Entries in Children (285)


Dyslexia May Be Visible in Childrens' Brain Scans

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Success in learning often begins with success in reading. If parents and teachers are late discovering reading issues, it can be a struggle to get young children on track in school.

Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that they may be able to detect learning disabilities like dyslexia earlier than ever. They tested 40 kindergarteners to see how they performed on a phonetic test -- one of the key building blocks of reading. Some of the students did well, while others performed poorly.

When researchers scanned the brains of the children, they found that the poor performers had differences in an area of the brain involved with processing language and speech.

While the findings are still preliminary, they may assist pediatricians in identifying the children who may need extra assistance in school so that they will not be at a disadvantage when it comes to school.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Meat Allergy in Children Linked to Tick Bites

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A tiny tick might be to blame for a rash of red meat allergies across the United States, researchers say. And the latest study suggests grill-loving kids are just as vulnerable as their grown-up counterparts.

"Nearly 50 percent of the kids in our study ended up in the emergency department," said study author Dr. Scott Commins, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "Age doesn't seem to really matter in terms of the severity of the reaction."

Commins and colleagues studied 51 kids who had reactions, ranging from rashes to anaphylactic shock, to mammalian meat. And like adults with the bizarre meat allergy, they all had a history of bites from Amblyomma americanum, better known as the lone star tick.

"We were surprised by how many kids were having reactions when we started looking in pediatric clinics for it," said Commins, who first linked the tick to meat allergies in 2009. He believes the bug's saliva can seep into the bite wound, somehow triggering an allergy agonizing enough to convert lifelong carnivores into wary vegetarians.

"People will eat beef, and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction, anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock," he said. "And most people want to avoid having the reaction, so they try to stay away from the food that triggers it."

Most of the kids in the study developed a rash at the site of the tick bite before reacting to red meat, and all but six of them also tested positive for alpha-gal antibodies -- blood proteins that react to a sugar found in meat. But Commins said it's tough to make a definitive link between the tick and the allergy.

"We're still searching for the mechanism," he said, describing plans to test the theory in mice that were genetically altered to lack alpha-gal. "It's hard to prove."

Allergies are immune reactions to foreign substances, such as pet hair and peanuts. As antibodies attack the substance that caused the reaction, they trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that causes hives and, in severe cases, life-threatening anaphylaxis.

"If a child has an exaggerated skin response to a tick bite, I would make an appointment with an allergist to have a blood test done," said Commins, "especially if the child happens to be one who eats meat."

Other common food allergens include nuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy and wheat. Most food allergy sufferers are glad to discover the source of their misery, even if it means upheaval for their diets. But Commins said meat allergies can be hard for brawny barbecuers to swallow.

"Some people are totally destroyed," he said. "Others say, 'Maybe I'm better off without it.'"

But don't despair. Commins said the reaction wanes over time, and that most people are able to return to their meat-eating ways within a period of months.

"It's important to have your blood test redone because it appears that this allergic response goes away over time, which is great news for kids," he said. "Additional tick bites, however, seem to push that response back up relatively quickly. So I would really stress tick bite prevention."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the following steps to prevent tick bites:

- Avoid wooded and bushy areas;

- Walk in the center of trails; Use bug repellents that contain 20 percent or more Deet on the skin;

- Use bug repellants that contain permethrin on clothing;

- Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors;

- Look for ticks on your body, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and in the hair;

- Check gear and pets for ticks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Survey Shows Staggering Amount of Children Are Victims of Violence

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new survey found that a startling number of children and teenagers under the age of 18 have been the victims of physical violence in the last year.

According to a survey published in the journal Pediatrics, over 40 percent of U.S. children and adolescents were victims of violence, including more than 10 percent that suffered serious injuries.

The National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence included data concerning assault with and without weapons, attempted or completed kidnapping, dating violence and bias attacks. Bullying, threats or Internet attacks were considered non-violent problems and were excluded.

The survey found that 13.7 percent of young people experienced repeated violent incidents at the hands of a caregiver.

Additionally, two percent of children under the age of 17 responded saying they have been sexually assaulted or abused in the last year. That number was much higher, almost 11 percent, among girls between the ages of 14 and 17.

The authors of the survey believe that exposure to violence impacts both the individual child as well as having important societal effects. The authors also believe that intense tracking of children's exposure to violence is an imperative first step.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids Menu Items Not as Nutritious as Grown-Up Food

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EDINBURGH, Scotland) -- Children who eat the same food as mommy and daddy tend be be healthier than those that eat off the kids menu, according to a new study from the University of Edinburgh.

BBC News reports that the study examined the eating habits of more than 2,000 five-year-olds and their families.

One of the findings was that “child-friendly” meal alternatives are often less nutritious than the main menu.

"Offering separate 'children's food' for a main meal may often result in children missing out nutritionally,” said Valeria Skafida, the author of the paper.

The study also found several other factors that can keep kids healthy and impart them with good eating habits.

How and when families eat makes a big difference. The study found that those who skipped a meal, snacked often, ate their food in a living or bedroom rather than a dining room on a regular basis had worse diets.

Tone makes a difference too. Children were negatively affected when there was an “unpleasant atmosphere” during meals.

The study also found that firstborn children tend to have a healthier diet than siblings who come after them.

The report concluded that more needs to be done to help parents foster good eating habits in their children when they’re young.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study: Light Drinking During Pregnancy Has No Effect on Children

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A study shows that drinking alcohol lightly during pregnancy may not have a negative effect on children.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, evaluated over 10,000 children whose mothers were either non-drinkers or light drinkers - fewer than one to two drinks per week - during pregnancy. Researchers tracked the children's development from nine months to 7 years of age.

According to the study, light drinking during pregnancy did not have a significant impact on the children's cognitive or behavioral growth. The research did not differentiate between types of alcohol, or determine whether drinking during a particular portion of the pregnancy were more or less dangerous.

Researchers did point out that because women may handle alcohol differently, avoiding alcohol entirely is more safe.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Children Are Consuming Fewer Calories, CDC Says

Steven Puetzer/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- While 17 percent of American children and adolescents are still obese, they are consuming fewer calories than they were a decade ago, according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey says boys are now taking in about 2,100 calories a day, while girls are consuming 1,755.  That's down from the 2,258 and 1,831 calories boys and girls, respectively, took in between 1999 and 2000.

In the survey, the CDC also notes that kids are now getting more of their calories from protein and less from carbohydrates.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Medical Bills Bankrupt Families of Mentally Ill Children

Comstock/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) -- Ted Morrissey, a middle-class Nebraska insurance agent with a good health care policy, has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" on treatments for his 16-year-old daughter who has complex mental health problems that get worse by the day. At the age of 5, Jaimie was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, as well as accompanying obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"She had no control over her muscle movement, so we would wrap her in a sheet like a burrito just to keep her from straining her muscles," said her father.

Medication has helped, but it's also caused obesity. Teasing at school by students and teachers triggered life-threatening anorexia by the time she was 12, according to Morrissey. Refusing to eat, the teen developed a gastrointestinal disorder and required a feeding tube.

"We've been battling, doing nothing more than jumping hurdles and falling into pits for 11 years," he said. "This has milked us dry financially."

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, which was passed in 2008, tagged on to the financial bailout, mandates that health insurance benefits cover equally both mental health and medical services -- so that those with, say, depression are treated the same way as those with diabetes or AIDS.

The law, which went into effect in 2010, applies to both in-network and out-of-network care and hung its success on a coalition of lawmakers who all had been touched by mental illness.

But a study published on Monday in Pediatrics magazine suggests that this is not enough for struggling families.

The study provides the first empirical evidence that the law hailed as a victory for families does not "meaningfully improve" their financial protection. Costs have been reduced overall by about 5 percent, but the average savings is only about $178 a year.

"I think that we worry most about the sickest children," said lead author Colleen L. Barry, associate chair for research and practice at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, because their costs are the greatest.

"The concern is that [high out-of-pocket costs] inhibit treatment seeking and pose a barrier to families trying to get high quality treatment for their children," Barry told ABC News. "There are definitely cases of families being bankrupted from this, taking years to pay off medical expenditures, and making decisions for treatments motivated by cost of care."

Jaimie, which is not her real name to protect her privacy, suffers from anxiety so severe that she goes into a trance-like state called "conversion disorder." Sometimes her parents fear that she might become violent.

"She becomes so overwhelmed that her brain just shuts down and she passes out or goes into seizures," Morrissey said. "We never know when it's going to happen."

The teen has not been in school since September.

This week, she was to go to an expensive residential treatment facility in Durham, N.C., which is 1,200 miles from her home in Omaha. "It's hard to find a place that doesn't want $28,000 up front -- we are at the end of our rope financially."

The Morrisseys have been rejected by Social Security, disability and Medicaid and the out-of-pocket costs have added up, according to her father.

"We have nothing," said Morrissey. "Now I am worried about losing my home. This has been devastating."

The Morrisseys' insurance policy pays 80 percent of Jaimie's costs, but the bills have been overwhelming.

"If you have a $200,000 bill, you have to come up with $40,000 and try to pay that," said her father. "We pride [ourselves] in paying our bills, but you end up buying the groceries on credit."

An estimated 11 percent of children in the United States are affected by mental health and addiction disorders with significant costs, according to the study, and mental health disorders are the primary cause of hospital admissions for early teens.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Educational TV Can Improve Kids’ Behavior, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Young adults who spent more time in front of a TV during their childhood are significantly more likely to be arrested and exhibit aggressive behavior, a new study found.

Researchers followed more than 1,000 young people in New Zealand from birth to age 26 and monitored the amount of television they watched during the ages of 5 and 15. In addition to monitoring television habits, the researchers also monitored criminal convictions, diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder, and personality traits of the individuals.

“This is one of the largest and best studies to date to look at long term outcomes from exposure to television,” said Dr. Christakis, director of Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, who was not involved with the study.

The more television children watched, the more likely they were to have a criminal conviction, a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder and more aggressive personality traits, the study found. The trend was seen equally in both males and females, and the researchers controlled for sex, IQ, socioeconomic status, previous antisocial behavior, and even parental control.

So does this mean your TV is turning your child into a convict? Not necessarily, caution some pediatricians.

“From this study there does seem to be an association between excessive screen time and criminality,” said Dr. Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas-based pediatrician and author of “Baby 411.” “However, [the study] cannot show evidence that the number of hours watched causes criminality. Correlation, yes. Causation, no.”

While this study highlights the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics that children should watch no more than one to two hours of television each day, the study did not look at what these children were watching, a weakness of the study many point out.

“It’s hard to imagine seeing the same results if they had just watched PBS documentaries,” said Christakis. “More emphasis needs to be placed on quality, not quantity.”

Christakis is the lead author of a study published in the same journal that reveals that changing what your children watch may actually improve their behavior.

“All television is educational, but the real question is: What is it teaching?” he said.

He and his team of researchers studied 820 families with children aged 3 to 5. Half of the families were placed in the intervention group, and replaced aggressive and violent television with educational and pro-social television. The other half of the families in the control group did not change the programming their children watched. No changes were made in the amount of television the children viewed, however, parents were encouraged to watch television with their children in the intervention group. Six months later children in the intervention group demonstrated significantly less aggression and noted to be more social than the children in the control group.

As a result of the study, experts suggest watching educational television with children can actually improve their behavior.

“Children imitate what they see on screen. They imitate bad behavior, but also good behavior. Parents should take advantage of this,” said Christakis.

“It’s not just about turning off the TV, but changing the channel.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Study: Parents Who Pick Favorites Among Kids Hurt Entire Family YORK) -- Parents may not admit it, but picking favorites among their children is a fairly common practice.  Now, new research reveals that this pattern -- known as differential parenting -- is not only detrimental to the child who receives the negative feedback, but also the entire family.

Additionally, this new study shows that the more drastic the parenting styles between children, the worse the outcome of the mental health of all the children.

"This was really surprising," said Jenny Jenkins, professor in the department of Applied Psychology and Human Development at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study.  "We expected differential parenting to operate stronger within the parent-child dynamic.  However, differential parenting had a stronger effect on the entire family."

Differential parenting -- giving mostly positive feedback to one child while mostly negative feedback to another -- has long been linked to negative effects for the targeted child.  Until this study published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, however, its broader effects on the family as a whole had not been studied in detail. 

In her four-year longitudinal study, Jenkins observed the behavior of 400 Canadian families through direct in-home observation and self reports.  She and her colleagues found that children in families affected by differential parenting showed higher incidence of problems with attention and social relationships.

"Sibling divisiveness is a known result of differential parenting, with lasting effects into adolescence and adulthood," she said.

In addition, researchers found that differential parenting was linked to other factors -- some of which were present in the home environment, and others that the parents had experienced in the past.

Dr. Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y., said these factors stacked the deck against some parents.

"While all parents know that it's best to avoid comparing siblings to each other, and to strive for equity in terms of attention, optimal parenting of this sort is incredibly difficult when faced with multiple risk factors, such as poverty, mental illness, and a history of adverse childhood experiences," said Briggs, who was not involved with the study.

In short, mothers who were under emotional and financial stress had a harder time being fair to all of their children when parenting.

"While none of this surprises me, it further supports the claim that we must support families, especially those families with young children, to help ameliorate some of these impacts of risk," said Briggs, who is also the director of Montefiore Medical Center's Healthy Steps, a program aimed at getting parents and children off to a healthy start with the help of specialists in child development and behavior.  "The experiences of young children create a foundation upon which future development and behavior is built, and it's really imperative that this foundation be strong."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


How Should Doctors Treat Childhood Trauma?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After tragic events involving children, including the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut and the kidnapping of 5-year-old Ethan by Jimmy Lee Dykes’ in Alabama, researchers are focusing more attention on how to treat children who’ve experienced trauma to avoid post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological repercussions.  But they have few answers on what course of treatment is best.

Researchers Valerie Forman-Hoffman, Dr. Adam Zolotor and the rest of their team set out in 2010 to pull together data from hundreds of studies to determine which medicines and behavioral therapy produced the best results in traumatized children and adolescents. But they were surprised to find that only 25 studies fit the criteria of being large, randomized and controlled.

“We’re seeing more and more of these [traumas] every day, but we don’t have good evidence for how to make decisions for these kids,” said Forman-Hoffman, a psychiatric epidemiologist at RTI International, a research institute in North Carolina. "This topic is so hard to study when you consider the kids involved and what they’re exposed to. The last thing we want to do when kids are involved in a terrible tragedy and traumatic event is come in with clipboards.”

The review, which was published Monday in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says in its background that two thirds of children experience a traumatic event before they’re 16 years old.  (This comes from a 2007 study that followed 1,420 children for up to seven years.)  A traumatic event could include seeing or being the victim of domestic abuse, experiencing a natural disaster or witnessing a violent act involving strangers.

Although the Pediatrics review revealed that children taking medications for their trauma didn’t experience fewer signs of trauma than those who didn’t, and that children undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy showed some benefit, it’s hard to determine how heavily to weigh the findings, Forman-Hoffman said. There were also no studies that examined treatment-outcome differences between genders, ages or types of trauma.

“It was very, very surprising to me,” she said. “This is a really important topic.  Nobody seems to be talking about how to get these children who are witnesses to these things treatment.”

Forman-Hoffman and Zolotor only examined studies about non-relational trauma, meaning the person (or thing) afflicting the trauma was not a friend or family member of the child. For instance, a non-relational trauma would be a shooting by a stranger or a national disaster, but not a domestic abuse situation.

Zolotor, a family physician and professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said he embarked on the study because he often treats patients -- children and adults -- who experienced trauma during their childhood.  He’s not sure of the best early treatment, and added that many children don’t fit neatly into the post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis as adults do.  Sometimes, they experience other symptoms of mental illness.

He, too, expected more studies and studies of better quality during the Pediatrics review. He said he hopes his findings prompt more studies to determine how to treat these children in the future.

“The science is quite immature,” he said. “With the recent experience in Newtown, I think we see this over and over again. ...School of public health officials and practices feel the need to do something, and we don’t have a lot of good guidance on what’s the best thing to do.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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