Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So many requests for my class transcript on going gluten free.  I am more than willing to talk to anyone about their specific needs or where they are in their journey.  This is the rough transcript of what I use to teach my class on going gluten free.

Going Gluten Free-what to know and how to do it.
My husband with diagnosed with celiac disease about a year after we got married.  We stumbled through the process of converting to a gluten free diet with him.  When our children were born, we really didn’t think about them have celiac disease-we thought of it more as an “adult onset” thing…but when our third son was diagnosed with autism and we found a holistic doctor, her first question was “hmm, Dad has celiac, do you think a gluten free diet might benefit the kiddos?”  yeah, it really took her asking us-we had the blood test done and he was a celiac kid.  My youngest has never had gluten in his whole life.  I made the choice to go gluten free to show my son how “EASY” it was.  I did the slow transition with him and realized that I didn’t have migraines anymore-went and got a blood test myself, only to find out I’m genetically celiac.  GREAT-2 celiac parents, my kids don’t stand a chance…so we are a gluten free in our home, and only one of our children eats gluten outside the home.  I’m not a dietician or a nutritionist, but I am an expert when it comes to living a gluten free life. 
My youngest also has an allergy to casein and does not produce lactase-so on top of being gluten free, he is also casein free.  But that’s another whole conversation-that I’m more than willing to have if any of you are in that situation as well-just not today.

The diet has made a world of difference for our rashes and behavior. AMAZING differences. I hope you can see the dramatic results that we did. It takes about 3 months into the process to REALLY see what all it was doing, and even then – it was more of an absence of bad.  Increased verbal skills came after about 6 months, which is how long it takes for your body to clear all the gluten out…
if you are thinking about confirming a celiac's diagnosis at some point, there are some tests that are more reliable than others (genetic testing)...some tests require gluten to be in your system...do NOT let any GI doctor talk you into putting gluten back into your child’s system.  Make sure you talk over any big changes with your doctor  first-since every child is different, so are their needs.
Okay, so you have the recommendation for your child to go gluten free, what do you do now?

The first things first- digestive enzymes and probiotics. As your child's gut is healing from the damaging effects of gluten, these two things will be so helpful in expediting the process.

I'll tell you that going gluten free sounded overwhelming to us at first, but our biggest hurdle is really lunch. I mean, you have to look for gluten everywhere, but once you get the hang of it, it's really quite easy. Most of the food you already eat is gf, or can be bought gf. I think we have tried nearly everything on the shelves as well. I can probably save you a lot of time and money if you would like advice on what's gross.  Whole Foods also has an awesome policy that if you buy something-even if you’ve opened the packaging and eaten from it-you can return it for store credit for ANY reason (including if you think it’s nasty).

Book recommendations for parents of newly diagnosed celiac kiddos:
Incredible edible gluten-free food for kids 150 family-tested recipes 
Sheri L. Sanderson 
Getting your kid on a gluten-free casein-free diet 
Susan Lord 
Kids with celiac disease a family guide to raising happy, healthy, gluten-free children 
Danna Korn

How to start a gluten free lifestyle:
This is not going to be an overnight change-you will lose your sanity if you do it all at once. And with any changes-especially with picky little ones-too much at once is just too much.  I would suggest a 4-6 week phase-in process of a gluten free diet.  This will save your sanity and your budget. It will also help reduce the withdrawal symptoms.  Any time during this process, you can begin thinking about lunch (the meal we suggest concentrating on during weeks 5 and 6.)  It is the hardest to transition, and will take lots of experimenting to see what foods your child will eat and how much it will take to “fill them up”

The main words for gluten are wheat, rye, oats, barley, and/or malt, but there are more words on labels you have to be cautious of…modified, maltodextrin, artificial,
The bottom of the food label will list WHEAT-but that does not include all gluten, so even if you don't see it listed, you still have to go back and read the label.  ALWAYS READ THE LABEL

WEEK ONE-go through your pantry and decide what you are already buying that is gluten free.  Make a list of gluten free snack choices you already know your child likes.  Next time you go to the grocery store-buy only gluten free snacks.  You can spend week 1 finishing off snacks in your pantry.
WEEK TWO-eat meals as you normally would, paying attention to labels as you cook so you can take note of what products that contain gluten you are going to substitute.  Begin eating only gluten free foods between meals.
WEEK THREE-continue your gluten free snacks and make dinner a gluten free time as well.  Although it is the “biggest” meal for most people, it is also the easiest to transition to gluten free.
WEEK FOUR-continue with gluten free snacks and dinners, add breakfast this week.
WEEK FIVE-gluten free snacks, dinners, breakfast, and begin working on lunch.  It is okay if your lunch is not completely gluten free by the end of the week-it is the hardest meal to transition.
WEEK SIX-Absolutely gluten free. 

Now is the time to start thinking about the hidden sources of gluten in your house…plastic cutting boards, toasters, shared butter dishes, peanut butter and jelly jars, general crumbs

Now is also the time to speak with your child’s school about the new diet.  Educate your child about the choices you are making and what foods are no longer safe.  If your child is on an IEP, consider having a goal written in about identifying or asking about safe foods.  If your child is not on an IEP, consider speaking with the principal about a 504 plan for allergies.  That way, you can work with the cafeteria staff and your child can buy lunch at school.  I’ve sat in on many meetings with directors of food service for Dublin City Schools and have helped devise a menu of safe foods that Chartwells (the company that provides the food) already carries.  These children are able to buy lunch for the same price as every other child in the district, and the lunch is prepared on clean surfaces, with clean gloves and utensils.

Some of our "go to" snacks
fruit snacks/fruit roll ups
Ener-G or Pamela's cookies (read the labels)
potato chips/fritos/
corn chips and salsa
ice cream
EnviroKids granola bars
Homemade Trail mix
Post fruity or cocoa pebbles treats
pretty easy. Your meat, potatoes and vegetables are all-by nature gf-just make sure that anything you add to it is also gf (marinades, toppings, etc.) 
We use potatoes and rice for our starches. 
Brown rice or corn spaghetti will work well for spaghetti.  (trader joes brown rice spaghetti and pasta are the most cost effective)
If you buy Kosher hot dogs, they are generally gf; just eat them with no bun. 
1/4 lb. cheesesburger with no bun from McDonalds. Their fries are also safe-as are most frozen fries that you bake at home. We make our own pizza. Kinickkinick frozen pizza crust is gf. Add pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings.
Ortega taco seasoning and corn shells for Mexican
Corn Crumbs from whole foods or Energy Tapioca loaf grated into crumbs with a cheese grater as a binder for meatballs or meat loaf

Easy breakfasts
Rice chex cereal-plain rice, honey nut, chocolate, cinnamon
Post Pebbles Cereals-fruity, cocoa, or cupcake
EnviroKids cereals
Van's gf waffles (frozen section of Whole Foods)
Kinickinick dounuts (frozen)

Lunch-for sure the hardest meal
Corn soft tortilla shells make good wraps
lunch meat with cheese rolled 
rice cakes PB&J
Most of the bread you will find for sale is NASTY. We bake our own bread-it took us 3 years to figure it out GF, it's really good, but nothing you will be able to make is going to taste like Wonder Bread. Udi’s is the only store-bought gf bread that isn’t nasty (available at Kroger in the bakery section or for cheaper at Trader Joe’s or Costco)-but if you want to experiment, I would recommend buying from Whole Foods so you can return what you don’t like.
Tricky things/Hidden sources
Corn flakes
Rice krispies (and rice krispie treats)
Soy sauce
Chewable medicines (always ask the pharmacist on prescriptions as well)
Lipstick and chapstick (you end up ingesting most of what you put on your lips, anyway)
Things not to worry about-
Shampoo and lotion
Gluten effects your DIGESTIVE tract and unless you plan on licking your skin or chewing your hair, it’s not worth your time to stress over trans-dermal occurances

Baking is tricky-
you'll want to invest in xanthan gum...you need it as a binder. Guar gum will work on anything that you don’t expect to rise (flat breads or pizza dough) The mixture of flour that you need will change depending on what you are baking. white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour are the most common in cookbooks and gluten free websites; however there are different flours that make different things.
Sorghum flour-great in muffins and flavored bread
Garbanzo bean flour-great in cookies, but the raw dough has a metallic taste (don’t worry, it bakes out)
Mixes are ridiculously expensive and not worth the convenience.  Buy a 4 pack of frozen cupcakes from Whole Foods or use Udi’s double chocolate muffins with icing on them for birthday parties and keep them in the freezer for short notice birthday treats at school.  Replenish when you are down to one cupcake.  They are really quite good and last for about 3-4 months in the freezer.

I would be more than willing to help you with anything you might need.  I am able to convert most regular recipes to gluten free (or dairy free, or both).  I do charge for this service at a rate of $10/hour (about 3 recipes for $10) if there are recipes you would like to have converted, feel free to contact me after class and we can set up a time to do that.

Good luck. Just take it slowly and don't get too hung up if you have a gluten day. It will come together.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This gets me every time, too...

Photo: Just for laughs

So, food allergies.  They stink.  I hate that my kids have to deal with them.  But can I remain humble and say when it comes to food allergies, I'm really smart?  I know more than I ever wanted to...that's for sure.
Safest bet? Eat lunch at lunchtime.  Food belongs in the lunch room.  Kind of why they have one.
Last year, my son was in a food free classroom and maybe that spoiled me a little. I see the "peanut free" signs everywhere in the school-don't know why the peanuts get all the press. A life-threatening food allergy is a life threatening food allergy. Why would you protect a kid who is allergic to one thing, but not one who is allergic to something else? I don't get it, I don't like it. 
So, here we go...our poor children go from 9:05, when they arrive at school all the way until 11:45 before they can eat lunch. 
"We need snack!" declares the teacher. Oh no, we really don't. How many kids eat a mid-morning snack when they are at home during the summer? My guess is not many. 
So when I tell the teacher it's not a good idea to have allergens in the classroom due to many allergies (including my child's) being contact, she says "let's try it and see how it goes". 
Um, let's not! You see, if your little experiment goes poorly, my kid ends up in the hospital, or worse.
But this teacher was a little older and set in her snacky ways. I wanted to ask again to make the classroom food free, but decided to compromise, suggesting that we allow snack, but only single-ingredient whole fruits or vegetables. 
The next question I was met with..."isn't that a little extreme? Not all the kids have food allergies."
Well, my kids isn't allergic to peanuts, but out of respect for the kids who are, I am more than willing to send in peanut-free snacks. Don't you think others parents would be willing to accommodate all the allergies as opposed to just the allergies of one child? 
"But not all kids LIKE fruits and vegetables." Well, if they are hungry, they will eat them. If they choose not to eat fruits and vegetables, they can wait the whole two-and-a-half hours to eat and have their choice of any food in the whole wide world. 
I understand the whole world doesn't revolve around my kid, but he's seven. When I'm not there to look out for him, I can't count on him to think not to touch the table until it has been wiped down. I can't expect a teacher, who is in charge of 25+ kids have the time to have all the kids wash their hands and desks everyday after snack. 
I don't know how strictly this rule is being enforced, but to ensure I'm not a worried momma all day long, I have put this in writing and pretend they are enforcing it strictly. 
Now don't get me wrong, I don't think the whole world should be allergy-friendly because that's just not realistic; however, I do think that if I'm not there to guide and protect him against potential dangers, and the teacher doesn't have time to, I think have an allergen free classroom is reasonable. 
Any experiences with food allergies and your school? Leave your comments below!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why does it shock me every time?

So, Davis has been excited to go back to school-probably since the first day of summer break.  This is a good sign.  He loves school now that we have him at a school that gets him. He is "normal" at this school; and even when he's not, the other kids all get it.  One thing I have raved about is that he looks like a typical child when people see him in this context.  He has been chosen to be an ambassador to students that come and visit.  He has friends and they like him-even with all his Davis-ness, because they have quirks, too.
Today was meet the teacher.  I love that they do it on Friday and don't start school until Wednesday.  I'm thinking they know their clientele need a little additional time to process the change of the new year.  He couldn't wait to go, and was rather excited that he didn't have to wear his uniform.  He talked about all the people that we would see, and tried to remember the name of his new teacher.
We show up and were directed to room 12.  Uh-oh!  We had been preparing him for room 15 all summer.  He was in room 12 last year.  All the classrooms at his school are multi-leveled, but it's all about precedence for him.  He spent one year in one class room, one year in the next classroom, and fully anticipated to moving up to the next classroom this year.
Here's the problem...all of his friends did-with the exception of one.  His eyes welled up with tears as he whispered "Did I flunk?"
I tried to explain looping, I tried to explain that there were both third and fourth graders in his class, I tired to point out that he would be with his best friend.  But then the step-touch started, the eye contact dropped.  I gave the teacher big eyes-like "what the heck?" but didn't want to talk about it in front of him.  I tried to send him in the room, but he refused to go without me.
There were no other kids in the room, plus it was his class last year.  This should have been a non-issue. 
He wouldn't leave my side.  So in we went, but he wouldn't look for his desk and started chewing on his hands.  OH NO!  He doesn't do asperger's at school anymore.  I tried to get him in the right mindset.  I encouraged him to go into his second grade class room and he see his best friend.  "I'm nervous."  (oh, I can't take it).  His teacher walked him next door and I broke down. 
Now, let's be fair.  I have had two awful days.  It probably wasn't just the school experience that had me in tears, but this crap is sneaky.  I had to back pedal so the teachers knew I wasn't questioning the placement, but that I'm sad because he "doesn't usually have" aspergers at school.  I'm a mess.  I should probably be committed.
I know he has the diagnosis.  I see how he acts in new settings.  Why does it shock me when asperger's shows up?  I don't know, but it gets me every time.
In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."
When we left the building, he had been happily playing with friends and was able to tell me two reasons he was happy he had been looped.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

do dietary interventions work?

Dietary Intervention: Fact or Fiction?

My pediatrician is a firm believer in "heal the gut, heal the child" and uses lots of dietary interventions as well as supplementation.  Here's what I know:  60-70% of your immune system is located in your Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT).  When you are talking auto-immune conditions, wouldn't it make sense to start concentrating here?

Give it time.  If you decide to go the route of dietary intervention, you are talking about long-term health, not a fast fix. Most often, removing gluten from the diet is suggested.  Gluten can stay in your system for four to six weeks and even a small contamination or a single "cheat" can set you back two to four weeks.  In my experience, the first two weeks of the diet feels like the flu.  Tummy trouble, headaches, body aches, and moodiness would not shock me.  It's not a diet that you go on, then wake up one day and feel better.  So if you try it, you have to be willing to stick with it or else you are just wasting your time.

How do you know, Jacki?  Our family has celiac disease running rampant through our intestines, so we didn't decide on a gluten free diet as an intervention for autism, we went gluten free because of long-term health risks such as colon cancer.  My husband was the first to be diagnosed nearly nine years ago.  Three years later, my new pediatrician looked at me and asked why I hadn't considered the fact that our children likely also had the disease.  I decided to go gluten free with our youngest two for the first month (fully intending on returning to my glutenous ways after they were settled in on the diet).  When I reintroduced gluten, I had horrible side effects and felt so lousy.  I realized that even though it was hard, gluten free would be our new lifestyle.  Since then, another of our sons decided, at age eight, that when he ate certain snacks, he felt really bad and wanted to be strict with a gluten free diet as well.  Five out of the six in our house follow a strict gluten free diet. 
Once gluten was removed from our youngest child's diet, more allergies came to the surface as well.  We did an elimination diet again as well as blood and scratch testing and an upper- and lower-endoscopy.   The tests suggested that he was allergic to the sugar in milk (lactose) but not the protein (casein).  Our doctor said after the elimination period, we could reintroduce foods once at a time in small doses.  Instead, we allowed him to reintroduce dairy at a preschool ice cream party.  He passed out, threw up, and got a visit from some friendly EMTs with epinephrine due to what we now know is an anaphylactic allergy to dairy.  So not only is he on a gluten free diet, but he is casein- and soy-free as well.  
I know the diet.  I know it's hard.  I don't know how well it works as an intervention, but I do know that it takes dedication.  If we weren't on the diet for health reasons, I can promise you that we would have tried it because it never hurts to try.  It does hurt to abandon early.

As you embark on your dietary intervention, feel free to email me.  I am more than willing to share recipe ideas!

Friday, May 31, 2013

More than a diagnosis

Lots of things happen to you as a parent when one of your children is diagnosed with some sort of special need.  It is almost as though you have to mourn the loss of the child you thought you had/were going to have before you can move forward with the child you actually do have.

Here, I am using a 7 step model, based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's 5 Stages of Grief.  I'm sure Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz would have something to say of the validity of this model; I agree, this is very linear and makes a whole lot of sense on paper when you aren't going through something, and while grieving, there is no right order, no "right way" to do it.  I will tell you that I have found life to be much messier than this "complete phase 1, move on to phase 2" model. Real life has backsliding, combining of phases, hanging out in certain phases, and sometimes totally skipping a phase, but I think these are all very valid feelings that parents go through.

1. SHOCK & DENIAL-You will probably react to learning of the diagnosis with disbelief. You may deny the reality of the diagnosis at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

2. PAIN & GUILT-As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. You may have feelings of guilt over things you did during your pregnancy-or didn't do. Maybe you know the genetic link comes from your side of the family and you feel somewhat responsible. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

3. ANGER & BARGAINING-Frustration gives way to anger, you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is the time where you will generally release bottled up emotion. You may be questioning "Why me?" or "Why my child?" You may also try to bargain with God for a way out for your child ("I will go to church every week" "I will help other people with special needs as long as one of my kids isn't effected")

4. "DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS-Your friends may think you should be getting accustom to the idea of the diagnosis and moving on with your life; however, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving-especially if they have never received a diagnosis for one of their children.  During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of the diagnosis and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, think of what limitations this might bring as your child gets older, and focus on what your child may never do. 

5. THE UPWARD TURN-As you start to adjust to the idea of your child's diagnosis, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, you are able to wrap your mind around what you need to do next, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by your child's diagnosis. 

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-Eventually, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. You will find a way forward. You will do what needs to be done for your child. And you will acclimate to life with a diagnosis.

One thing that I've shared with very few people is HOW LONG this lasted...we knew from the time my son was very young-probably six months old-that there was something going on.  I was pretty sure he hated me.  I couldn't comfort him-but my husband could.  I resented that.  I resented my husband and I resented my child.  How horrible is that?  Every other baby in the world could be comforted by my usual mommy way of comforting, but my child wasn't.  I really thought my child was broken.

At our 9 month check up, I mentioned all this to my pediatrician and he told me that not all babies are the same, give it time(hanging out in phases 1-3).  I mentioned it again at our one-year check, "wait and see" again, finally at our 18 month appointment, he asked me to look up and read about sensory processing disorder and call him if I wanted to talk more about it.  So there I was, still hanging out in phases 2 and 3, adding a little of phase 4 for good measure, pregnant and trying to parent three kids, one of whom I resented.

I finally had a name to go with the bundle of symptoms that had been living in my house.  I found there were some things we can do to address these symptoms, so while phase 1 slipped back in and 2-4 were still a very real part of what was going on in my head, my body started carrying out phases 5 and 6.

More symptoms persisted, so more doctors were visited.  He was two years old when I started to research with fervor and began to understand who my child was and what my child needed. This really moved me away from phases 1-4 (though those feelings crept in from time to time with each new realization and each new label)and on to phases 5 and 6.

The more I learned about my child and the more I started applying that knowledge to my parenting, I slowly moved into phase 7.  By the time he was three years old, I was there.  Only took me two and a half years.

During those two and a half years, I lost touch with friends-and I lost friends-who just didn't understand all that was going on.  I was isolated in my own family, only allowing immediate family members into the personal hell I was going through, and even then censoring many of my thoughts.  Two and a half years of denial, guilt, anger, resentment, isolation, censoring, and loneliness is a long time.

I don't want to act like everything has been sunshine and rainbows since that time-it certainly hasn't, but I love that this grieving process ends with HOPE.  There is always hope.  

More important than hope, is the ACCEPTANCE.  This is your child.  As a parent, it is your job to love this child unconditionally-diagnosis or no, difficult or not.  Once I began loving my child for who he was and not who he wasn't, once I stopped trying to make him be consoled the way I thought was "right" and started comforting him the way needed me to, once I stopped thinking of him as broken and started thinking of him as special, that's when he finally, truly felt my love.

I'm a pretty quick learner, and it drove me crazy that my husband got there years before I did.  I felt like I had so much time to make up.  Loving my child isn't hard; understanding how to love him his way took years...

Let me encourage you.  It's okay if you don't get there right away.  To really be genuine in your relationship with your special needs child, you have to go through the process.  For some, like my husband, it is a process that will take a matter of minutes each time something new develops.  For others, like me, it will take much longer.  

As you are going through these stages, reach out to those around you.  Try not to shut people out.  Ask for help.  Have open dialog with your spouse about where you are in the process and how you are feeling.  Don't sugar-coat things or say what you think people want to hear.  Most importantly, allow yourself to feel what you are feeling.  

Realizing that your child is not going to have a "typical" life is huge-but when you finally accept it, you will be able to hope in the future.

what do you think about school choice?

Public School or Private School: That is the Question

Nothing is more frustrating than watching your child struggle with school work.  The first thing I will say on this topic is you have to make the school where your child is currently attending your ally.  It doesn't matter if your intentions are to move your child to another school in the near future, it doesn't matter that the school is doing things in a manner of which you don't approve and it doesn't matter that you are so angry you could spit.  You are working with teachers and specialists whose whole job is to see each student succeed at the highest level they are capable.  Maybe they aren't doing it.  Maybe you feel like they aren't even trying.  Maybe so many situations have come up that you just want to throw a temper tantrum and storm out of the school with your child in toe.  I've been there.  Here's the truth-you can't do that.  Well, you can, but it's not good for your child, and won't endear any of the staff to you.  

Argument : Shame

Here's what I would suggest as you are thinking through this process:

Give the school the benefit of the doubt.  Hold them accountable, yes, but believe that they aren't doing things to make you mad.  Also understand that there is so much red tape and law junk that can, at times, get in the way of the overall mission to educate your child.  You may have to go to bat and advocate (oh, there's that dirty word again) for more than the school wants to do.  I've said it before and I'll say it again here-you are looking at a child, they are looking at a bottom line and how that child will fit with line in mind.  School programs are not "one size fits all," which is why there are Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).  

Make sure the interventions that school has put in place for your child researched-based.  True, you can find research to support any stance, but have you looked at the interventions that are being used as it relates to your child's specific diagnosis?  A reading intervention program that is appropriate for children whose first language is not English will probably not be a good fit for children with dyslexia.

If you know of a program you think would be appropriate for your child, suggest it.  It has been my experience that schools don't love when you tell them how to do their job; however, it has also been my experience that if approach the person working most directly with you child and share your concerns and various ideas you have, he/she will be your best ally and will go to bat for your suggestions if they are well-thought-out and research-based.

Monitor Progress.  Have you ever heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?  If you have an intervention in place and you are doing the work at home and the teachers are doing the work at school and months pass with little or no progress, be honest with the school and tell them what they're doing isn't working.  I don't know that there is a magic formula for 'how long is too long', but I will say this:  research shows that for every six months a child falls behind, it takes two school years to catch up.  Children who fall two grade levels or more behind are unlikely to ever catch up and are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers who are on grade-level.  I would say six months is too long to wait for something to fail.  I would start talking to teachers if there is no progress for more than a month.

Make Sure the School Teaching the Way Your Child Learns.  If your child has been through several interventions and things aren't working, schedule another IEP meeting.  Sometimes it might take a special school, other times, intervention at your current school and outside tutoring will do the trick.  While I totally believe you have to be on a team with whatever school your child attends, you also have to remember, they are responsible for your child while he/she is at their school.  You are responsible for the man or woman your child becomes.

How do you even know what you are talking about, Jacki?  When things are concepts that someone has never personally been through, it's hard to take them at their word.  I have been through this choice.  More than once.  I observed that our public school is excellent.  (Excellent with Distinction if you look at their state report card.)  Looking at their data, they are very impressive, but they do their best work with the average to high average kids.  I have one of my four children fall into their "sweet spot."  I have considered alternative school placements for my other three children, and at the end of the day, I moved one.  It was the hardest choice I have ever had to make.  I have one child in a school that specifically teaches children with dyslexia and ADHD.  He enrolled in the new school at the beginning of second grade with his reading skills testing at lower than pre-K level.  His first year, he went from lower than pre-K to middle of first grade.  He is making gains at a rate of more than one years growth in one school year because they are teaching the way his brain learns.  Sometimes you need a specialist to do that.  I also have another child with dyslexia who remains at the public school.  I really wanted to send him to a specialized school because of their vast experience in teaching children with dyslexia; however, he wasn't offered a spot.  When I knew that my child would be staying at the public school, I knew that I had to revise my way of thinking and hammer out a plan that I thought would work, then go to the school with that plan and hope they said yes.  They did...to some of what I proposed.  We compromised on other things, and I had to hire outside help as well.  We are doing the best we can with the concessions the school was willing to make.

Stock Photograph - time for change 
- clock. fotosearch 
- search stock 
photos, pictures, 
wall murals, images, 
and photo clipart

When money isn't there and you don't have a choice...We are very fortunate to have found a private school; however, there is a price tag that comes with the expertise they offer. I'm talking I-could-send-my-kid-to-college-for-less price tag.  Some children could benefit from an alternative school placement and their parents simply can't afford it.  So, what are you going to do?  You can look at charter schools, you can look at open-enrolling in a different school within your district, or you could call and IEP meeting and really nail down a program that will work for your child.  You have options and not all come with steep price tag.

At the end of the day, I hope you will be confident in your decision.  I have to remind myself on almost a weekly basis that I am doing my best with the options available.  I still second guess some decisions and I'm still making changes as I go.  I feel like the target is always the same (a fine education) but the obstacles keep changing my aim...and obstacles are many when dealing with education.  Good luck in your navigation!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

what do you think about vaccination?

To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate? That is the question.

I can vividly recall a conversation I had with my sister-in-law when my oldest child was an infant.  She was questioning my choice to vaccinate as our pediatrician recommended.  I didn't really think there was much of a choice involved; therefore, I called her irresponsible for thinking that "herd immunity" would protect her child that she was choosing not to vaccinate...it did wonders for our relationship, I promise.  I'm not sure I can think of a more hot button issue.  I wouldn't say that I've done a entire 180 on the subject of vaccination-thinking that you should never vaccinate-and I'm also not saying that I think vaccinations are all good, but I am saying that I don't think the CDC's schedule is right...especially for my children.  The more I learned, the more comfortable I felt about certain shots and uncomfortable I felt about others.  My children are considered "fully vaccinated" and "up to date;" however, looking at their shot records isn't enough to get the picture of their vaccination history.  We did one shot at a time, and would use dietary supplements in the weeks leading up to the vaccination to bolster their immune systems.  We wouldn't get shots when our children had runny noses or low-grade fevers, although we were told by one pediatrician that we saw that it was perfectly acceptable to give shots during a cold (his reasoning was that all kids have a runny nose most of their first two years-we found a new pediatrician soon after that comment).  We also had titers drawn before we made the choice of whether or not to booster, a practice not used by most doctors.  We still count on their good ol' immune systems to ward off the flu as opposed to getting a yearly flu shot.  There is no one right answer for everyone, only one best answer for each child.  I have four children and none of them followed the same schedule.

If I had to go back and make the vaccination choices for my kids knowing what I know now, I think my decisions would be different, and I don't think I would have gotten certain shots.  Perhaps the auto-immune conditions that came out in my kids would not have reared their ugly heads, but perhaps something else would have been the trigger.

I would never be so bold as to claim "the (insert you least favorite shot here) vaccine caused my child to have (insert auto-immune condition here)."  Your genes are your genes.  If you have an auto-immune condition, you are born with a genetic predisposition of developing that condition-that is the genetic side of things.  Where you live, the shots you get, the food you eat, the water you drink-that is where the environmental factors come in to play.  

So today, vaccination is the environmental factor we are looking at.  Here are my suggestions on how to make a good decision when it comes to vaccinations for your child:

Research before you vaccinate.  Read up on both sides of the issue.  Read non-biased educational materials not only on vaccines in general, but also on each vaccination (note: the CDC is about as biased of a source as you can come by).  No matter where you stand on the issue of vaccination, you will find plenty of research to support your viewpoint.  Read case studies and anecdotal evidence.  Discuss your findings and well as your feelings with your doctor.
There are some shots I feel absolutely comfortable with...for example, the vaccine for Polio has been researched, refined, followed and given for a long period of time-that one was a no brainer for me.  Any shot that comes in a grouping (for example DTaP-diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) is something I am going to want to pull apart and look at (and give, should I decide to do so) each component individually.  

Public schools (in America, at least) cannot refuse your unvaccinated child.  Should you make the choice to delay vaccination or not to vaccinate at all, public schools cannot exclude your child.  You do have to fill out a special form called a vaccine exemption.  Schools will send letters saying your child will be excluded unless they have a certain shot by a certain date.  What they really mean is either you need the shot or to fill out the vaccine exemption by that date.  Schools don't put it out there as a choice, but it always is.
I mentioned that my children are considered "up to date" but their shot record wouldn't tell you that story?  I have drawn titers on more than one child to prove immunity and no need for a booster; therefore, I either provide the blood work to the school that shows the immunity or I fill out a vaccine exemption.

Learn what titers are and have them tested before boosters.  My doctor explained to me that many children gain immunity after only one shot; however, some don't.  Instead of testing all children to see which ones need boosters and which ones are already immune, the CDC schedule calls for all children to receive boosters.  Even if you are very pro-vaccine, most people aren't pro-shot in their child's leg, so a routine blood draw can tell you if the shot is necessary.

Understand that some pediatricians are very pro-vaccination and want to follow the CDC schedule down to the letter.  You can have a very firm belief about vaccinations; that doesn't mean your pediatrician will agree with you.  There are some practices that will tell you that you do have a choice, your choice is to vaccinate or find another doctor.  This is something to think about if you totally love your pediatrician or if you move and are looking for a pediatrician.  How important is your vaccination stance to you?  Are you willing to go the extra mile to find a pediatrician who has the same philosophy you do?  We were very lucky to find our pediatrician.  She was actually on the news talking about her viewpoint on vaccinations and while we were still questioning many things about alternative schedules, we were intrigued enough to make an appointment and do more research.  I have heard of people in a brand new city, being turned away from doctor after doctor due to their stance on vaccination-the practices simply won't accept their unvaccinated children.

So the truth is, I'm not at all in a position to tell you what to do about vaccines.  I can tell you what we did, and encourage you to do your own research.  As I've said, each child is an individual; therefore decisions need to be made individually.

Next question:  what do you think about school choice?