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Back to School

Back to School 2011Even now, as the parent of two elementary school students, the arrival of the “Back to School” flier makes me feel weak in the knees. While I welcome the return to routine and the excitement of new lunchboxes, friends and extra-curricular activities - fear, anxiety and dread set in and return me to that lanky school girl, clutching my trusty Trapper Keeper for dear life.

But today my fears and anxiety are for my kids’ academic success. It is probably safe to say I would have had these fears even if my kids had been born full-term. But given their early births, medical issues and challenges we knew they might need extra help. Eventually we got diagnoses of sensory integration, ADHD, and auditory and visual processing delays - making the anxiety associated with a new school year inevitable.

My husband and I agreed early on that we would invest as much of our time, energy and bank account into therapy for our children as we possibly could in order to ensure they had every opportunity to meet their full potential. My Rolodex of doctors, therapists, tutors and specialists runneth over as does our folder for medical receipts. But, the impact of early intervention cannot be denied.

For parents of children with special healthcare needs, social and emotional challenges, and learning and developmental delays, the return to school is often unavoidably anxiety-inducing. We want our children to be accepted, to have high self-esteem, to perform on par with their peers. And we know we cannot (and should not) be there to protect them and advocate for them during the school day. Instead we rely on teachers, counselors and administrators who “get” our kids and will work with them -and with us - to ensure a successful school year.

So we pack the lunch boxes, strap on the new backpacks and send our “babies” off with a kiss, hug and loving words of encouragement. The new school year is here! And despite my fears, I fully expect this to be another amazing year!

Kelli Kelley, Founder and Executive Director, Hand to Hold

Meet the Provider: What Does a Speech Language Pathologist Do?

by Erica Goyer, Hand to Hold Family Support Navigator

Speech, TherapyRaising a child with special health and developmental needs can seem daunting! Often, we come home from the NICU with a list of follow-up appointments to make, screenings to do and specialists to see. Each month Hand to Hold will talk to a different therapist, specialist or provider to learn more about them and what they do. This month we talked with Anne Boon M.S. CCC-SLP  

A family will seek the services of a Speech Therapist if they have any concerns for their child’s development in any of the following areas:

Read more and submit a comment.

Relationship between Prematurity and ADHD

by Dr. Dina O'Brien

Addressing ADHD SymptomsDr. O’Brien is a licensed psychologist specializing in treating children and adolescents who are experiencing a wide variety of concerns, including Anxiety, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Delays, Pain Management, Adjustment to Medical Problems/Disability, and Grief/Loss. Dr. O’Brien’s fourth child was born preterm. She serves on the Hand to Hold Advisory Council. For more information about her practice, visit www.drdinaobrien.com.

Is there a Relationship Between Prematurity and ADHD?

About 8-10% of children are born prematurely in the United States each year and of those pre-term deliveries, 1.5% (60,000) are Very Low Birth Weight babies, weighing less that 1500g (3lbs, 5oz). We know that preemies and/or low birth weight children face higher rates of health problems and now researchers are finding that they are also more susceptible to developing ADHD. Severe prematurity-being born between 23 and 28 weeks-was found to put an infant at the greatest risk for later developing ADHD. But even mild prematurity- being born in weeks 37 or 38-was found to result in an elevated risk. At 34 weeks gestation, the overall weight of the brain is only 65% of what it weighs at 40 weeks gestation. Therefore, many researchers speculate that premature birth results in disruption to the maturational processes of the brain. Since the risk of ADHD increases the more premature the baby is, and decreases gradually in closer-to-term babies, it seems to point to the role of brain development in explaining the link between preterm birth and ADHD. However, some also suggest that the effects of stress that preemies experience, such as neonatal pain, maternal separation during intensive care, increased auditory and visual stimulation, and sleep deprivation, may also play a role as these are developmentally unexpected events. Studies with animals have shown that these stressors lead to changes in arousal and attention. In humans, such changes are associated with learning disabilities and cognitive difficulties which may manifest as ADHD.

Read more and submit a comment.

What To Do if You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability

by Erika Goyer, Family Support Navigator

Parent Concerns?Every child has unique strengths and weaknesses and every child deserves an education that addresses their instructional needs. If you suspect your child has a learning disability, don’t hesitate to seek help. Your family is not alone. The National Institutes of Health estimates that one in seven Americans has a learning disability and more than 2.7 million students in our public schools receive special help and instruction in school because of their learning disabilities. Feel assured knowing that there are resources available for students and their families, including experienced, caring professionals, who can guide you through the screening and evaluation process as you find the tools to help you address your child’s unique educational needs.

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Preemie Family: Sonja and Rob Snow and Daughter Scarlett

Rob Snow, Preemie Dad, Exec Chef at Judges Hill in AustinSix years ago, we were expecting our first child.  I was healthy and certainly no stranger to exercise as a professional dancer and dance instructor.  I attended all of the recommended prenatal appointments and by all indications our little girl was right on track. At 26 weeks, I started noticing that my ankles were swelling really badly.  I didn’t think much of it since I was pregnant and on my feet a lot.  But on Easter Sunday, I woke up with a swollen face and fingers. I immediately knew something was wrong.  I checked my trusty “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and it said if your face and hands are swollen then call the doctor. I didn’t want to bother him on Easter, so I turned to the Internet.  All signs pointed to preeclampsia, which I knew was serious because I watched “Baby Special Delivery” all the time.  I read, “if your BP is at 140/90 you should call the doctor.”  My husband Rob, a former athletic trainer, had the training and equipment to take my BP. He took it, thought his cuff was broken...

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Book Review: Overcoming Dyslexia
by Kasie Thibodaux 

Overcoming DyslexiaAs an educator, I look on with a cautious eye as my students mix up their bs and ds and write numbers backwards.  When I see a student write his name right to left in perfect mirror image, I want to run to my computer and send a HELP ME email to the campus Dyslexia Specialist.  This summer I decided to learn more about dyslexia.  Imagine my surprise when reading, “Reversals are irrelevant to the diagnosis of dyslexia,” in the book Overcoming Dyslexia  by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.  Reading this book opened my eyes to what dyslexia really is, and how early intervention is key to creating successful, motivated and confident readers.   

Eye-opening points from Dr. Shaywitz:

  • Dyslexia affects one out of every five children worldwide, it spans across cultures, races and social demographics.
  • The root of dyslexia is a weakness in the phonologic system (using sounds to form and break apart words) rather than a lack of intelligence or visual impairment. 
  • Family history is a strong indicator of dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia can be a result of a weak, early language environment at home and/or school.
  • An early warning clue of dyslexia is a delay in speech development as a toddler.
  • The inability to verbally “word play,” such as rhyming, matching beginning or ending sounds, and blending or segmenting words is also an early clue that a child may struggle with reading. 
  • Rote memorization and rapid word recall are challenging tasks for dyslexics because poor readers rely heavily on context clues to decode and comprehend unfamiliar vocabulary.  
  • Dyslexics are often able to accurately read content words (such as baseball, museum, airplane) by relying on the context; however, function words (i.e. the, and, on, in) are commonly misidentified because they lack meaning to the reader. 
  • Dyslexics have many intellectual strengths such as creativity, thinking, reasoning, and understanding. 

Dr. Shaywitz’s book Overcoming Dyslexia  explains dyslexia in great detail from brain research to diagnosis to intervention strategies.  This book is an excellent resource for teachers as well as parents who wonder why the pieces of the reading puzzle do not always fit as they should. 

Kasie Thibodaux is entering her 10th year of teaching at Fern Bluff Elementary. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Applied Learning and Development and a specialization in Reading.

To submit a book review for a future newsletter, please email kelli@handtohold.org.

National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Latch On America Tour
Hand to Hold participated inLatch On America Milk for Thought's "Latch on America Tour" event in Austin on August 18th with the Mother's Milk Bank of Austin, Central Texas Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, Austin/Travis County WIC Program, Mom's Place, Seton Family of Hospitals, Get Babied! Doula Collective and the Texas Breastfeeding Coalition.The mission is to change the landscape of breastfeeding — from attitudes to advocacy and education.

Featured Hand to Hold Sponsor: The Baby CUB
The Baby CUBDesigned by a mom and made in the USA, the Baby CUB (Cover Up Baby) is a garment that shelters baby from distractions and provides mom with privacy while breastfeeding or pumping in public. The business line is now available including houndstooth, suede, and more. Watch the video to see the Baby CUB in action and learn about the latest rights of pumping moms in the workplace.

NICU Support Groups
Hands of supportJoin Hand to Hold's Family Support Navigator, Erika Goyer, on Wednesday, Sept. 7th and 21st at St. David's Medical Center 6-7pm and Tuesday, Sept. 6th and 20th at St. David's North Austin Medical Center 6:30-7:30pm for the next installment in The NICU Survival Guide: What Every Parent Needs to Know. For more information, contact Erika Goyer at 512-550-3181.

Health Care Hero Award
Health Care Hero 2011Hand to Hold founder, Kelli Kelley, has been named a 2011 Health Care Hero by the Austin Business Journal.

Next Lunch & Learn
Dad and preemieBring a brown bag lunch and join Hand to Hold for the next lunch series event about early childhood development, education, and ECI to PPCD transition on Sept. 7th, 6:30-7:30pm at Easter Seals, 1611 Headway Circle - Bldg. 2, Austin, 78754.

Ice Cream & Isolettes
Teaching dollHand to Hold’s first installment of Ice Cream & Isolettes was held on Saturday, July 30th at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center. Siblings were invited to enjoy ice cream and learn about the NICU. The program  included talking about why their baby sister/brother is in the NICU, learning about the medical equipment, understanding how to keep germs away, and creating a special craft for their baby sister/brother. This program will be offered on a regular basis. Requests from hospitals are welcome. For more information contact Laura Romero at 512-924-8655 (or toll-free 855-H2H-NICU ext. 5).

Concert in the Park Steiner Ranch

Concert in the Park 2011Thousands came out to celebrate the end of summer at the Steiner Ranch Concert in the Park 2011. And Hand to Hold was there. All the families and staff of Hand to Hold want to Hold extend their gratitude to the Steiner Ranch community for honoring Hand to Hold as this year’s charity. Your support and generosity mean so much to us. Special thanks to Laura and Richie Romero, HEB, Cups & Cones, New York Life, and the San Antonio Spurs for your continued support! 

A Farewell to Summer

by Kasey Mathews, author, blogger, and mother of son Tucker and daughter Andie who weighed just 1 lb, 11 ounces at birth

Farewell to Summer 2011The kids are going back to school. Alarm clocks will have to be set. Underwear will have to be worn. Several-day-old tattered t-shirts will no longer make the grade. We'll move too quickly for dragonflies to perch on our toes.
Read more and leave a comment.


Resource Directory Feature: 2Learn2Dream

Learning2learn2dream is Legacy of Hope’s Specialized Tutoring Program in Austin, Texas. Sometimes mastering school subjects takes a little extra effort, particularly for children with learning differences. The 2learn2dream program provides individualized tutoring for kids who benefit from a more custom-tailored approach. There is no charge to families for this service! Mel Wray is the director of the 2learn2dream program and brings over 30 years of classroom teaching experience to the desk. Click here to find out more.

Featured Blog

BlogThe Delange Family has two preemies, one of whom just celebrated their first birthday. Their blog allows you to join them on their journey of life's little joys at http://www.delangefamilytx.blogspot.com/


About Hand to Hold

Hand to Hold logoHand to Hold is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization  providing comprehensive navigation resources and support programs to parents of preemies, babies born with special health care needs and those who have experienced a loss due to these or other complications. Based in Austin, Texas with plans to expand, Hand to Hold’s core service is matching experienced peer mentors with parents who have had a child in the NICU or a loss to offer support.

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