlessness, and sleep difficulty were seen in up to 17 percent of patients a week or more after injury and may be a marker of a more serious concussion. Continue reading
Teens may not have had enough time to accumulate a lot of stuff, but they may still have symptoms. (Tara R./Flickr)
By Maanvi Singh, NPR
Hoarding disorder is generally diagnosed in older adults, after their inability to discard things and their anxiety over possessions leave them unable to function. But it may take root much earlier in life, though psychiatrists say they’re just starting to figure that out.
Study shows 2 percent of teens may have the disorder.
Hoarding symptoms may look different in teenagers than they do in adults, researchers reported at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting this week in New York.
A seriously cluttered living space is one of the main signs of hoarding disorder in adults. But teens who show some of the symptoms of hoarding usually haven’t collected nearly as many things as adults, says Volen Ivanov, a psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Continue reading
The fear of street violence in her East Oakland community prevents Maria Peña (left) from taking her children to neighborhood parks and from allowing them to play in front of their home. A supervised playgroup provides that opportunity. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)
Editor’s Note: When it’s too dangerous for children to play outside, what can parents do? Thirty-five-year-old Maria Peña recalls her own childhood in East Oakland as one spent playing happily on the streets with neighborhood children. Today, her community’s high crime rate makes the street a hazardous place for her two kids. As part of our ongoing health series Vital Signs, Peña describes how an East Oakland playgroup called Room to Bloom gives her four-year-old daughter a safe space to be a kid.
By Maria Peña
We were going to leave to a baseball game and something held us back from leaving. It was a drive-by in broad daylight.
My daughter is 4-years-old, and she’s like, “Why are they shooting? Why are these people doing this?” Continue reading
By Maanvi Singh, NPR
Motivating children to stop playing and help out with chores isn’t exactly an easy sell, as most parents and teachers will attest. But how you ask can make all the difference, psychologists say.
“Helping” versus “being a helper.”
If you say something like, “Please help me,” the kids are more likely to keep playing with their Legos. But ask them, “Please be a helper,” and they’ll be more responsive, researchers report this week in the journal Child Development.
Being called a helper makes kids feel like they’re embodying a virtue, says Christopher Bryan, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego and one of the researchers behind the study.
“It’s really important to all of us to be good people,” Bryan says. Helping is nice, but helpers are good people.