The elevator to success is out of order. You'll have to use the step at a time. ~Joe Girard

Spreading Awareness

My purpose in writing this blog is to spread awareness and provide support to parents of children with and without special needs. I have one child with a Learning Disability, more specifically, a Visual Processing Disorder including Dysgraphia and another child with a disease called Eosinophilic Esophagitis, an allergic white blood cell disease that attacks the esophagus.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Allergy Testing For EE--including Patch Testing

Eosinophilic Esophagitis is a rare disease that causes an allergic reaction in the esophagus.  The allergic reaction is caused by white blood cells called eosinophils, whereas food allergic reactions are brought on by immunoglobulin E (IgE).  The eosinophils can cause a delayed allergic reaction, while an IgE response is more immediate.  Some children with EE can have both delayed reactions or IgE responses to an allergen.  Food is usually the main culprit for kids with EE, however, environmental allergies can play a role as well.

There are four different ways to test a child for food allergies.  The most common two are the skin prick tests and the blood tests (or RAST tests).  There is also patch testing and fresh food testing.  Below is a description of each:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vision Therapy

Boy, getting Madison to read is about as easy as asking someone to jump into shark infested waters.  As I mentioned before, everything was (and much still is) difficult for Madison.  Trying to teach her to identify the letters of the alphabet or numbers was painstakingly difficult.  We tried singing, coloring letters , tracing letters in sand and whipped cream, lacing letters, making them out of clay, stamping them, making them with our body, among many other activities that I did with students in my classroom that had difficulty with letter and number identification.  Many of these were useless activities that although were fun for Madison, had no lasting effect.  In the end, I'm not really sure how she retained this information, I just know that it took quite a few years.  And then after all that, she was expected to learn how to read...really?  That process was (and is) just as difficult as letter identification.   Her teachers in kindergarten and first grade continued to tell me that there was nothing to worry about, that she was "just a little behind".  However, they had no idea how much effort Madison was putting in to be "just a little behind".  I knew there was something more going on and decided to have her privately tested at the end of first grade.  That is when we learned that she had a visual processing disorder.  She is now in fourth grade.

 It was good to finally have a diagnosis.  We took her out of private school and put her back into public school where she could get the services she needed.  I also decided to get her a tutor so that I could spend more time being "mommy" and less time being the one that was always making her "do school stuff".  During this time, I tried all the reading programs I had used as teacher, as well as purchasing additional ones recommended by various educational specialists.  These are some wonderful programs, but Madison still had trouble retaining visual information and learning basic reading skills.  I was so frustrated for my daughter and would have done anything to make school easier for her.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Biospy Results After Elemental Diet for Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Thursday morning we woke up and took Andrew to the hospital for an endoscopy and biopsy after 8 weeks of an elemental diet.  My husband, Andrew and I all felt fairly confident going into this procedure, as 90-95% of children that are treated with the elemental diet go into remission.  Between those statistics, the fact that his symptoms had nearly diminished and he finally began to gain weight (5 pounds in 2 months) we were cautiously optimistic that his scope would be clear.

Before I go on, let me explain an elemental diet and why it is used for children with EE.  An elemental diet removes all sources of whole or partial proteins.  This is done by having the child (or adult) either drink, as in Andrew's case, or ingest by feeding tube an amino acid-based formula, such as Neocate or Elecare.  An elemental diet may be considered after a complete elimination diet of positive foods and medications have failed.  The goal of the elemental diet is remission, having symptoms resolve and eosinophils clear (at least below 10).  At that point, the child would begin food trials, systematically adding back one food/ingredient at a time to determine which foods are causing a reaction.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Handwriting Woes

"What does that say?"  "Stay in the lines."  "You need to start your letter at the top."  "No, no honey, this is how you hold a pencil"....Do any of these phrases sound familiar?  Handwriting is a struggle for many children with learning disabilities and ADD.  And unfortunately, due to the curriculum demands that have taken place over the past decade, handwriting is no longer a formal part of the curriculum in many states...including ours.  Barbara Willer, the deputy executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children has said, "The printing and cursive are taking more of a back seat."  In my opinion, this is such a disservice to children going through our school systems today.

There is a link between handwriting in early grades to basic reading and spelling achievement.  The process of learning handwriting helps with letter recognition, word awareness and sentence skills.  When I would teach my kindergarten students letter identification, I would teach them how to form and write the letter, as well as the sound of the letter.  By giving attention to the links between handwriting, reading, and spelling a teacher can help reinforce achievement in these areas.  This also allows students to translate a visual or mental image of a letter into a written form.  I would also teach the proper grip of the pencil at this time.  As little as 15 minutes a day of handwriting instruction has been shown to be beneficial, and as noted, it does not (and should not)need to be a stand alone subject.

Handwriting instruction is such an important part of our children's education.  Especially children with special needs that may have difficulty with fine motor skills, visual processing, or attention.  For any child, without proper instruction, they are just drawing the letters, but it is not automatic.  With instruction and practice, they are able to form good and consistent habits.  This is important because it allows them to focus on the content of what they are writing, not how are forming the letters as they write.  If they have not learned these good habits and it is not automatic,  they may lose their thoughts before ever getting them on paper.