Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hidden from sight

Your child may have an eye condition and not even know it
Milestones in a child’s life are often accompanied by a trip to a health professional.
Immunisations require a visit to the doctor, new teeth trigger a trip to the dentist and as they get older various tests are undertaken to make sure our children are developing normally.
It is obvious when a child needs extra support, such as speech therapy or if they have hearing loss or a physical impairment.
But what about a child’s sight?
As far as I recall, my daughter’s sight was tested when she got her four-year-old immunisations but it is was simply looking at a wall chart and recognising animal pictures.
Fast forward 18 months to last week when I happened to go to an optometrist for a routine eye examination.
I had always assumed that if there was a problem with my daughter’s eye sight, she would be able to tell me, and so far she has never complained about her eyes, or showed other symptoms such as headaches or squinting.
So perhaps it was instinct, or just pure luck, that I decided to book her in for a check-up, believing that the optometrist would say her eyes are fine.
Instead, she was diagnosed with astigmatism in both eyes.
Astigmatism is a structural problem of the eye, and it is fairly common.
The cornea of the eye is normally a spherical shape, but if you have astigmatism, it is curved into an oval shape.
The cornea needs to be a perfect curve in order to bend (refract) light properly.
Astigmatism causes light to bounce unevenly off the flat and steep curves of the oval shape, and hit more than one focal point in the eye.
This impairs the ability to focus, and causes blurred vision.
Symptoms of astigmatism are blurred or distorted vision at all distances, sensitivity to light, headaches, excessive squinting and eye strain.
Most people with astigmatism are born with it, but the awareness of it increases with age. This means that children with astigmatism are unaware that what they are seeing is not normal.
Reading and concentrating at school may be affected if a child has undiagnosed astigmatism, but the long term problems are even greater.
Left untreated, a child with astigmatism may develop amblyopia, or “lazy eye”, in which one eye drifts inward or outward and may stop seeing.
Amblyopia occurs because the brain “turns off” the eye, not because the eye lacks the ability to see.
If amblyopia occurs due to astigmatism, irreversible functional blindness may occur if it isn’t corrected.
If the eyes do not work together properly, depth perception is also affected.
Astigmatism can be treated by wearing prescribed glasses or contact lenses, and if detected early in childhood, it can be corrected.
My experience has taught me that children really should have regular eye tests with an optometrist (don’t just rely on reading an eye chart on a wall).
In the UK, it is recommended that babies have an eye test soon after they are born, again at six weeks, a comprehensive test at the age of four, and then every year after up to the age of 16. Adults should have a test every two years.
We should also be following this standard because good eye sight is so important.
Thankfully my daughter is excited about wearing her new pink glasses, though I’m sure the novelty will wear off. I’m just so thankful that we can help her now.

* You can read more about my daughter's new spectacles on my other blog!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beat the baby fat

Pram Pushing

You can get your pre-pregnancy body back, with a little effort and a good pram
Over the past few months there’s been a lot of fluffy news about Miranda Kerr.
The stories painted her as a “the perfect mother” from the moment she went drug-free for the birth of her son Flynn, her amazing body when she returned to the catwalk and did a swimsuit photoshoot, and her love of coconut oil (‘nuf said).
In every story, the words and pictures celebrated her post-baby body.
But there is no secret why she looks as good as she did before she had a child. She’s a model... she was born that way, and on top of that she is still young (at 28 years of age, she isn’t yet fighting gravity), and she is breastfeeding (a key ingredient to losing the baby fat).
Getting your body back in shape after childbirth is one of the most common goals of mothers around the world.
Most mothers will achieve their goals through hard work and lots of pram-pushing, while others are fortunate enough to lose the extra baby weight without any effort at all.
I am one of these mothers. Breastfeeding has been a blessing not just for my children, but also my weight. As my baby got bigger, I got smaller.
It makes sense that breastfeeding will help you lose weight as the baby can take around 1000 calories per day.
Some mothers find that fat stores stay during the first year of nursing, but then disappear with the second (another reason to continue breastfeeding for at least two years).
But if you’re not as lucky as me (or not breastfeeding), here are some ideas to help you get back in shape.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Little noggins

If you have ever seen a baby wearing a helmet, there is a very good reason
For many years now, parents of newborns are given lots of information about “safe sleeping” for their baby.
Much of the information focuses on how to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and advises parents put their babies on their back instead of their tummy when they are sleeping.
While this is definitely the safest sleeping position for a baby, it has led to a rise in plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome, which currently affects about one in 10 Australian babies.
Plagiocephaly is a condition where the back or side of a baby’s head becomes flat or mis-shaped due to prolonged pressure on the skull from flat surfaces, such as a cot mattress.
New babies spend lots of time lying down, and their skulls are quite soft when they’re very young, so sometimes their head shape is affected.
Plagiocephaly is more common in premature babies and mutiple births, as their skulls are very soft.
There are a number of different conditions related to flat head syndrome, including torticollis (where the head persistently tilts to one side), and sometimes facial features can also become unequal in children with plagiocephaly.
Studies have shown that some infants are more at risk of developing flat head syndrome, and some of these characteristics include: male infants, diagnosis of hip dysplasia, diagnosis of reflux, multiple birth and a head shape at birth that is naturally wider than deeper.

Helping teachers teach

You can improve your child’s education by supporting their teacher 

Now that my eldest child has started school, I am amazed at how many times I’ve heard parents complaining.
They mostly complain about homework, believing that it’s up to the teachers to make sure their kids understand literacy and numeracy. 
“After all,” they chide, “why else do we send them to school?”
This sort of attitude astounds me because our children are expected to learn a lot more than we ever did, and at a faster rate than before.
Chatting to the principal last week confirmed this as she used to be a high school English teacher.
She said there are several elements of the English syllabus that she used to teach to year 9 students but they are now part of the primary school curriculum.
With an average of 20 students in their care, and less than five hours a day to teach literacy, numeracy, physical education, studies of society and environment, music, science, art, languages other than English, technology and religious education, teachers need all the help they can get.
So I’ve got a list of ways to help support your child’s teacher, as well as supporting your child’s learning.