Monthly Archives: September 2013

Being bullied: One family’s story

Kelly was bullied every day. First on the school bus. Then in her classroom. She was called “every name in the book.”

It went on for months, and her parents never knew.

Then, one day the bullying turned physically violent. Kelly was sitting quietly at her desk, her mom Lynn Miland described, when a student began repeatedly hitting her in the head. A teacher had to remove the student.

“I felt helpless to protect my daughter,” Miland said.

While Kelly had been bullied previously for months and months, it escalated when she moved to high school, Miland said. Transitioning from one school to another is a common time for kids to be bullied. And Kelly, on the autism spectrum, was an easy target.

“It can be hard to be different in any way especially during the early teen years,” said Dr. Michael Troy, Medical Director of Behavioral Health Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

While anyone can be bullied, targets of bullying have some common traits, including being different in behavior. Children who act differently due to developmental problems, psychological conditions, behavior disorders or aggressive medical treatment can be targets.

During early adolescence, anything that makes a child different from most of his or her peers is potentially problematic, even positive differences like being tall or smart, or having a musical talent, Troy said.

But, it’s especially hard for children with physical or mental differences who can’t modify them, he said.

As an adolescent, learning to negotiate the social world is a key developmental task. Something like autism spectrum disorder can make social communication difficult, Troy said. Consequently, since this is a time when the demand is greatest to learn and use social skills, it can also be a time that kids on this spectrum can be especially vulnerable to bullying.

Additionally, other kids who may be feeling insecure about their own social status, may resort to teasing or bullying peers they see as more vulnerable in an attempt to protect their own fragile self-esteem, Troy said.

When Kelly was initially bullied, her teacher told her to ignore it, Miland said. Kelly took this suggestion quite literally and didn’t say anything to anyone, even as the bullying continued to escalate.

“Never should a student who is being bullied be left to resolve a bullying situation. It’s really about an imbalance of power. If the adults don’t step in, it can really escalate,” Miland said.

After the incident and talking with school authorities, she reassured her daughter she wouldn’t be bullied again. But, when Kelly’s bus arrived near their home, it carried the same student who had been bullying Kelly for months.

That was a red flag, Miland said.

Miland turned to the PACER Center for help. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit had recently launched its National Bullying Prevention Center (PACER.org/bullying), which offers a variety of web-based resources for parents, students, and educators to deal with bullying situations.

“I was very grateful for the help I received because at that point, I didn’t know want to do,” she said of PACER, which she later joined as a parent advocate.

She then requested a meeting with school leaders to determine ways to keep her daughter safe.

“Fortunately, the school responded in a very positive way,” she said.

School leaders and Miland made sure Kelly wasn’t alone and established positive relationships with peers and school staff she could go to and trust if she felt unsafe. They also looked out for her.

To help Kelly adjust to returning to school, Miland gave her a note card with something positive written on it every day. The card also included names of people she could talk to in times of need.

Years have passed since the incident, but Kelly still remembers what she wore the day it happened.

When there’s an upsetting and unhappy memory, the more a child’s life is filled with rewarding social experiences, the less central the painful memory becomes by comparison, Troy said. 

“It’s something that’s etched in her mind always,” Miland said. “It’s something she won’t forget, but it’s something she has overcome.”

Miland’s advice for other parents:

  • If you notice a change in behavior, talk to your child. Kelly stopped wanting to go to school and wouldn’t say why she became isolated. That was a red flag.
  • Talk to your child about what bullying is and, if it’s happening to them, give them strategies so they can talk to parents, teachers and other adults.
  • Parents should report bullying to the proper authorities and put it in writing so there’s an investigation and follow-up. The report should include the name of the bully, when and where the incident occurred and any bystanders who may have been present. If cyber bullying occurred, include the information in the report.
  • Work with the proper authorities so there’s a plan for the child to feel safe. 

Check out Children’s newly released report on bullying, which includes a guide for parents. For more tips on bullying prevention, visit PACER.org/bullying.

Recipe: GiGi’s chopped salad with green goddess dressing

This is my interpretation of a salad I grew up eating in New York City, a staple at our old-school neighborhood steak house. The veggie-heavy dish gets plenty of protein from the shrimp and hard-boiled eggs, vitamin C and fiber from the fresh green beans and peas, while celery packs in a ton of Vitamin A and potassium, and tomatoes add powerful antioxidants. Topped off with a creamy, herb-filled dressing and you have one of my favorite salads. — Andrew Zimmern

By Madeleine Hill

Ingredient list

  • 1 pound 16-20 count ocean-caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 Belgian endive
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 3/4 pound haricot vert or green beans
  • 1 small to medium head romaine lettuce
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Green goddess dressing

  • 1 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed tarragon leaves
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Servings: 4 to 6 as an entrée salad

Make the green goddess dressing

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except the mayonnaise, salt and pepper; pulse until very finely chopped. Add the mayonnaise and puree until nearly smooth and pale green. Scrape the dressing into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until the flavors meld and the dressing is well chilled, at least 1 hour.

Prepare the salad

First, blanch the green beans. Fill a sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Add green beans or haricot verts, cooking for about 5 minutes. Drain, rinsing green beans with ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. Reserve to the fridge to keep cool.

In a smaller sauce pan, add the peas and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes. Strain and reserve to the refrigerator to cool.

Next, cook the shrimp. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes. Allow to cool. Slice lengthwise and reserve in the fridge until ready to serve the salad.

Dice the pepper, celery, onion and endive. Reserve.

Cut the beans into 1-inch lengths. Slice the eggs. Halve the tomatoes.

Mince the herbs for garnish.

To serve

For a nice presentation, place chopped lettuce and endive on a large platter. Add one ingredient at a time, making bold stripes of color and texture with each topping. Drizzle some dressing on top, passing the rest at the table. For easier serving, place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and ground black pepper, toss with dressing to coat, and serve immediately.

Having a voice at Children’s

Eleanor Christiansen and her husband Tyler got an unexpected crash course in hospital life. 

Their usually healthy daughter, Greta, had few reasons to go to the doctor. Then, in January 2010, she developed croup and landed in the Emergency Department on the Minneapolis campus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Croup became secondary pneumonia. The ventilator became ECMO, which acts as a replacement for a child’s heart and lungs. An emergency visit became a nearly month-long stay in the hospital, with two-and-a-half weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

“Had she been somewhere else in the state, somewhere else in the country, there was a really good chance we would have lost our child,” Christiansen said. “We have this well of gratitude that we’ll always be able to tap and will probably never run out.”

Christiansen is about to begin her third year on the Family Advisory Council – showing her gratitude in a big way. The council comprises families whose children are past or current patients at Children’s. The group meets once a month for two hours for 10 months of the year.

Its members draw from their own experiences to make those for other families even better. The council recently created a resource guide for families. They’re currently working on a project to help families, especially with those who have special needs and may have equipment, access the hospital more easily.

“We provide a voice that nobody at the hospital can provide and be a real powerhouse of change,” Christiansen said.

Every member’s experience – the good and the bad – is important to the council, Christiansen said. And every story is important, too.

Stories like those of Michelle and Chris Jackman. Their daughter Samantha was born at 24 weeks gestation weighing a little over 1 pound and spent 128 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

She quit her job to stay home and care for Samantha and during that time joined the NICU experience team in St. Paul. When she transitioned off the team, she joined the council.

“I wanted my experience and my knowledge to have some meaning and to have value,” Jackman said. “One of the things I’ve just loved about Children’s is that they’ve allowed me to find that value in that experience I had.”

Not every experience during their four-month stay at Children’s was a good one, Jackman said. But for every negative experience, there was a positive one, she said.

“I realize how fortunate I am on a million different levels. How fortunate I am in my personal experience. How fortunate I am to have a place like Children’s to bring my child,” Jackman said. 

Today, not only does she feel like she gets to help Children’s, she is grateful for the opportunity to share her story with others.

“Personally I wouldn’t be involved with the Family Advisory Council if I didn’t believe Children’s values the opinions and the work we do,” Jackman said. “I’m here because I know that they really value what we say and what we do, and we do have an impact.”

Interested in making an impact at Children’s, too? Please contact Tessa Billman, patient-family centered care coordinator, at 612-813-7407 today.