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Thursday, September 08, 2011
The word "cancer" is used to refer to a group of more than 100 diseases. Because of that, it can be hard to keep track of all the different types of cancers, and some are inevitably bound to gain more attention or headlines than others.
One type of cancer that does not garner many headlines is Wilms' tumor, the most common form of kidney cancer in children. Roughly 500 new cases of Wilms' tumor are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, while the Canadian Cancer Society reports that, between 2003 and 2007, 220 new cases of Wilms' tumor were diagnosed in children and youth ages 0-19. (Editor's Note: Wilms' tumor is extremely rare in adults.)
Despite its status as the most common form of kidney cancer in children, Wilms' tumor has no known cause. The CCS notes that 90 percent of Wilms' tumor cases develop sporadically and have no identifiable risk factors. While researchers have yet to link a specific cause to Wilms' tumor, they have extensively studied the formation of the kidneys in a baby and feel that, when something goes wrong during that formation, Wilms' tumor can result. An example of something going wrong during kidney formation is cells not maturing during the process. These cells instead stay like fetal cells, which can cluster and still be there after the baby is born. While these fetal cells often mature by the time a child becomes a toddler, sometimes they never mature and begin to grow out of control, resulting in a Wilms' tumor.
The symptoms of Wilms' tumor can mimic other conditions, meaning the presence of any of the following symptoms does not necessarily mean a child has kidney cancer. Instead, should any of these symptoms appear, parents should take their child to a physician immediately.
* painless lump in the abdomen
* blood in the urine
* swelling of the abdomen
* pain in the abdomen
* high blood pressure
* changes to digestion, including loss of appetite, upset stomach, nausea and vomiting
* the appearance of large or distended veins across the abdomen
Because the cause of Wilms' tumor remains a mystery, the risk factors are difficult to pinpoint. But many of the known risk factors are hereditary. A child may inherit an abnormal gene from a parent, increasing the child's risk of Wilms' tumor, but not necessarily guaranteeing the tumor will develop. In fact, the American Cancer Society notes that only a small number of children with Wilms' tumor have a relative with the same cancer. The ACS also notes that Wilms' tumor is slightly more common among girls and African Americans, though the reasons for that are unknown.
Wilms' tumor has also been linked to children with certain birth defects. Roughly 10 percent of children with Wilms' tumor have a birth defect, most of which occur in syndromes, or groups of symptoms or problems that are commonly linked to certain changes in genes. In certain syndromes, part or even all of a gene might be missing, and these missing or abnormal genes can cause Wilms' tumor. Among the birth defects linked to Wilms' tumor are:
* Aniridia: This is a rare condition in which the iris of the eye, which gives the eye its color and controls the amount of light entering the eye, does not form completely.
* Hemihypertrophy: An overgrowth syndrome, hemihypertrophy occurs when one side of the body grows larger than the other.
* Hypospadias: This occurs in males when the urinary opening is not at the tip of the penis but on the underside instead.
* Undescended testicles: A condition that occurs when one or both testicles do not descend into the scrotum.
Treatment is successful for many children with Wilms' tumor, but the survival rate, as is the case with all cancers, varies depending on the stage of the tumor.
Wilm's tumor gets its name from Dr. Max Wilms, who wrote one of the first medical articles on the disease. More information on Wilms' tumor is available at www.cancer.org and www.cancer.ca.
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Monday, August 08, 2011
Digestion problems could play a role in a child's susceptibility to autism or the severity of the condition. A new experimental drug is being fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration and could prove helpful in the fight against autism.
Doctors and specialists have long suspected a link between a child's ability to digest certain foods and autism. A new drug trial is being conducted in 12 study sites across the U.S., including Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The study involves a randomized double blind placebo controlled trial involving a drug that affects ancreatic enzymes.
Participants in the study will mix the drug, called Luminez-AT(TM), into their food. It purportedly helps the body digest protein. It is believed that many children with autism cannot digest protein from foods. This would cause them to lack the necessary amino acids that are critical in producing neurotransmitters in the brain. Various symptoms of autism and behavioral issues may result.
The new phase of the study will look at children with autism between the ages of 3 to 8. The participant will take the actual medication or a placebo for 12 weeks. The medication is a tasteless drug sprinkled on food. The participants are required to come in for six clinical visits during the 12-week period.
In earlier studies of the drug that involved almost 500 children, few had side effects. Results of the new study will take about a year, but many people involved in the study already feel hopeful about the results for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
According to Curemark, an organization spearheading the research, "A variant of the MET gene involved in brain development and gut repair has been implicated in autism." This could be the reason behind the low level of the pancreatic enzyme to digest protein in those with ASD.
Penn State University Hershey Children's Hospital, one of the sites where the phase III study is being conducted, offers this summary of the drug Luminez-AT:
LUMINEZ-AT(TM) is a lipid-encapsulated pancreatic enzyme concentrate (PEC) designed to release chymotrypsin and other proteases in the small intestine without extreme degradation. Research conducted by Curemark has indicated that digestive enzyme therapy with LUMINENZ-AT(TM) may lead to increased neurological function and a concomitant reduction in autistic and gastrointestinal symptoms. This study will further quantify the changes in the target population as measured by standardized behavioral and quality of life tests, physiological measures, as well as characterize the efficacy and safety of the product. The data from this study will help determine safety and efficacy of LUMINENZ-AT(TM) in pediatric patients with autism.
The digestion connection with autism could help the thousands of children who have ASD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that currently one in 110 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Many children are not diagnosed with autism until they reach school age, and because autism diagnosis is largely based on a child's behavior, diagnosis is not an exact science.
Children with ASD have some similar symptoms:
* Problems developing nonverbal communication skills, such as eye-to-eye gazing, facial expressions, and body posture.
* Failure to establish friendships with children of the same age.
* Lack of interest sharing enjoyment.
* Lack of empathy.
* Delay or inability to learn to talk.
* A need for sameness or routine.
* Repetitive use of language.
If diagnosed early, symptoms of ASDmay be lessened through therapy. Others are hopeful that the new drug trial will provide another avenue for alleviating symptoms.
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Friday, July 22, 2011
Though the economy is on the mend, many families forced to make sacrifices during the downturn will continue to look for ways to maintain more control of their finances in the event another period of economic struggle surfaces down the road. It's safe to assume no family wants to find itself in the position millions of families did during the downturn, dealing with unemployment, a nonexistent job market and the specter of foreclosure on the family home.
While there's no telling what the economic future holds, there are steps families can take to gain greater control of their finances and put themselves in a better position to handle whatever the economy throws at them down the road.
* Start saving receipts. Nowadays, more and more people use debit cards for daily purchases, including smaller purchases like cups of coffee. While this is more convenient, it also makes it easier to lose track of spending. Families should start saving receipts for all purchases, not just big-ticket items. At the end of the month, examine the receipts to see how much frivolous spending is going on. A close examination of receipts can help reign in spending on items that aren't generally large, but can add up over time.
* Make a grocery shopping list. Another tradition of yesteryear that has seemingly fallen by the wayside, the grocery list can help families save substantial amounts of money over time. Men and women who grocery shop without a list are more likely to spend more money than they had intended, buying extra food they don't need and making impulse buys as well. If you have a list of what you need when you go to the store, you'll not only save money but also you're likely to spend far less time at the store as a result.
* Re-examine your commute. Men and women might prefer driving themselves to work. Driving to work alone is more convenient, but it's almost never more cost-effective. Consider public transportation where it's available. Public transportation can remove the stress from traffic jams, as men and women can bury their noses in books or watch a movie on their iPads rather than stare at the vehicle in front of them. If no public transportation is available, propose a carpool to co-workers. Both of these alternatives can save individuals money on gas (the cost of which is once again on the rise) while adding years to their vehicle's life expectancy, helping commuters get more out of their vehicle dollars.
* Reconsider your cable provider. Whereas cable television was once a novelty, nowadays cable television or satellite service has become the norm in households across the country. Though it might be hard to imagine a household without cable or satellite television, Web programming and DVD subscription services have made it much easier for men and women to continue to follow their favorite shows without committing to a costly monthly cable or satellite service.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Parents of multiples have to make decisions regarding their children in duplicate or triplicate. Once multiples reach school-age, one of the questions parents must face is whether to keep their children together in the same class during the early elementary years or separate them into two different classrooms.
The classroom assignments of multiples is largely the decision of parents. But in some cases, educators may simply assign classes to students on a performance-based or random system. If parents of multiples have specific requests about whether their children are together or separate, these will need to be brought to the attention of school personnel.
There are advantages and disadvantages to keeping kids together or separating them in the classroom. Although there are no statistical benefits or detriments to the multiples classroom decision, common sense and personal sentiments can help parents come to a consensus on which way to go.
The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC) and other experts advocate keeping multiples together, especially in early elementary years. Those who are not twins can relate to the desire of entering school with a close companion. Think about how much easier the first days of kindergarten might have been if you had a buddy that was guaranteed to be in the same class.
Many studies have been conducted on multiples, and there is some evidence that they have a unique bond and may even be able to communicate with one another on a level different from other types of siblings. This relationship can be comforting in the school setting. Also, if separating the children means it will cause undue stress, there's no point in separating them. Others say that it may be discriminatory. Forcing multiples to separate may give the children the sense that there is something wrong with being a multiple.
Having multiples together is also easier on the parents. Students are assigned the same work, the lessons are the same, and the children can help each other with homework and projects. This can make it easier for parents to manage the responsibilities of having children of the same age in school at the same time.
Whether they like it or not, twins and other multiples often garner a lot of special attention. Having one another there can take some of the pressure off of being the center of attention.
All of the things that make being together in the classroom advantageous can also be detriments, depending on an individual's point of view.
Young multiples spent all of their time together as youngsters. Forcing them to do so in school may hinder their abilities to develop as individuals or make friends outside of their immediate circle. Just as it is often advisable not to dress multiples exactly the same, the same concept applies to keeping kids together in the same classroom.
If keeping multiples together raises behavioral concerns, it may be best to separate kids at school. Sometimes multiples, as with any other siblings, tend to be partners in crime. Having two in cahoots in a classroom setting may put a teacher at a disadvantage. It can also distract the siblings and may hinder learning.
Multiples who are identical may look so similar that it is difficult for teachers and those outside of the family to tell them apart. This can cause undue stress on the multiples who are frequently mistaken for their brothers or sisters. Teachers may insist on the children wearing something to distinguish themselves from one another, which raises the discrimination issue again. Separating the twins makes this a nonissue.
Almost from birth, multiples are often compared to each other. Having the siblings in the same classroom opens them up to direct comparison. They'll be directly compared on every test and assignment. While this can promote healthy competition, it can also create feelings of animosity against each other, particularly in the multiple who is falling behind the other.
Having multiples is a unique experience. As the children grow and enter school, there are new challenges to face. These may be accomplished as a team unit by having the children in the same classroom or foster individuality by separating them.
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Friday, June 24, 2011
From the tiniest of tots to tweens and teenagers, a child's bedroom is a reflection of their identity. Kids often have strong opinions about their likes and dislikes when it comes to their rooms, which can pose decorating challenges for parents: one year, the little one is all about Winnie the Pooh; next Buzz Lightyear may capture his imagination. It's hard for parents to keep up, let alone create an environment that reflects their children's taste -- and do so within a budget.
A solution can be found in a new collection of wallpapers, murals, borders and wall decals from Disney, the company that has brought beloved characters to life for generations. Best of all, this particular collection was created like building blocks that both capture the magic of the Disney Universe, and allow favorite characters to be added and subtracted according to a child's changing whims.
The foundation of the collection is wallpaper, since nothing creates an environment more quickly and affordably than covering all four walls. Designed to remain relevant as the child grows, the wallpaper patterns feature enduring classic stripes, scrolls and geometric shapes in a range of soft pastels and rich, saturated colors. Certain patterns, such as a whimsical Mickey Mouse silhouette, are subtle and sophisticated interpretations of iconic Disney motifs that also work well in other rooms of the house.
Disney characters make wonderfully grand appearances on murals, borders and peel-and-stick wall decals. Borders and wall decals can layer on top of the coordinating wallpapers or stand on their own. Murals (starting at $149) are 6' x 10' and make a delightful decorating statement as a feature wall design. Versatile wall decals (starting at $12.99) can be repositioned, removed and reused and are great for toy chests, cabinets and headboards as well as walls. Adorable and affordable, they won't break the bank when a new character strikes the child's fancy.
Visit www.RoomMatesPeelandStick.com to view the Disney collection, order samples or purchase Disney wallpapers, wall decals and murals. The site also offers photos of decorated rooms with instructions on how to get the look.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Parents of children who are having difficulties grasping school lessons routinely turn to tutors to provide the added measure of instruction some students need to succeed. When selecting a tutor, parents should ask questions and keep important things in mind.
Tutors provide a much-needed service to students and can be welcome helpers for teachers. According to reports from state and federal government tutoring advisors, close to $10 million dollars annually is spent on tutors in the United States alone. Although many teachers try to tailor lessons to students with various learning capabilities, there may be instances when some students still fall behind. What's more, some students perform better with the one-on-one teaching style of tutors than they do in a group setting.
There are certain signs a student may need a tutor. These include students consistently earning failing grades, complaining about or giving excuses why they don't want to do homework, behaving badly at school, or complaining that they simply don't want to go to school. All of these issues may be a child's way of masking difficulty grasping lessons. A tutor can step in to catch a student up with lessons and help him or her find a system of learning that works.
The first step to finding a tutor is working with the student to determine what type of tutor may be ideal. Tutors come in different forms:
* Students who volunteer their time helping fellow classmates. There are also alumni who provide tutoring services for low or no cost.
* Teachers who may offer tutoring after school hours.
* Some churches or other organizations offer tutoring availability.
* There are online services where students can get homework help or assistance in different subjects.
* Private tutors that come to the student's home and provide instruction.
* Tutoring companies and franchises where tutoring may take place in a learning facility.
Selecting a tutor
* When interviewing prospective tutors, parents and students should be sure the tutor is qualified. Experts suggest finding a tutor who has five or more years of experience. If the tutor will be offering lessons in a particular subject, certification or a degree in that area is very helpful but not always necessary as long as the tutor is effective.
* Students often meet with a tutor one to three times a week per session. The tutoring arrangement can stretch on for several months. With this in mind, the tutor-student relationship should be a good one. The child should feel comfortable with the tutor.
* Tutors should know the material but also be able to explain it in layman's terms to the student. A good tutor will outline a plan on how he or she will help improve performance but also how the tutor will check up and be sure the student maintains improvement.
* Find a tutor who will be open to interaction with the student's primary teacher. This way lessons can be geared around schoolwork and coincide with what's already being learned.
* Parents will need to be hands-on and take an interest in what the tutor and the teacher have to say. Observing the tutor in action can help determine whether the fit is right or a new tutor needs to be brought in. Parents can wait for five to eight sessions to pass before determining if the tutor is clicking with the child.
* Select a tutor who agrees to periodic progress reports. It is not too ambitious for parents to expect marked academic performance after a month or more of tutoring.
* Cost is always a factor when selecting a tutor. A higher hourly rate isn't always indicative of a better tutor. Depending on the subject matter and certification of the tutors, costs can range from $20 an hour to $50 or more. Shop around for a tutor and remember to emphasize the tutor's relationship with the student more than what the tutor charges per hour.
Tutoring is often a helpful way for students who are falling behind in the classroom to redeem themselves. Hiring a tutor should be done at the first signs of learning difficulty, not when it seems things are too late to institute change.
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Saturday, May 28, 2011
Today's kids are busier than ever before. Be it the increasingly competitive nature of scholastic life or the increase of two-income households where kids need something to do other than come directly home after school, children today are much busier than their school-aged counterparts of yesteryear.
While it can be fun and beneficial for kids to participate in extracurricular activities, finding the right fit isn't as easy as it sounds. When helping kids find an extracurricular activity, it's best to consider a host of factors. Especially keep in mind that not all kids are the same with respect to interests. And what was enjoyed by their parents won't necessarily be enjoyed by them.
The best place to start is to speak to kids about their interests. Just because Dad loved playing football doesn't mean Junior is destined to be a gridiron great. Kids have their own interests, and those interests can be cultivated with the right extracurricular activity. For example, a creative child might enjoy an after-school art class a couple of times per week. Parents should also consider extracurriculars that can help kids grow as people. For instance, a child who's shy in public but loves hamming it up at home might embrace an after-school theater program.
Once options have been discussed with kids, take in a session or two before committing to anything. The shy youngster might visit the local theater program and enjoy it thoroughly, or he or she might decide against it. Either way, a visit will give kids and parents a sense of what the program is like and whether or not it's the right fit. When visiting, observe the nature of the program. Is it an encouraging, vibrant environment? Do the adults and kids involved appear to be having fun?
Get the 411
Parents want their kids to be as safe after school as they are during it. When looking for an extracurricular activity, inquire about the staff-to-child ratio and about the staff's professional background. Any staff-to-child ratio that is greater than 12:1 likely indicates a program that is understaffed, which could mean kids won't get the attention they need. Also, ask for the staff's references and work history in the field of child care. If certification is necessary or recommended, make sure the staff meets all requirements.
Parents should also inquire about program costs. Though many programs are upfront about fees, some have hidden fees that can add up. Such fees can be for uniforms, equipment, class trips, etc. Extra fees don't have to exclude a program from consideration, but it's better to know about them in advance than have them come as a surprise.
Consider a Child's Grade Level
A child's age and grade level should also be considered when choosing an extracurricular activity. Consult teachers about finding an age-appropriate extracurricular activity. For example, less competitive activities that emphasize fun might be more appropriate for kids in kindergarten and the first grade. For second graders, activities not offered at school, like learning to play an instrument, can help cultivate a child's interest in a noncompetitive environment. As kids reach third grade and beyond, consider more rules-based activities, including team sports, as kids at that age are more capable of understanding rules and handling losing than younger kids. As children get older and move on to middle school, look for activities that reinforce learning and help develop a young person's character, including their ability to interact with others.
When looking for an extracurricular activity for kids, parents should consider a host of factors, including the child's interests and age.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
The warm weather is tailor made for children who want to enjoy some fun in the sun. As the kids get ready for summer, parents can find activities that are fun and beneficial to the environment.
Consider the activities that fill warm days: Pool parties, water balloon tosses, bicycle riding, and afternoons spent on a swing set are just a few ideas that come to mind. Small changes can add up to big benefits for the planet.
* Bye, bye balloons:What's more fun that getting sprayed with cold water on a hot day? Instead of purchasing disposable latex balloons that will end up in the trash after the first pop, look for reusable absorbent balls that can be dipped into a bucket and then tossed to a partner. When he or she catches the ball, splashes of water will fly out.
* Pool vs. sprinkler: Sure it's fun running through an icy-cold sprinkler, but leaving a sprinkler running for a while is a waste of water. Plus, it can drown surrounding plants and other landscaping items. Instead, take a dip in the pool or fill up a child-sized pool and later use the water to give a drink to potted plants.
* Go safe with swing sets: Safety is often the name of the game when erecting a swing set in the yard. It's a good idea to surround the ground surface with a material that will cushion falls. There are mulches and rubber pellets for this purpose, but these may be treated with chemicals and not be good for the environment. See if a local lumberyard or building supply store can drop sand in the area. It's all-natural and can be a good shock absorber.
* Recycle toys: While on the subject of swing sets and play materials, check out consignment shops or tag sales for gently used play items rather than brand new toys. Or initiate a toy swap in the neighborhood where once a year neighbors swap toys with one another so the kids have something "new"to play with.
* Jump on a bike: Bicycles remain one of the greenest modes of transportation. Children clamoring for a new bike this season may be pleasantly surprised at how well a used bike or a hand-me-down may ride and look. Sometimes all it takes is a little elbow grease to tune up a tired bike.
* Enjoy nature: Instead of plastic toys and electronics, kids with creative imaginations can turn items outdoors into nice play props. Twigs can serve as dueling swords while rocks and leaves can be piled to make an impromptu fort or home base. Kids may enjoy themselves exploring parks and caves right in their own neighborhoods. Just be sure to stress the "carry in, carry out policy" whenever enjoying nature. That means not to leave trash behind and to disturb natural wildlife the least amount as possible.
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Saturday, May 07, 2011
Childhood can be an exciting time filled with growth and change. For youngsters experiencing vision trouble, childhood can also be a challenging time. While there are many eyesight problems that can occur during childhood, some are more common than others.
It can be difficult for parents and caregivers to diagnose a child's vision difficulties before the child is able to communicate successfully. That's why vision ailments in younger people may go undiscovered until a child has reached toddler age or enters preschool.
Eyesight conditions can hinder children in the classroom. Many common vision problems are easily remedied if caught early on.
* Strabismus: Strabismus is a condition where a person cannot align both eyes properly. This may cause the eyes to cross. According to Strabismus.org, as many as 5 percent of all children have some type or degree of strabismus. Strabismus is not a condition that children will simply outgrow; it requires treatment that can help mitigate symptoms. With strabismus, the misalignment of the eyes causes two pictures to be sent to the brain. This can cause double vision. Eventually, a child will adapt when the brain ignores one image and suppresses it, using only vision out of one eye.
* Amblyopia: This is the medical term for "lazy eye." When children have amblyopia, the brain has a defect that prevents it from processing the images from both eyes, as is the norm. Instead, it prefers images from one eye and essentially "turns off" the other eye. The lazy eye will then fail to offer clear vision. Treatment for lazy eye generally involves putting a patch over the strong eye to force the lazy eye to work. An optometrist may also prescribe eyeglasses.
* Color blindness: Color blindness is more accurately called color vision deficiency. It is very rare for a person to be completely blind to any type of color and see only in black and white. Rather, color blindness is often a condition of having difficulty discerning between different shades of colors. There may be deficiencies in different hues, especially red and green. Scientific data indicates that males are more inclined toward color blindness.
* Conjunctivitis: Children are exposed to all different types of germs in a typical school setting. Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, is an inflammation of the conjunctiva or the clear mucous membrane that covers the eyeball. Conjunctivitis can be contagious and noncontagious depending on the cause. Pink eye caused by an allergic reaction or from irritation by a foreign object in the eye is not contagious, but when it is the result of a virus or bacteria, it can be quite contagious. Medicated drops and other remedies to lessen the irritation of the eye are often prescribed.
* Myopia and Hyperopia: Nearsightedness and farsightedness are conditions where the eyeball is too long or too short for the normal focusing power of the eye. Images in the distance or even those nearby can appear blurred. Corrective lenses can help with the problem and sometimes fix it.
* Astigmatism: This results from an irregular shape in the front surface of the cornea. This condition can make it difficult to see vertical or horizontal lines clearly or can produce blurred vision.
Children who are experiencing vision problems can have their symptoms alleviated quite easily with a trip to an optometrist. Prescription eyeglasses are often the first step in having vision trouble corrected.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011
The Administration for Children and Families offers that there are approximately 115,000 children waiting for adoptive families in the United States foster care system. Although the system handles children from birth to age 21, the median age of foster children is 7.5.
Children enter foster care primarily after being removed from birth families due to neglect. Some return to birth families if they are once again deemed competent. Other children become available for adoption if the birth parents' rights are terminated due to the inability to parent safely.
Many times children in the foster care system have been in neglectful homes or raised in poor conditions. As a result, they may harbor psychological or emotional issues, including trouble trusting adults. Foster care parents will need to be patient and willing to understand a child's background and situation to make the relationship work.
The ethnicity or race of children awaiting adoption in foster care systems is mixed depending on the state. According to the most recent national report from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, the majority of children are Caucasian (38 percent), African American (30 percent) or Hispanic (22 percent).
Individuals who decide to become foster parents should realize that they may face difficulties, including emotional issues, stemming from the child's past. Parents should be willing to work closely with a foster agency on a regular basis. In the event that a birth family will be reconsidered to take back the child, the foster family may have contact with the biological family as well.
Although a person doesn't have to be married or have prior child-rearing experience, there are some criteria that may have to be met to be a foster parent. Keep in mind that regulations vary from state to state and could be very different outside of the country. A training, screening and licensing process is often required, in addition to these criteria.
* Individuals must be 21 years or older. Some states will not accept people who are older than 65.
* The foster parents must have the financial ability to provide for their own family.
* There must be room for a child in the home. Some programs require a separate room for the foster child or at least his or her own bed and storage space.
* The home must meet certain safety standards.
* Foster parents must be in good physical and mental health.
To start the foster care process, individuals can request an information packet from the Division of Social Services in their state. It will offer information explaining requirements and the steps to take. Those who are still interested can fill out an application.
If the application is accepted, a social worker will start a home study and background investigation. The process can take several months. At this point, a training course may be recommended.
If the certification and training goes well, a person will become a certified foster parent and an agency will try to find a child that is a good match and can enter the home. The child can stay for several months, some up to a year or more.Becoming a foster parent can be a rewarding experience for both the parent and the child.
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Monday, April 18, 2011
According to the United States Department of Education, millions of children are left home unsupervised every day after school. While it's hard to pinpoint an exact figure, estimates range anywhere from 7 to 15 million children are going home from school every day and finding an empty house.
Much of this is due to the spike in two-earner households. Despite an unemployment rate that still hovered around 9 percent in the opening month of 2011, many households are still bringing in two incomes, which leaves no one home to greet the kids after a day at school.
The growing number of latch-key children, those who arrive home to an empty house after school, has led to an increased popularity of after-school programs. Designed to give kids something to do after school, after-school programs can vary greatly and parents should carefully consider a program before choosing one for their children. When choosing an after-school program, parents can make note of several factors.
* Condition of the facility: A rundown facility that does not appear clean is not the ideal place for a child to spend time after school. A good facility will have adequate ventilation and light. What's more, children should be visible to the staff at all times. Avoid facilities in which children can easily sneak off.
* Staff interaction: How the staff interacts with children is of the utmost importance. A welcoming atmosphere should be among the program's goals, and the staff should embody that goal. Staff should be encouraging toward the children and know each child's name. Many after-school programs also have a philosophy with respect to behavior toward children within the program. Parents should discuss this philosophy before choosing a program.
It's also important for parents to inquire about the staff's credentials. What is their educational and employment background? Is anyone on the staff trained in handling emergency medical needs?
* Environment: The environment both inside and outside the facility should be closely examined. How much space is there for children indoors? Since much of the school year takes place during the colder winter months, the inside environment should have enough space for kids to relax comfortably as well as sufficient space where children can quietly do their homework.
As for the facility's external grounds, look for one that has ample and safe play equipment. Facilities with a wide expanse of property can ensure kids won't be confined to a single blacktop but given some room to roam and enjoy warm afternoons.
* Activity schedule: A good after-school program should have a host of activities available for the kids. Children often tire of doing the same thing every day, and not all activities are ideal for every child. A facility with an array of activities will ensure every child has something to look forward to. The activities should also be stimulating. Watching television, for example, would not make for a stimulating activity. In addition, activities should be suited to the child's age.
When choosing an after-school program for children, parents should exercise due diligence to find a facility that's both fun and stimulating for kids.
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Saturday, April 09, 2011
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Thursday, March 24, 2011
Teaching a child to swim can enable him or her to enjoy a life filled with fun in and around the water. It is also one of the ways to prevent water-related injuries or death.
Water safety is nothing to take lightly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that in 2007 there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in the United States, averaging 10 deaths per day. An additional 496 people died from drowning and other causes in boating-related incidents. Also, more than one in five fatal drowning victims are children ages 14 and younger.
Although teaching a child to swim does not negate the necessity to carefully watch young children whenever they are around water, it does offer a measure of safety. A boy or girl who knows how to swim may be able to prevent an injury or get out of harm's way better than one who is floundering in the water. In fact, the CDCrecommends it as one method of preventing water-related injuries.
Teaching kids to swim requires some patience and general knowledge of swimming techniques. Parents or caregivers unsure about their teaching abilities can enroll their children in swimming courses offered in their towns and cities.
Adults choosing to teach swimming on their own can try these techniques.
1. Start with teaching the child to blow bubbles out of his mouth and nose. This teaches the youngster how to prevent water from being inhaled. With only his or her mouth and nose under the water, the child can blow out and create bubbles. Once this technique is mastered, he or she may be less frightened about water going up the nose.
2. Have the child hold onto the side of the pool or a floatation device if out on a lake or in the ocean. The child should extend his or her legs outward and practice floating and kicking. Begin by kicking any which way, eventually evolving to a control kick once he or she is more comfortable.
3. The next step is to practice a few strokes. A breast stroke may offer more propulsion and buoyancy than a simple doggy paddle. Have the child stand in the water and practice pushing water out of the way in the desired stroke. Then he or she can practice doing it while floating with an adult providing some added support under the belly. With time he can learn to float and stroke at the same time.
4. Once the separate elements are mastered, it's time to put them all together. He can choose to simply launch off of the pool bottom or kick off of the side. It's important to stress that the kicking motion is like the accelerator of the car; it will keep him moving and also keep him afloat. Swim strokes will simply steer him and provide propulsion assistance. Knowing that each motion has its own importance will help the child remember that all are needed to swim and stay afloat.
Once the child has become comfortable swimming above the water, he or she may eventually want to learn to swim below the water, which many people find to be less tiresome and allows one to cover more ground faster. Swimming underwater employs the same techniques as above, but the child will need to be comfortable holding his or her breath for a long period of time. This can be practiced standing in the water and dunking the face or body (with supervision nearby) underwater. Don't encourage kids to hold their nose because both hands will be needed to swim underwater. After the child has grown accustomed to holding his her breath stationary, he or she can try doing it underwater and swimming.
Swimming is an important skill to learn, one that's both practical and fun.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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Thursday, March 03, 2011
As an adult, you may know that lessons learned in high school or college can quickly go by the wayside. Studies have shown that children struggling in school score higher on achievement tests in June than they do at the end of the traditional summer break. Even more concerning are findings that indicate how these learning losses can add up with each passing year. In fact, by the time they reach middle school, some students may experience a 2-year lag in reading achievement.
Even during shorter "breaks," parents should stimulate their children's minds through reading and learning games, during holidays, after school and on weekends. Experts have found that parents who incorporate learning toys and tools into everyday activities and playtime enable children to have fun while also learning lessons in physics, math, spelling and reading.
Beginning in the '80s, tech toys started to play a role in helping kids learn. Toys like Speak & Spell engaged kids in new, fun, interactive ways to learn spelling. In fact, teachers have found technology to be effective in the classroom, as well. One such tool, the Tag Reading System from LeapFrog (www.leapfrog.com/tag), is actually recommended by 99 percent of teachers to help kids learn to read. Best of all, parents can easily get it for kids to use at home, too, to reinforce learning. This handheld learning tool engages children in exciting, interactive ways. For example, every time a child touches the Tag Reader to specially printed books and materials, they can get on-demand pronunciation for individual words, listen to audio from characters and other story elements, and play fun activities that reinforce key skills such as comprehension and vocabulary development.
In addition to providing learning toys, parents can help their children retain learning in the following ways:
* Have discussions with children about what they are reading. Ask them to talk about books they enjoy, retell the plots, and discuss their favorite characters.
* Play board games and card games. While you enjoy valuable family time, you can help your child build skills related to problem-solving, memory, and comprehension
* Go online. There are a number of websites with games that help children build important spelling, reading, and math skills while they're having fun.
Dr. Carolyn Jaynes is LeapFrog's Literacy Expert, specializing in language and literacy development. With a PhD in Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education, Dr. Jaynes has more than 22 years of experience as an educator.
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