Let's Talk Kids

commentary broadcast for local parenting segment - Let's Talk Kids.

You can now order genetic tests off the Internet and get your child's genome sequenced for less than the cost of a new car. The question is, should you?

Almost certainly not, according to the American Society for Human Genetics, which released a position paper Thursday intended to give parents some help navigating the dizzying world of genetic tests.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Most of us extend love with the expectation that our kind deeds will come back to us.  If we do a friend a favor, we assume that friend will be there in our hour of need.  If we offer to cover a duty for a coworker, we know we can count on the same support when we need a back-up.

But this summer, four of my grandchildren are learning a small lesson about giving with no hope for return.  They’re fostering a pair of kittens from their local Humane Society.

Powerful antipsychotic medications are being used to treat children and teenagers with ADHD, aggression and behavior problems, a study finds, even though safer treatments are available and should be used first.

Jennifer Nugent and her three kids are throwing a big, blue ball around in the small living room of their rental home.

The kids are happy, but Nugent isn't. She planned to raise them in a place with much more room to play.

And she was. That is, until she learned that home was uninhabitable.

Two years ago, she and her husband bought a country home in the small central Indiana town of Mooresville.

"It was blue and it had a lot of potential for us to add on," she says. "We really, really wanted that house."

Amy Roegler and her husband, Octavio Herrera, live with their young kids, Jake and Alyssa, in Los Angeles. When it comes to pro baseball, they're all Dodgers fans. And Jake loved balls even as a baby, Octavio says.

"We have a picture of him as a 3-month-old with a little Dodger jersey and a glove," Octavio says. "So he was definitely going to be introduced to sports early, and he took to it right away." Today 10-year-old Jake is on his baseball league's All-Star team.

Nothing says "I'm a new driver" more than a fire-red label stuck to your license plate for all to see. That's what happens in New Jersey to anyone with a learner's permit under age 21. But identifying these newest drivers doesn't necessarily help reduce crash rates, research finds.

Parents, take note! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine committee has expanded its recommendation for immunization against meningitis B, a rare but potentially deadly strain of meningitis.

The committee's revised guidance, issued late last week, broadens the group of young people that the CDC thinks should consider getting the shot, and increases the likelihood that health insurance policies will pay for the injection.

Copyright 2015 KQED Public Media. To see more, visit http://www.kqed.org.

The controversial bill that would require almost all children entering day care or school in California to be vaccinated crossed another key hurdle Thursday, as the state Assembly approved it by a vote of 46-30.

The bill, SB 277, now returns to the state Senate, where lawmakers will be asked to concur with amendments made in the Assembly.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Helpful advice has been offered to parents in every generation.  In 1916, the author of The Mother and Her Child advised parents they should be careful to “handle the baby as little as possible.  Turn it occasionally from side to side, feed it, change it, keep it warm and let it alone; crying is absolutely essential to the development of good strong lungs.”

Toddlers can throw their fair share of tantrums, especially when you don't yield to their will. But by age 3, it turns out, the little rug rats actually have a burgeoning sense of fairness and are inclined to right a wrong.

When they see someone being mistreated, children as young as 3 years old will intervene on behalf of others nearly as often as for themselves, a study published this month in Current Biology suggests. Just don't ask them to punish the perpetrator.

We all know that listening to music can soothe emotional pain, but Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys can also ease physical pain, according to a study of children and teenagers who had major surgery.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Morgan is a typical teenager in many respects.  He has a passion for sports, a wicked sense of humor, and the usual teenage angst when it comes to matters of dealing with girls.

But in one regard he’s different from many teens.  Morgan’s mom, formerly a high-energy mover like her son, has spent the last year crippled by pain.  Her time has been spent in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and lying on the couch trying to cope with the unrelenting discomfort she faces.

Teenagers aren't exactly known for their responsible decision making.

But some young people are especially prone to making rash, risky decisions about sex, drugs and alcohol. Individual differences in the brain's working memory — which allows people to draw on and use information to make decisions — could help explain why some adolescents are especially impulsive when it comes to sex, according to a study published Wednesday in Child Development.

Coinsurance? Premium tax credit? HMO and PPO?

Swimming through the health insurance word soup can be frustrating for anyone. Even though I cover health, I couldn't define "cost-sharing reduction plan" until I Googled it just now.

Hollywood's version of science often asks us to believe that dinosaurs can be cloned from ancient DNA (they can't), or that the next ice age could develop in just a few days (it couldn't).

But Pixar's film Inside Out is an animated fantasy that remains remarkably true to what scientists have learned about the mind, emotion and memory.

Babies tend to wear their hearts on their tiny little sleeves. They cry because you took away that thing they picked up off the floor and then put in their mouths. They cry because they're tired. Sometimes, they cry just because.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

A plaque on my desk reminds me of one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my work:  “What people need is a good listening to.”  While there’s often lots of talk in families, there is sometimes a mismatch as we fail to really “hear” what’s being said.  Most families I know could sharpen their communication skills by learning to do a little OPERA listening.

No, I’m not referring to listening to Carmen or The Marriage of Figaro, although there are certainly merits to that activity.

Most American children and teenagers aren't drinking enough fluids, and that's leaving them mildly dehydrated, according to a new study. In fact, one-quarter of a broad cross-section of children ages 6 to 19 apparently don't drink any water as part of their fluid intake.

The Harvard scientists who turned up the finding were initially looking into the consumption of sugary drinks in schools and looking for ways to steer children toward water instead — a much healthier beverage.

A little more than 10 years ago, Texas banned soda machines and deep fryers in public school cafeterias.

Now the state's current agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller, wants to do away with that ban. He believes these kinds of restrictions should be in the hands of local school boards — not state regulators. But some students are among those who aren't happy about this idea.

Lots of factors may affect a child's odds of ending up with autism. Researchers around the world have been striving to fully understand how biology, genetics and environment play roles.

A huge study that includes data from more than 5.7 million children in five countries might shed some light on how autism develops — but it also raises new questions.

Researchers looked at autism rates among children born between 1985 and 2004 in Denmark, Israel, Norway, Sweden and Australia.

Claudia Quigg headshot
mattpenning.com / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Garrison Keillor closes his “Prairie Home Companion” broadcasts by signing off from Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

This tendency of parents to celebrate the positive is admirable, but it doesn’t tell the whole story of a family’s experience.  Because for every child—no matter how lovely—the day will come when he disappoints his parents.

An outbreak of a deadly virus in South Korea has set off alarms across the region.

In the past week, South Korea's confirmed cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome have more than tripled to 41, with at least three deaths. About 1,600 people are quarantined and more than 1,000 schools are closed.

It's the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia. And researchers around the world have been trying to figure out why the outbreak in South Korea has gotten so large, so fast.

Now researchers have a clue: a superspreader event.

A new survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that sexual violence against children is a global problem.

Seven countries were surveyed from 2007 to 2013. The first was Swaziland, which wanted to assess and address the problem. The rate of sexual violence against girls was 36.7 percent. Additional countries asked to be surveyed as well. Young people from the age of 13 to 24 were interviewed, with a range of 1,000 to 2,000 for each gender.

Parents probably don't put "check for tanning bed" when moving a child into off-campus housing. But many apartment buildings that cater to students provide free indoor tanning, a study finds.

"When my daughter went off to college, she looked at 10 apartments near her campus," said Dayna Diven, a dermatologist at the University of Texas' Dell Medical School. "All 10 of them offered residents free indoor tanning; I was shocked."

So what does it mean to be hungry?

That's a question that occurred to us as we read some encouraging news: The world isn't as hungry as it used to be.

A U.N. report has noted that 795 million people were hungry in the year 2014. That's a mind-boggling number. But in fact it's 200 million lower than the estimated 1 billion hungry people in 1990.

The improvement is especially impressive because the world population has gone up by around 2 billion since the '90s.

As more and more parents choose to skip vaccinations for their children, public health professionals and researchers have been looking at new ways to ease the concerns of parents who are hesitant.

But that turns out to be tough to do. Studies have found that simply educating parents about the safety and efficacy of vaccines doesn't increase the likelihood that they will get children vaccinated.

For almost a decade I worked as a nurse home visitor in Philadelphia with a well-regarded program that pairs nurses with first-time moms. In the morning I would put on my backpack full of child-development accoutrements, grab my baby scale and jump on the 23 bus.

In the Center City/downtown area where I lived, life expectancy was 78 to 80 years. When I got off the 23 bus less than 15 minutes later in lower North Philadelphia, it was less than 70 years.

It's a "year of fear" for children.

That's how Gordon Brown put it in a speech this month. He's the former British Prime Minister who is now the U.N. special envoy for global education. And he's worried about kids.

"This is not the year of the child but the year of fear," he said, "with 2015 already the worst year since 1945 for children being displaced, the worst year for children becoming refugees, the worst year for children seeing their schools attacked."

There's a dare that floats out on hot days by the pool: Who can hold their breath the longest? In shallow water, the challenge sounds fun or at least harmless. Competitive swimmers and divers crouch under the surface all the time to build endurance. But the practice can cause swimmers to faint and drown without warning and before anyone notices.

Pages