Eye Exams…When to Start and Why

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6.

For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses should be examined annually or as recommended by their eye doctor.

The AOA stresses early eye exams for children because 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Early eye exams also are important because children need the following basic skills related to good eyesight for learning:

  • Near vision           eye
  • Distance vision
  • Binocular (two eyes) coordination
  • Eye movement skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness

For these reasons, some states require a mandatory eye exam for all children entering school for the first time.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says on its Web site that your family doctor or pediatrician likely will be the first medical professional to examine your child’s eyes. If eye problems are suspected during routine physical examinations, a referral might be made to an eye doctor for further evaluation. Eye doctors have specific equipment and training to assist them with spotting potential vision problems.

Babies should be able to see as well as adults in terms of focusing ability, color vision and depth perception by 6 months of age. To assess whether a baby’s eyes are developing normally, the doctor typically will use the following tests:

  • Tests of pupil responses evaluate whether the eye’s pupil opens and closes properly in the presence or absence of light.
  • “Fixate and follow” testing determines whether your baby’s eyes are able to fixate on and follow an object such as a light as it moves. Infants should be able to fixate on an object soon after birth and follow an object by the time they are 3 months old.
  • Preferential looking involves using cards that are blank on one side with stripes on the other side to attract the gaze of an infant to the stripes. In this way, vision capabilities can be assessed without the use of a typical eye chart.

 Preschool-age children do not need to know their letters in order to take certain eye tests. Some common eye tests used specifically for young children include:

  • LEA Symbols for young children are similar to regular eye tests using charts with letters, except that special symbols in these tests include an apple, house, square and circle.
  • Retinoscopy is a test that involves shining a light into the eye to observe the reflection from the back of the eye
  • Random Dot Stereopsis testing uses special patterns of dots and 3-D glasses to measure how well your child’s eyes work together as a team.

AAO offers the following reminders:

  • Appropriate vision testing at an early age is vital to insure your child has the visual skills he or she needs to perform well in school.
  • A child who is unable to see print or view a blackboard can become easily frustrated, leading to poor academic performance.
  • Some vision problems, such as lazy eye, are best treated if they are detected and corrected as early as possible while the child’s vision system is still developing.

Bedroom Fire Safety

fireIt seems that the nightly news carries coverage of at least one home fire a week during the winter months.

It may be a good time to share this fire safety message from the US Fire Safety Administration with your family members.

Bedroom Fires

Each year, fire claims the lives of 3,400 Americans and injures approximately 17,500. Bedrooms are a common area of fire origin. Nearly 600 lives are lost to fires that start in bedrooms.

Many of these fires are caused by misuse or poor maintenance of electrical devices, such as overloading extension cords or using portable space heaters too close to combustibles. Many other bedroom fires are caused by children who play with matches and lighters, careless smoking among adults, and arson.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the Sleep Products Safety Council (SPSC) would like you to know that there are simple steps you can take to prevent the loss of life and property resulting from bedroom fires.

Kids and Fire: A Bad Match

Children are one of the highest risk groups for deaths in residential fires. At home, children usually play with fire – lighters, matches and other ignitables – in bedrooms, in closets, and under beds. These are “secret” places where there are a lot of things that catch fire easily.

  • Children of all ages set over 35,000 fires annually.
  • Every year over 400 children nine years and younger die in home fires.
  • Keep matches and lighters locked up and away from children. Check under beds and in closets for burnt matches, evidence your child may be playing with matches.
  • Teach your child that fire is a tool, not a toy.

Appliances Need Special Attention

Bedrooms are the most common room in the home where electrical fires start. Electrical fires are a special concern during winter months which call for more indoor activities and increases in lighting, heating, and appliance use.

  • Do not trap electric cords against walls where heat can build up.
  • Take extra care when using portable heaters. Keep bedding, clothes, curtains and other combustible items at least three feet away from space heaters.
  • Only use lab-approved electric blankets and warmers. Check to make sure the cords are not frayed.

Tuck Yourself In For A Safe Sleep

  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. Mattresses made since then are required by law to be safer.

Finally, having working smoke alarms dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Place at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home and in halls outside bedrooms. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.


Medicines Can Hurt…Use and Store Carefully

medicines

Each year, nearly  500,000 calls to the Poison Control Center are about children ingesting medicines that belong predominately to parents and grandparents.

Safe Kids Worldwide shares the following tips about keeping your child safe from medicines that could have serious consequences for them.

Store Medicines Safely

  • Put all medicines up and away and out of sight including your own. Make sure that all medicines and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. In 3 out of 4 emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent.
  • Consider places where kids get into medicine. Kids get into medication in all sorts of places, like in purses and nightstands.  In 67% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine was left within reach of a child, such as in a purse, on a counter or dresser, or on the ground. Place purses and bags in high locations, and avoid leaving medicines on a nightstand or dresser.
  • Consider products you might not think about as medicines. Most parents store medicine up and away – or at least the products they consider to be medicine. They may not think about products such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins or eye drops as medicine, but they actually are and need to be stored safely.
  • Close your medicine caps tightly after every use. Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, if you’re able to. If pill boxes or non-child resistant caps are the only option, it’s even more important to store these containers up high and out of sight when caring for kids. And remember, child-resistant does not mean child-proof, and some children will still be able to get into medicine given enough time and persistence.
  • Be alert to visitors’ medicine. Guests in your home may not be thinking about the medicine they brought with them in their belongings. In 43% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine a child got into belonged to a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle. When you have guests in your home, offer to put purses, bags and coats out of reach of children to protect their property from a curious child.
  • Be alert to medicine in places your child visits. You know to store medicine safely in your home, but do you ever think about medicine safety when your child isn’t at home? Asking people your child visits to put their medicines in a safe place works for some parents, but it may feel socially awkward to others.  Another option is to take a look around to see if any medicines are stored within reach and deal with any risks in sight.
  • Even if you are tempted to keep it handy, put medicine out of reach after every use. When you need to give another dose in just a few hours, it may be tempting to keep medicine close at hand. But accidents can happen fast, and it only takes a few seconds for children to get into medicine that could make them very sick. Put medicine up and away after every use. And if you need a reminder, set an alarm on your watch or cell phone, or write yourself a note.

Give Medicines Safely

  • Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Proper dosing is important, particularly for young children. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon and tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device.
  • Keep all medicines in their original packages and containers.
  • Take the time to read the label and follow the directions. Even if you have used the medicine before, sometimes the directions change about how much medicine to give.
  • Even if your child seems really sick, don’t give more medicine than the label says. It won’t help your child feel better faster, and it may cause harm.
  • Read the label and know what’s in the medicine. Take the time to read the label and follow the directions on your child’s medicine. Check the active ingredients listed on the label. Make sure you don’t give your child more than one medicine with the same active ingredient, because it puts your child at risk for an overdose.

Communicate to Caregivers

  • If you are depending on someone else to give your child medicine, communicate clearly to avoid double dosing or dosing errors. More than 67,000 parents call poison control centers about dosing errors each year.
  • Write clear instructions to other caregivers, including what medicine to give, when to give it and the correct dose.

Get Rid of Medicines Safely

  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. Reduce the risk of kids getting into medicine by getting rid of unused or expired medicine. Many communities have a medicine take-back program. This is an easy way to get rid of your unused or expired medicines.
  • To dispose of it yourself, pour the medicine into a sealable plastic bag. If the medicine is a pill, add water to dissolve it. Then add kitty litter, sawdust or coffee grounds to the plastic bag. You can add anything that mixes with the medicine to make it less appealing for children or pets.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that certain medicines are so dangerous they should be flushed down the toilet.

Talk to Your Kids about Medication Safety

  • Talk to your kids about medication safety. Even if their medicine tastes good, don’t compare it to candy to encourage kids to take it.
  • Speak with older kids about the dangers of misusing or abusing prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

Educate Grandparents

  • It is estimated that in 38 percent of ER visits involving a medicine poisoning, the medicine belonged to a grandparent. Talk to grandparents about being extra mindful with medicine or pillboxes when children are around.
  • Don’t forget to remind other family members and visitors as well.

Put the Poison Help Number in Your Phone

  • Put the toll-free number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) into your home and cell phones. You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where babysitters and caregivers can see it. And remember, the poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine.
  • If your child has collapsed, is not breathing, or has a seizure, call 911.
  • Do not make children vomit or give them anything unless directed by a professional.

You can download these tips here.

Download Tips

 

Stuttering

stutteringAccording to the Stuttering Foundation (www.stuttersfa.org) more than 68 million people worldwide stutter, which is about 1% of the population.

In the United States, that’s over 3 million Americans who stutter.  Four times as many males as females have a problem with stuttering.

Most people who saw The King’s Speech were touched by the life-long impact that stuttering had on King George the 6th of Britain.This movie continues to create a renewed public interest in the causes and latest treatments for stuttering.

The Stuttering Foundation describes stuttering as “A communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions (li-li-like this), prolongations (lllllike this), or abnormal stoppages (no sound) of sounds and syllables. There may also be unusual facial and body movements associated with the effort to speak. Stuttering is also referred to as stammering.”

Contrary to the commonly held belief that stuttering is caused by trauma, or emotional problems,  the Stuttering Foundation identifies four causes for stuttering. They are: genetics (approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who does also); child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter); neurophysiology (recent neurological research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stutter); and family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering). Stuttering may occur when a combination of factors come together and may have different causes in different people. It is probable that what causes stuttering differs from what makes it continue or get worse.

About 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of whom will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1% with a long-term problem. The best prevention tool is early intervention.

We all know that stuttering can cause a child to become self-conscious about speaking. It can also make him or her the brunt of jokes and ridicule from insensitive children in school or when out playing.  It is best to seek ways to  help as soon as possible. (check out If You Think Your Child is Stuttering for ways to help immediately) If the stuttering persists beyond three to six months or is particularly severe, it may be time to seek help from a speech-language pathologist who specializes in stuttering . (check out speech-language pathologists for listings by state or country.)

There are a variety of successful approaches for treating both children and adults (check out Why Speech Therapy? for some guidelines).

While there are no instant miracle cures for stuttering, a specialist in stuttering can help not only children but also teenagers, young adults, and even older adults improve their speech.

Healthy New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

 Adults are not the only ones who can make New Year’s resolutions. Children can be helped to understand the meaning of resolutions, and how and why we make them.

The following New Year tips are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are offered to help parents encourage their children to make healthy resolutions.

resolutionsResolutions for Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets – even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or am scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or look sad or lonely.

Resolutions for Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends by asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for video games and internet use.

Resolutions for Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day, and I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I will spend only one to two hours each day – at the most – on these activities.  I promise to follow our household rules for videogames and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community – through giving some of my time to help others, working with community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or talking about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without forcing them to do something or using violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco-cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cellphone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.