More to childhood than meets the eye
Lakewood Health Systems
Often times the things we don’t see are the ones we forget about until they become part of a problem, or something that needs fixing. In many cases, it’s the preventative measures that can mean the difference between what we see, and that of which we lose sight. The goal for patient care at Lakewood Health System is not only to treat current problems, but to become more proactive in preventing them from happening. This is especially true when caring for children, which is why Lakewood provides a variety of services and programs like FASD diagnostics, immunizations and well-child check-ups, Let’s Go 5-2-1-0, a pediatrician and play therapies which specifically focused on preventing and treating those things we don’t always see.
These preventive measures often start before a child is even born. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) is a series of traits which occur in someone whose mother consumed alcohol during pregnancy. These effects can range from mental, including learning disabilities, to behavioral and physical, and the potential implications could have a lifelong impact. The sad, but true fact is that even though this disorder is 100% preventable, 1 in every 100 babies is affected by FASD.
Some signs and symptoms to look for if FASD is suspected are low birth weight and impaired growth in babies, as well as facial malformations, hyperactivity and a short attention span, poor motor skills and difficulty with social boundaries as the individual matures. While FASD and its effects cannot be cured, there are ways to ensure those living with FASD lead happy, full lives.
The FASD program at Lakewood provides diagnostic testing and assessment, prevention information, strategies for working with individuals with FASD, and follow-up assistance for those with FASD and their families. Headed by FASD Coordinator Kelly Riepe, the specially trained staff is dedicated to the management of living a life with FASD, but even more importantly, the education of FASD prevention.
Preventative healthcare becomes more of a team effort once a baby is born. This team is made up of a child’s family, and their medical provider, who offer well-child check-ups, which are routine appointments to keep up with the immunizations and growth developments of children from birth to adolescence. With the rate at which children grow and develop, it’s important to keep their vaccinations up-to-date, from the day they’re born, on through adulthood.
The type of vaccination and the dosage amount a child needs is dependent on their age. Children from birth until the age of 12 need certain vaccinations to prevent disease like polio, diphtheria and hepatitis. Infections, such as meningitis and pneumonia can also be prevented with vaccinations.
Vaccinations are important because little by little we are able to wipe out diseases like small pox, and perhaps one day, polio and diphtheria, by continuing to vaccinate. With these diseases becoming increasingly rare, and the inclination to discontinue vaccinations becoming more prominent, it’s important to remember the strides we’ve made in eliminating, or decreasing, the prominence of these diseases could be eradicated just as quickly.
Vaccinations are one of many things a family practice physician, physician extender or pediatrician provides for their patients. Contrary to popular belief, pediatricians don’t only care for babies and toddlers, but also adolescents and children up to the age of 18. They care for their patients when they’re ill with common, chronic or life-threatening sickness or injury, as well as providing advice on healthy lifestyles, and preventing illness and injury.
Caring for children with physical illness, as well as behavioral difficulties, developmental disorders and depression and anxiety disorders are also a large part of a pediatrician’s specialty. Children often have different symptoms than adults, or need different treatments, and pediatricians are trained to understand the specialized care this requires.
Pediatricians aren’t only concerned with the immediate health and wellness of their patient, but also their long-term health goals and future quality of life. This may include the early detection of certain disorders, disabilities or other health issues which may affect them later in life. Lakewood’s pediatrician, Dr. Neil Bratney, works closely with his patients and their families, as well as other medical providers, to ensure his patient receives the best care possible.
For almost two years, one part of this care has included the Let’s Go 5-2-1-0 program which is a national initiative that promotes healthy lifestyle choices for children, youth and families. 5-2-1-0 is an abbreviated form of the program’s main message, which is that every child should eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables, spend less than 2 hours in front of TV, computer and hand-held device screens, get at least 1 hour or more of physical activity a day, and consume 0 sugary drinks each day.
The messages and ideas behind this program are being incorporated into well-child check-ups, as well as various other programs throughout the system. Under the guidance of Lakewood’s registered dietitians, and with the help of children-focused events, educational materials and newsletters specifically designed for children ages 2 to 12, the 5-2-1-0 program aims to build a happier, healthier community. The goal is to encourage and teach healthy living habits in children and their families from a young age, so they carry them throughout their lifetime.
Sometimes it’s not so much a child’s physical habits and traits we notice, as it is what’s in their mind. When it comes to the mind of a child, there is a lot we cannot see or understand. For this reason, Lakewood psychotherapists Corrie Brown, MA, LPCC, LMFT and Luann Gammon, LICSW use play therapy techniques when seeing patients who are 10 years of age or under, and occasionally with teens and adults, depending on the need.
Play therapy is a technique used to prevent or help psychosocial difficulties children may be having, so they can continue to grow and develop to their full potential. Developmentally speaking, children often find it difficult to communicate their thoughts, feelings and experiences in words, so by using toys, art and other child-focused objects, it provides a way to share and express themselves.
Filial therapy is a technique that can help children by teaching parents simple child-centered play therapy principles and methods to use with their own children. Brown and Gammon have also found this technique to be very useful when working with parents and families with children who may have trouble expressing themselves. Being able to express their thoughts and feelings is extremely important in a child’s development, so being able to help, or better yet, prevent it from becoming an issue, is equally important.
Generally speaking, when we think of healthcare, we think about needing to solve a problem or fix something that’s broken. The idea behind preventative healthcare is to become less reactive, and more proactive. With these child-focused programs and services available at Lakewood, it is possible to instill this thinking in children and their families at a young age, so the idea continues throughout their lifetime. And perhaps this thinking will make it easier to focus on the things we can see, instead of the things we can’t.