Category Archives: Featured

4 ways to monitor your kids’ social media use

Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits. (iStock photo)

Maggie Sonnek

If Jennifer Soucheray had a Twitter handle, it probably would be something clever like @JentheMamaHen or @MrsSouchRocks. But this third-grade teacher and mom of three teens doesn’t have a Twitter account.

Or Instagram.

Or Snapchat.

But her three kids do. So, she and her husband, Paul, have had to find ways to monitor their social media use without being, “like, totes uncool.”

I asked Soucheray, along with a few others, to share a few of their tips and best practices when it comes to kids and social media. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Use social media to help your kids develop self-control habits

Whether it’s texting, tweeting or using Facebook, these parents tout the benefits of putting limits in place early. According to the Soucheray household, texting and Twitter are the most common ways their kids communicate digitally.

“We know their phones are lifelines to their friends,” Soucheray said. “They need these tools otherwise they’ll be ostracized. But as parents you have to develop parameters for what’s acceptable use.”

One way these parents have put boundaries in place? All devices are turned in to Mom and Dad before bedtime.

2. Validate kids every day, offline

Soucheray, who taught middle school for 12 years, says it’s extremely important to validate your kids every day. She said that’s one reason why Facebook and other social media tools are so popular — because we’re all looking to be validated. (Author’s note: Not going to lie; there have been times that I’ve fallen into this trap and checked in on a status update or picture I posted to see how many “likes” it has received. And when the number is higher or the comments are positive, for some reason, I feel a little better.)

“If a kid doesn’t hear she’s pretty or smart by someone who cares about her, she’s going to look for that somewhere else,” Soucheray said.

Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child-teen-development specialist and body-image expert, agrees.

“Teens are defining themselves during adolescence,” she wrote on her blog. “They are figuring out where they fit into their social world and hoping that others look at them favorably.”

Soucheray and Silverman say it’s important to talk about your kids’ true gifts.

“Make sure your children understand that their strengths — such as their kind heart, conscious nature or musical ability — are recognized,” Silverman said, “and really make a difference.”

subscribe_blog3. Use the tools for good

One thing that surprised me as I chatted with parents and teachers is: Kids are using social media more than just a platform to post “selfies.” They’re also using it as a homework-helper.

Dan Willaert, a geometry and AP statistics teacher and Cretin-Derham Hall wrestling coach, tweets out reminders and practice problems to his followers on a regular basis.

“I’ll write out a problem, snap a picture and then tweet it,” Willaert said. He has a Twitter account for wrestling, too, and often sends updates about tournaments, schedule changes and snow days.

4. Be present

Soucheray admits she doesn’t have the right answer or the perfect balance for monitoring tweets and texts, but her one piece of advice is something all parents can take with them. And that’s simply to be present.

“Dig in and be there with them… be in the moment,” she said.

Maybe someday @JentheMamaHen will tweet out that advice to her followers. But for now, she has papers to grade and dinner to make. Her Twitter days will have to wait.

Maggie Sonnek is a writer, blogger, lover-of-outdoors and mama to two young kiddos. When she’s not kissing boo-boos or cutting up someone’s food, she likes to beat her husband at Scrabble.

Road to concussion recovery longer for one twin

Twin sisters Michelle and Adrianna (Photo courtesy of Karen Schlossmacher-Smith)

Twin sisters Adrianna (left) and Michelle suffered concussions 24 hours apart. Since then, Adrianna has suffered two more concussions. (Photo courtesy of Karen Schlossmacher-Smith)

In March 2013, we wrote about twin sisters Adrianna and Michelle, who suffered concussions 24 hours apart. Since that blog post appeared, Adrianna suffered second and third concussions. The girls’ mother, Karen Schlossmacher-Smith, RN, a nurse at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, writes about Adrianna’s experience coping with traumatic brain injuries.

Karen Schlossmacher-Smith, RN

My daughter, Adrianna, suffered her first concussion after hitting her head on the court during a basketball game in January 2012. Two subsequent concussions led to the start of a long road of recovery, one she still is navigating with the help of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and its concussion clinic.

At the time of her first concussion, before Children’s had a concussion clinic, Adrianna received a CT scan elsewhere that revealed no bleeding. She performed frequent computer baseline testing until she was cleared about six weeks later.

In January 2013, Adrianna’s head was stepped on during basketball. She experienced blurry vision and was seen by the Children’s Concussion Clinic, where she saw a physical therapist who evaluated gait, endurance and some visual/balance issues. Headaches were minimal. Once again, she was cleared to resume normal activities six weeks later after passing computer, visual and balance testing.

Adrianna’s twin sister, Michelle, followed with a concussion of her own 24 hours after Adrianna’s second had occurred. This, too, was from basketball. Michelle was seen in the ER with extreme light and noise sensitivity and slight headaches. Noise sensitivity plagued her for several weeks and altered her activities and interactions with friends. She was cleared after the same physical therapy, visual/balance and computer testing. But Michelle stopped playing basketball to avoid any further concussions from the sport and is focusing on diving, where this year she placed fifth at the state meet.

On June 25, 2014, Adrianna, who also dives and was attending a camp, smacked the water with her left-front forehead and saw stars. She rested briefly and was told to try again. She did and hit the front of her head again on the water and saw stars but performed the next day. Upon a discussion with the coach about the incident, we noted her right eye was dilated. Fifteen minutes later in the car, she appeared to be fine, with no complaint of headaches.

Shortly after the diving incident, Adrianna was hit on the left side of her face with a ball while playing lacrosse. What followed were occasional days of not feeling well but no obvious eye dilation.

In mid-July, our family took a trip to Colorado and Wyoming. Adrianna became sick immediately after activities and exercise. She was ghostly white, dizzy, nauseated, vomiting, and had extreme headaches, right-pupil dilation and couldn’t stand. She was taken to the ER, where a CT scan was done due to previous injuries. A concussion and altitude issues were examined as the severity of symptoms came on quickly. She slept for most of the next two days.

Adrianna went on to suffer from severe headaches, visual impairment, a dilated right eye, dizziness, and an abnormal gait. She entered Children’s Concussion Clinic again under Mary Koolmo, APRN, and Ann Hickson, MD, an ophthalmologist who specializes in concussions and visual impairment associations. Headaches remained severe, 24/7. She always awoke with a baseline headache of about 4, and then within an hour would be at a scale of 8-10, depending on activity. Basic medications for pain had no effect.

She began working with Katie Gehrz in occupational therapy for visual disabilities and Jenny Henrickson in physical therapy for balance and overall vestibular issues. Henrickson was astute to the drops in blood pressure, dizziness and rapid increased headaches and made a request for Adrianna to see a cardiologist.

She started taking amitriptyline, a black-box drug that was used formally for depression, seizures and headaches. An electrocardiogram (EKG) was done for baseline. She passed out within 24 hours of taking the pill. The pill was slowly advanced as the medical team didn’t think it caused this blood-pressure drop with one dose but Adrianna passed out a second time. She saw Rodrigo Rios, MD, a cardiologist for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) due to rapid heart rate and passing out. Dr. Rios’ plan was to have Adrianna drink a lot of water — 80-100 ounces is the range we have heard from many in the field — increase salt intake and get to the ground if she felt like she was going to pass out. Upon a third increase, Adrianna passed out again. A side effect of this medication is low blood pressure, and there was a thought that the medication probably exacerbated her POTS. The medication required a slow withdrawal period where she had no pain control due to side effects.

She continued her eye training through Dr. Hixon and to be supported by Gehrz in OT. Gehrz worked on eye exercises, visual perceptual, memory issues and tracking. She was aware of how Adrianna became fatigued with only 5-10 minutes of activities. Adrianna’s eyes would be lively upon arrival then she would look completely drained, turn pale, and headaches increased quickly. Many days, therapy would have to include frequent breaks to try and lower her headache threshold. Sometimes Adrianna would go home and rest for a few hours then return to school.

Starting high school increased the difficulty of dealing with Adrianna’s post-concussive symptoms. She didn’t want to be separated from her friends. School staff mentioned the possibility of home-schooling; it took a lot of time and energy for staff at Adrianna’s school to understand the impact of what she was facing versus that of about 40 other kids with concussions. True visual impairment meant she couldn’t read because she couldn’t see words due to the inability to wear her contact lenses or glasses.

Only a couple of Adrianna’s friends knew she had another concussion. Sometimes it seems like everyone who suffers a blow to the head today is diagnosed with a concussion. Some have no residual symptoms after two days, some have an occasional symptom, and then there are others who are severely compromised to the point that daily activities are altered immensely.

The concussion clinic has added a person on staff to work with school districts in regard to attendance issues, as it can vary in need among students. (Long-term concussion issues can lead to depression and anxiety due to medications and loss of what previously was normal. Adrianna chose to stay involved, paced activities and knew her own limits. Overall, this, as well as having a supportive sister, is what kept her positive.)

One evening, after a routine trip to the concussion clinic, Adrianna was feeling so sick with severe headaches, she was admitted for a short stay and received IV fluids and pain medication to try and counteract the headaches. A CT scan was done to assess any changes since her previous MRI. The fluids had no effect, and the medication relief was brief. Lab results offered up low ferritin and lower vitamin D levels. She was started on some medications to increase these levels with thoughts that increased levels might help with headaches.

Adrianna is in her eighth month since her most recent concussion. Some visual improvement has occurred over the past nine months. She had surgery at Christmastime to drain and clear a mass area near her left nasal-eyebrow region. The surgery performed by Frank Rimell, MD, had its risks, but through consultation with another ear, nose and throat doctor, Barbara Malone, MD, it was felt to be in Adrianna’s best interest to go in and remove the cyst-like matter in hopes of relieving some ongoing pain.

subscribe_blogThe challenges to date: She has had 30-plus weekly occupational and physical therapy visits, and speech therapy with Melanie Gylling, who assists with strategic methods for educational learning, memory and strategic problem solving and organizational skills in daily activities.

Adrianna continues to follow monthly with ophthalmology and neurology with eye testing for visual depth and tracking. The number of missed school days has been a stressor, but she has learned to advocate for herself. Her processing skills from simple to logistical have been hindered with the third concussion. Reading is done with size-20 font, and she has worked up to 10-15 minute intervals. Her school provides notes and tests with enlarged text, but sometimes the tests are read to her. Her books are on audio, and she records notes during class. Audio is somewhat difficult to revert back to for consecutive homework assignments that might later be added by a teacher.

A neurological assessment exam was done to identify areas of learning that Adrianna may need support in educationally now and in the future, as well as in problem-solving issues more strategically in her everyday life. Simple items and tasks that once were simple now have to be re-evaluated to solve. We’re in the process of obtaining/trialing Livescribe, a pen for note taking in class. Adrianna is able to recite back three to four items in a list when asked to recall. She has not been cleared to work on computers yet, though she gets time each day to use Snapchat to communicate with friends.

Adrianna’s visual field is somewhat clear at 8-12 inches from her face. She jumps back if anything comes within this spatial area. Since having surgery, her right eye no longer is dilated as it had been for six months. She went nearly seven months without exercise, other than walking, and since has been cleared for light aerobic exercise on the treadmill and light swim stokes without her heart rate rapidly increasing.

Since using propranolol for headaches at the suggestion of Dr. Rios, Adrianna hasn’t passed out and her headaches have subsided. The million-dollar questions are: Did the mass removal stop the headaches? Does propranolol mask the headaches? And if she comes off the medicine, will headaches return, or is it a combination that turned the tide?

Adrianna has remained positive throughout this ordeal. She passed her driver’s permit test on her 15th birthday, though, unlike her sister, she hasn’t been able to drive. Adrianna knows contact sports no longer will be a daily part of her life. She has helped manage Michelle to a state diving record. Adrianna plans to manage the boys’ basketball team and track and diving teams to stay involved in the sports that once filled her schedule. Her teachers have been supportive, and she has done well in school with no decreased loads, though with extreme effort and time.

Adrianna’s friends rallied for her during surgery, and she quickly has learned how life can change, to appreciate what you have and make the most of it. Live your life, don’t just exist!

Meet Sandy Bergeron, director of Volunteer Services

five_question_friday111We continue to celebrate National Volunteer Recognition Week by highlighting Sandy Bergeron, the director of Volunteer Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Sandy Bergeron has worked at Children's for 23 years.

Sandy Bergeron has worked at Children’s for 23 years.

What is your role and title?

My role is director of the Volunteer Services department. We connect volunteers to Children’s mission through rewarding, mutually beneficial and defined opportunities that positively impact the patients, families and staff, while offering supportive and rewarding experiences to volunteers.

How long have you worked at Children’s? 

I have worked at Children’s for 23 years.

What do you love most about your job?

Knowing volunteers really do make a difference at Children’s. Every day, volunteers donate their time and talents, sharing their busy lives, to help the patients and families journey at Children’s. We get to know so many people, with a different team of volunteers each day of the week, all bringing unique backgrounds and stories to their volunteer.

Nurses call regularly to let us know where help is needed, and volunteers rise to the call, willing to go where the need exists. It is humbling being surrounded by so many fabulous people, with such great passion for children, who come each day with a smile to do the best they can, and they do it free!

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

subscribe_blogOh, yes; it’s very vivid, and I tell it a lot! I was taking a new volunteer who was about 23 years old on a tour for his first shift. We got on the elevator, and a nurse was escorting a patient up to his room. The patient was about 12. His eyes lit up when he saw the red vest, he sat up in his wheelchair and said brightly, “Hey, can you come up to my room and play video games? Now?” And then gave his room number and wanted the volunteer to go with him right away. I knew right then and there that the volunteers were an integral part of the Children’s team. It stills makes me smile to this day thinking about that elevator encounter.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love the outdoors. I canoe, kayak, bike, garden, walk my dogs, travel and try my hand at arts and crafts.

“Children’s Pedcast”: Dr. Maurice Sholas on physiatry, rehab services

subscribe_blogDr. Maurice Sholas, senior medical director of rehab services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, discusses how rehabilitation is connected to every aspect of care at Children’s. Dr. Sholas shares his experiences of providing care in New Orleans and Atlanta and his vision for Children’s in its pursuit of helping kids get better from start to finish through personalized, innovative care and treatment.

“Children’s Pedcast” can be heard on iTunes, Podbean, Stitcher, YouTube and Vimeo.

Meet Katie

What Katie loves most about Children’s is the music therapy program.

What Katie loves most about Children’s is the music therapy program.

When exploring the impact of supporting a child’s tomorrow, we went straight to the source: our patients. We asked several to share how Children’s has played a role in their life today, and what they look forward to in their tomorrow. This is what we learned.

Q4_mighty_buttonName: Katie

Age: 5

Hometown: Eden Prairie

Katie was rushed from Abbott Northwestern Hospital to Children’s after she was born 15 weeks early. She only weighed a pound and had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for 99 days. According to her mom, she is now happy, healthy and doing wonderfully.

When Katie grows up, she wants to be a dancer. She loves to dance.

What Katie loves most about Children’s is the music therapy program. Her brother, a member of our Youth Advisory Council (YAC), even helped to design a music cart for the music therapists at Children’s.

Define safe boundaries for kids and play

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Dex Tuttle

Not long ago, I watched my toddler daughter, Quinnlyn, as she played with her favorite blocks. She picked one up, stacked it carefully on top of another, and repeated until she had a tower four or five blocks high. Without warning, she pummeled the tower while sounding her signature high-pitched battle cry, sending blocks flying in all directions. She immediately seemed to regret not having a tower and ran to pick up the blocks to start the process over.

Young children begin to understand their world by cause-and-effect experimentation. Psychologist Jean Piaget was one of the first to put this concept into organized thought.

This behavior is apparent with my daughter: “If I stick my hand in the dog’s water dish, my shirt gets wet. This pleases me and I must do this each morning, preferably after mommy helps me put on a clean shirt.”

Then, something occurred to me as I watched Quinnlyn build and destroy her tower; there is a trigger missing in her young mind that could change her behavior: She does not understand consequence, the indirect product of an effect.

I began to notice this in her other activities as well. At dinnertime, we give her a plastic fork and spoon so she can work on her motor skills. If she’s unhappy with how dinner is going, she throws her fork and spoon on the floor in a fit of toddler rage. She is then immediately puzzled by how she’ll continue her meal now that her utensils are so far away.

Subscribe to MightyAs frustrating as toddler tantrums can sometimes be for parents, I’d love to be in my daughter’s shoes. Who wouldn’t want the satisfaction of taking all those dirty dishes that have been in the sink for two days and chucking them against the wall? That decision, of course, would be dangerous and reckless and I have no desire to clean up such a mess. And, with no dishes in the house, I’d be forced to take a toddler to the store to shop for breakable things; not a winning combination.

There’s an important lesson here for safety-minded parents: Kids will explore their environment in whatever way they can. It’s like the feeling you get when you find a $20 bill in the pocket of a pair of pants you haven’t worn in months, or when you discover the newest tool, gadget or fashion. For toddlers (and us adults), it’s fun finding new things and learning new skills; it’s motivating and creates a feeling of accomplishment. However, the cognitive skills of a toddler haven’t developed beyond that cause-effect understanding.

This is why we need to consider the environment in which our young children play. I recommend giving them plenty of space and opportunity to experiment without worry of the consequence:

  • Make sure stairs are blocked off securely and unsafe climbing hazards are eliminated; encourage kids to explore the space you define.
  • Create a space to explore free of choking hazards, potential poisons and breakable or valuable items; leave plenty of new objects for children to discover, and change the objects out when the kids seem to grow tired of them.
  • Allow children to fail at certain tasks; be encouraging and positive without intervening as they try again.
  • If possible, discuss their actions and consequences with them to help them understand the reason for your rules.

Encouraging the learning and exploration process will increase your child’s confidence and creativity, and defining safe boundaries and rules will keep you both happy.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we care for more pediatric emergency and trauma patients than any other health care system in our region, seeing about 90,000 kids each year between our St. Paul and Minneapolis hospitals. Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis is the area’s only Level I pediatric trauma center in a hospital dedicated to only kids, which means we offer the highest level of care to critically injured kids. When it’s critical, so is your choice – Children’s Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, Minneapolis.

Dex Tuttle is the injury prevention program coordinator at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the father of a curious and mobile toddler. He has a Master of Education degree from Penn State University.

Five Question Friday: Terrance Davis

Five Question FridayIt’s Friday, and what better way to celebrate the end of the week than with a Five Question Friday profile? Meet Terrance Davis, who works on our Environmental Services team within the Minneapolis Surgery department.

Terrance Davis has worked at Children's for 25 years.

Terrance Davis has worked at Children’s for 25 years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked here for 25 years.

Describe your role.

I clean surgery rooms between cases and stock supplies.

Do you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

I have a few favorites:

  • The surgery staff surprised me with a 50th birthday celebration.
  • Each annual craft show, which is so much fun
  • Gathering for the Environmental Services Week events

What do you think make kids great?

I have a couple answers for this one. First, they can smile at you and make your entire day better. Second, they have great energy, which can be contagious.

What is one interesting fact about you?

I was married in Las Vegas at the top of the Stratosphere tower with local TV personality “Fancy Ray” McCloney standing with me as my best man.

Five Question Friday: Kelly Patnode

Five Question Friday

Meet Kelly Patnode, patient access specialist at our St. Paul hospital, who has a love for the Minnesota State Fair.

When she isn't working in our St. Paul hospital, Kelly Patnode enjoys reading and helping out at the Minnesota State Fair.

When she isn’t working in our St. Paul hospital, Kelly Patnode enjoys reading and helping out at the Minnesota State Fair.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s in St. Paul for 36 years.

What drew you to Children’s?

I started in St. Paul when it was on “the hill” (across the highway from our current location) as a volunteer at the age of 13. I was a volunteer for four years. I went to school for medical office occupations, but there were no openings at that time. When I was talking to someone at Children’s, they said there was an opening for a health unit coordinator. I asked what that person did, and they explained that person works at the main desk on the floors. I asked if that was similar to a ward secretary, and they said yes. I said, “Well, I have done that job for four years, so I think I could do it!”

Subscribe to MightyWhat is a typical day like for you?

My typical day starts with making a coffee. It is just the right way to start of the day. I then clean and restart all the computers, restock supplies and then either sit at the emergency room desk and start answering the phone, make calls for the providers, put together a chart or break down a chart or start with registering patients who come to be seen in the ER.

What do you love most about your job?

Every day is a different day. What I did yesterday at my job may be totally different than the day before or today. If I can get a smile out of a patient and their parents, it just makes the day better.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Usually I read books. But during the summertime I am busy because I also work at the Minnesota State Fair, selling box-office tickets for grandstand shows and pre-fair tickets. I have been working there for 38 years. So when I am not working at the hospital, I am at the fair. I am actually taking vacation from the hospital to work full time at the fair this year.

Children’s, Twin Cities Moms Blog host #MNvaxchat

Subscribe to MightyAugust is National Immunization Awareness Month, and Minnesota’s new immunization requirements take effect Sept. 1. With that and back-to-school mode under way, we’ll be co-hosting a Twitter chat with our friends at Twin Cities Moms Blog.

Join us for the live chat, using #MNvaxchat from 8-9 p.m. Monday, that will feature Patsy Stinchfield, PNP, director of Infection Prevention and Control and the Children’s Immunization Project at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Children’s and Twin Cities Moms Blog will be there, too. Participants who use #MNvaxchat in tweets during the live chat qualify for a chance to win a $50 Target gift card.

ALSO: Read the Children’s vaccinations blog archive on Mighty.

UPDATE: Participation strong, informative on #MNvaxchat

Red-Vested Rockstar: Lisa Zutz

Lisa Zutz is a volunteer at Children's.

Lisa Zutz is a volunteer at Children’s.

Lisa Zutz is an aspiring pediatric RN who currently works as a phlebotomist. She has volunteered on the inpatient units, in the sibling play area and, most recently, piloted a volunteer role in the lab, which has proved highly successful. What keeps Lisa coming back week after week? The positivity and bravery of our patients.

1. Why she rocks?

I got into volunteering because of its benefits; I believe that unpaid volunteers are kind of the “glue” that holds a community or even a hospital together. Volunteering makes me happy, and knowing that I am able to put a smile on a child’s face really makes my day. Volunteering at Children’s Hospital has brought so much fun and fulfillment to my life. I want to work as a nurse with children, and I feel that the skills I gain from volunteering will make me that much better of a nurse and a person.

2. What’s your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering?

Outside of volunteering, I keep pretty busy. I am very active and love to work out; whether it’s yoga, spin, or even a nice long run. Also, I spend a lot of time with my family.

3. Do you have any kids or pets of your own?

I do not have any kids, but once a week I babysit my two nieces, Chloe and Kinzi, ages 2 and 5. We have a blast together! I spend more time with my nieces than my actual friends. We enjoy going to the Maple Grove indoor maze, making cupcakes, playing outside and making projects. We definitely keep busy all day long. I also have a kitty. His name is Luigi, and I love him with all my heart. He is a beautiful mix: half-Siamese, half-Himalayan and loves to play and run around my condo.

Subscribe to Mighty4. If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it?

I am not a lover of chocolate, but for everyone who is, I would make an ice cream bar loaded with caramel, pecans, rich chocolate and, of course, ice cream. I would call it “Caramel Delight,” and it would melt in your mouth!

5. Share a favorite volunteer experience or story.

I am not sure if I can choose a favorite; I believe every experience I have had at Children’s has made me into a better person. Each child is so different and unique that every experience has its own one-of-a-kind story. It is amazing to see how brave these kids truly are; they battle so hard and are so positive despite being sick. Life is so fragile, and when you see such young children sick, you realize how life should not be taken for granted. Volunteering is so rewarding!