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Buzzy – Because Kids Need Shots That Don’t Hurt

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:42 am

Buzzy eases the painAs a pediatrician, I strongly support vaccination. I never thought shots were a big deal; parents and staff even chuckle sometimes when a kid is freaking out about shots. You know, ‘deal with it’. I have taken care of children who died from vaccine-preventable diseases, and I used to think that any delay in shots endangers all society. Then I had my own kids, and witnessed firsthand that while vaccines don’t hurt children, shots do. Like most of the 22% of adults who fear needles, my son Max developed a phobia after a horrible shot experience at age 4. This fear affected him every time he had to go to the doctor. I gradually realized that if I didn’t act he could go through adulthood avoiding medical care.

It makes sense that being held down and subjected to more than five shots at a time could have a lifelong impact on complying with health care. When I tried to use numbing creams, one nurse said “that stuff doesn’t work, they need to get used to it”, and gave the shot outside the numb zone! I got mad at the system and myself.  If I couldn’t protect my child and I’m part of the system, what parent could? I wanted to come up with something that worked instantly that parents and patients with established needle fear could bring and use even if the healthcare system wasn’t interested.

I knew that the body could stop pain naturally using something called “gate theory”. If you bang your knee and rub it the pain stops, if you smash your finger and shake it, it helps the pain, or if you burn your finger and stick it under cold running water it quits hurting. I thought of cuffs of cold water, all sorts of messy stuff. Driving home from the hospital one day it occurred to me that vibration would block pain, but it wasn’t until my husband suggested frozen peas UNDER the vibration that it really made my kids’ hands numb to sharp pokes. And Buzzy was conceived.

Buzzy® uses natural pain relief by confusing your body’s own nerves and distracting attention away from the poke, thereby dulling or eliminating sharp pain. Over the past 5 years my children helped test, build, and prototype Buzzy until we had a device that worked. They smashed cell phones, helped me use electric tape and elastic bands, and have served as my first and best advisors. We started with a hand held massager and frozen peas, and finally got to a cute bee with frozen wings.

From a scientific standpoint, I didn’t want to put it out there unless I knew it worked for other people as well as my kids. The Mayday Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to the reduction of pain and suffering, sponsored Georgia State to do a research study in adult volunteers getting IVs inserted.  Buzzy significantly decreased pain, and was more effective the more anxiety people already had. A trial in children needing IV starts in the emergency department also showed significantly decreased pain by child and parent report, and even increased IV success threefold. On the basis of this, we got a $1M grant from the National Institutes of Health to study whether Buzzy reduces the pain of immunizations, and hopefully can avoid the development of needle phobia.

How important is this?? Although needle pain from a shot may not seem like a big deal, needle sticks are the most common and most feared cause of medical pain in the world. Blood donation, preventative health care, and diagnosing serious illnesses like cancer are all impacted by fearing doctors and needles. Conversely, awareness and use of available pain control methods for children can result in years of improved health.  Buzzy® is now being used for dentistry, travel immunizations, fertility shots, and finger pricks, splinter removal, and flu injections!

We’ve heard from parents who had considered stopping more effective injected or IV treatments due to needle fear who are now able to give their kids the best treatment due to Buzzy. We’ve even heard from kids… stories and letters that remind us that Needle Pain Matters…and because of that, so does Buzzy.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Before a shot:

My area of research is pain control, so I hear a lot of stories about drama at the doctor’s. For young children, pain is punishment and scary, so addressing fear is an important first step to making shots less of a big deal. Children are less fearful when they know what’s happening and feel in control. Sadly, there are no global answers, but there are some general tricks of the trade you can try.

  • When asked “am I going to get a shot?” focus on the benefit. “Yes, they have medicine that keeps you healthy.”
  • NEVER promise they won’t get a shot unless you intend to follow through and come back another time if they’re due for one
  • NEVER threaten with a shot if children don’t behave (establishing a needle as punishment or you as untrustworthy will guarantee a bad experience).
  • If the child’s question is, “Is it going to hurt?”, avoid using the words pain or hurt. Instead, use the word “bother”, and answer this way: “Actually, a lot of kids aren’t that bothered by shots. Before you get them, I’ll show you how we will make getting them not a big deal.”
  • If they’ve had a bad experience in the past, say “I found out about some new cool things we can do to make them much more comfortable.”

And now – the shot:

  • First, relieving kids’ distress begins with you. The best combination is warm but firm. No apologizing, empathizing, or letting them “just go to the bathroom real quick.” Instead, use praise, “I know you can do this”, and direct them to pay attention to non-shot related things before they get anxious. “Oh, look, SpongeBob.”
  • Second, the person giving the shots. These are research-proven things that make shots hurt less:
    • Give the least painful shot first
    • Give the shots sitting up in the arm after age 18 months
    • Use a slower push
    • Use a longer needle
    • Use “position of comfort”: facing you on your lap, or with your arm around the child if they are older and receiving shots sitting up. Being held flat is the most vulnerable positing you can be in; much better if 4-6 year olds can straddle your lap facing you and get shots while you hug them.
  • Third, to help overcome established needle-phobia:
    • There are creams (over the counter LMX-4, Ferndale Labs) which can be applied 20 minutes in advance, or prescription EMLA (Astra-Zeneca) which needs at least an hour. Be sure they’re placed correctly, and know that they only numb the surface. Never promise complete pain relief. Instead, try “these will help a LOT!”
    • Studies show that appropriate distraction decreases distress. While the nurse is getting the injections, let a child choose from multiple visual games or tasks to focus elsewhere during the shot. “Do you want me to read to you, or give you things to find?” Be prepared to pick if they’re indecisive. “You know what I think would be good? Let’s do this…”  Bee-Stractors Emergency Entertainment cards can be kept in a purse or glove compartment for situations when you forget to plan ahead.
    • Tasks that include a sensation also help focus attention away from the poke: for example, tell your child to count zigzags as you scratch the edge of a fingernail on their arm. Tell the child to yell “now!” when a fingernail gets to the elbow or wrist. For multiple shots or a seriously anxious child, bring an ice pack or vibrating toy to touch other body parts and have the child name the body part touched by ice. “Knee! Leg! Nose!” Even better, touch them with an ice pop and 5 right answers wins the pop!
    • And speaking of ice packs, studies have shown that putting an ice cube on the site before a shot can decrease the pain. Adding an element of vibration during the poke can help as well, like when a dentist wiggles your lip during Novocaine. This is the breakthrough of Buzzy, but you can achieve the same results with any vibration/solid ice pack combination. For best results, let the child feel the sensations beforehand by scratching the arm under the ice pack/vibration source. “See how cold this is, and see how now you can’t feel so much any more?” Seeing for themselves and agreeing with you helps the child feel in control.

Whatever happens, praise how they did!

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Editor’s Note:  Flu season is upon us – and The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts that this winter will be another arctic blast with above-normal snowfall throughout much of the nation. So what comes to mind? ..stock up on chicken soup …and warm blankets …and get your flu shot.  And that made us think of Dr. Amy Baxter and her amazing invention: Buzzy.  Because even though we first ran this post in 2011, what she has to say is as true today as it was then.  Shots hurt…and they shouldn’t…and with Buzzy, they don’t have to.  Enjoy! 

The Kurbo Program: Healthy Weight Mgmt for Kids and Teens

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:42 am

Kurbo logoThe growth of childhood obesity in the United States is staggering.  We have now reached a point where 1 out of 3 kids are overweight or obese.

My name is Joanna Strober and my son was one of those kids struggling with weight. As a mother, concerned about my child’s health and well being, I set out on a mission to find help. I was searching for a tool, something that could easily fit into my son’s life and effectively help him manage his weight. However, after multiple doctor visits and endless hours on the Internet, I found nothing beyond “eat less and exercise more.”

I knew of some weight loss apps for adults, but, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, they were all either unsafe or ineffective for children. Then I discovered the nationally recognized Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where I finally found the effective tools and practical guidance I was looking for. University based weight loss programs for kids are highly effective for local families – but what about children and families that do not live near a University based program? How can they receive help, guidance and support to control and manage their weight?

I wanted to find a way for the program’s proven weight management tools to reach more kids.  Recognizing this gap in the marketplace, I came up with a plan: to adapt Stanford’s program to a scalable, mobile platform for kids and teens. Thus, the idea for Kurbo was born.

To carry out my plan, I needed an expert in the field of pediatric weight control, so I teamed up with Thea Runyan. Thea is the Lead Behavior Coach for the Stanford program and for over 12 years, has successfully helped over 600 families manage weight and lead healthier lifestyles. With her experience and dedication to taming the childhood obesity epidemic, Thea connected to my vision and recognized its potential to positively change the lives of kids, teens and their families.

teens and their smart phoneWith the help of $5.8 million in venture capital funding, we launched Kurbo Health. Kurbo Health licensed the program from Stanford University’s acclaimed pediatric weight control program and incorporated the programs’ tools and principles into a fun, engaging mobile app and weekly live-coaching sessions. It’s the first safe, effective and accessible mobile weight management program for kids, teens and their families.

The Kurbo Program teaches kids how to change their eating and exercise habits in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight. It is not about dieting, calorie counting or deprivation. These imply short-term results, create a negative stigma and hyper-focus around food and only magnify the issue at hand. Instead, Kurbo is about gradually gaining control of your health by making healthy lifestyle choices. Kids start seeing real signs of success after 3 to 4 weeks of the Kurbo Program.

A critical component of the Kurbo Program is the free, easy-to-use mobile app. Kids use the app to track their food and exercise using a version of the research-based Traffic Light system. Here’s how the system works: green light foods include fruits and veggies, yellow light foods include grains, lean protein and low fat dairy and red light foods are high in unhealthy fats, sugars and high calorie density foods. Once kids start tracking their red, yellow and green light foods, they become aware of their eating habits and start making healthier choices.  The goal is to eat a well-balanced diet by increasing green light foods, moderating yellow light foods and minimizing red light foods over time. This is a safe way for kids to eat healthier and manage their weight. The app also includes videos and games that introduce concepts like food classification and portion size and provides instant feedback, reminders and rewards to keep users on track.  Kurbo also encourages challenges, like having a red-free day or trying a totally new green light food, that keep kids engaged and motivated to achieve their goals.

The Kurbo Program provides weekly supportive coaching sessions with a trained Kurbo coach. Planning for the weekThese sessions can either be via text or email. Each week, your child’s Kurbo coach evaluates their progress by reviewing food and exercise choices, making actionable suggestions and working with your child to set reasonable goals for the next week. Coaches also teach your child how to plan ahead and budget their number of red light foods for the week. Say, for example, your family is going to a birthday party on a Friday. Your child’s Kurbo coach will help him or her use the app to rebudget reds, adding more reds on Friday (and fewer on other days of the week) to make sure he can eat pizza and cake and still meet his red-light goal for the week!

Not only is the Kurbo Program fun and affordable, it works. Kurbo’s beta test results showed that 88% of kids (ages 8 to 18) who met with Kurbo coaches for 10 weeks reduced their BMI (body mass index), lost an average of 5-10 pounds, exercised more frequently and felt healthier, happier and more confident.

While Kurbo kids gain tools to lead healthier lives, Kurbo parents get to take a break from being the “food police.” Kurbo reduces the tension and conflict around food and exercise that many parents face with their children. Coaches become a source of support, motivation and accountability. However, parents are still encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s Kurbo journey. Parents can participate in coaching sessions, receive a weekly email newsletter and have access to parent-focused experts who can answer their specific questions and concerns. Kurbo invites the whole family to use the Kurbo app, because kids are more successful when their families are tracking along with them. In fact, many parents lose weight too.

I created Kurbo Health as a solution for families, kids and teens who are struggling to lose weight. What started as a mission to help my son, has become a mission to help millions of kids and teens live healthier, lose weight, adopt better eating habits and feel really good about themselves.

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HEALTHFUL HINTS

Here is a Healthy Family Checklist  to help manage your family’s healthy habits:

  • Do 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Incorporate exercise in a family routine like walking after dinner.
  • Limit TV, computer and video game time to 2 hours/per day
  • Eat dinner with your family at a regular time
  • Eat a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal (at least!)
  • Drink lots of water!
  • Limit Red light Foods like candy, chips, and crackers by buying less!
  • Switch to non-fat or 1% milk
  • Don’t drink your calories! Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sports drink and juice.
  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. Don’t skip meals!
  • Encourage your kids and teens to get least 8-9 hours of sleep a night

One feature about Kurbo that generates some concern is the weight tracker: kids are encouraged to weigh themselves once a week and record it in the Kurbo app. Thea Runyan, Kurbo co-founder, provides her advice for creating a healthy mindset around “stepping on the scale:”

  • Don’t make the scale scary, it’s just a tool: It is important that parents don’t transfer their fears about the scale to their kids. At Kurbo weight measurement is simply another tool to assess progress, just like food and exercise tracking.
  • Encourage kids and teens to weigh themselves NO MORE than once a week: Research shows that weighting yourself regularly (not obsessively) is very important for managing a healthy lifestyle.
  • Success is not measured in pounds: At Kurbo, a child’s success is not defined by weight loss but instead, by learning and maintaining healthy behaviors and making smart choices about food and exercise.

Little Red Hoodie – An Internet Safety Fairytale for Kids

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:43 am

Internet predators are a pressing concern for parents. Kids are becoming increasingly more tech-savvy, and forms of online communication are growing at an alarming rate. All too often we hear tales of horrific tragedies involving social networking sites, and know that many of these could have been prevented with parental monitoring and Little Red Hoodie Booke Coverdiscussions about internet safety.

Until recently, I thought that such monitoring and discussions were something that I did not need to worry about for quite some time since my child is still very young and I teach at an elementary school. My thinking drastically changed after overhearing a conversation among second grade girls at my school about an upcoming sleepover. When I think of young girls’ slumber parties, I picture snacks, games and movies, but instead, the girls were planning to log on to their sisters’ social networking sites. From this moment, I knew that I needed to take responsibility for educating this demographic about internet safety, and wanted to encourage others to do the same.

After this incident, I began researching young children and internet use and found some disturbing information. For example, in 2008 according to the Rochester Institute of Technology:

  • Approximately 48% of students from kindergarten to first grade interact with others on the internet.
  • Of these 48%, nearly half of the students had already been exposed to something online that made them feel uncomfortable.
  • To make matters worse, one in four of these children did not report his or her experience to an adult.

Given these findings, I was more convinced than ever that children are never too young to be introduced to the concept of being safe on the internet.

After exploring countless books, videos and the like, I found that there were many products, websites, and resources that helped educate parents and older children. However, I found no such internet safety resources and materials that were specifically geared toward introducing the subject to younger children. Then it hit me: there is a parallel between the Big Bad Wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood story and internet predators, and this would be a perfect way to introduce the concept to this age group. Pulling from this idea and what I have learned about quality children’s literature from my years of experience as a teacher, I wrote Little Red Hoodie. This children’s picture book is a modernized version of the classic tale in which the Big Bad Wolf plays the role of an internet predator posing as Granny online in an attempt to lure Little Red into his trap. I spent countless hours working to make the book child-friendly and humorous, so that the topic could be introduced in a nonthreatening way. My hope is that the book will initiate a critical conversation among families and perhaps even help prevent future tragedies.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

  • Educate yourself and your children about internet safety. Local police departments often offer various materials and programs to the community. There is also a wide variety of organizations and website that provide such resources including the following:
  • Be mindful of the growing number of ways that your child can utilize the internet to interact with others. For example, many video games now allow children to go online and interact with other users.
  • If you choose to use Little Red Hoodie as a tool for teaching your family about internet safety, here are some suggestions:
    • Read the book at least once for enjoyment before using it to get into a serious discussion.
    • After reading the book, help lead an open-ended discussion by asking questions such as the following: “How did the Wolf trick Little Red Hoodie?”, “Why do you think that the Wolf used the computer to try to trick Little Red Hoodie?”, “How do you think that the story would have been different if Little Red Hoodie would have asked her mother before leaving the apartment?”, “What do you think Little Red Hoodie should have done?”
    • Post “Little Red Hoodie’s Rules to SAFE Internet Use” near your computer (found on the last page of the book).

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Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in January of 2010. Unfortunately, despite numerous technological advances, the internet has not become a safer place for our kids to play.  There are wolves lurking under the covers and in the dark places, and it is up to us to keep our little ones safe from these predators – a job made far more difficult as our children’s internet skills far surpass our own.  According to a recent headline “children as young as THREE now know how to access the web – and are teaching their parents how to use tablets and phones“.  Now more than ever we need a way to introduce our kids to the big bad internet wolf. We need something like Little Red Hoodie.

S.A.F.E.R Child Seat Covers

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:44 am

To clean most child car seats covers requires complete removal of the car seat from the vehicle. As a result, there are two groups of parents, those who are constantly taking their child’s car seat out of the car for cleaning and those who never remove it from its secure position in the vehicle.

My husband (an award winning pediatrician) and I used to fall in the first camp. Then we came up with a solution. The S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover provides a washable cover that doesn’t require removal of the child seat from the car.

Here’s our story:

We spend a lot of time in our car. Whether it’s taking the kids to school, afternoon or weekend activities or the long drives to Womans arms holding car seat strapgrandma and grandpa’s house. All that driving often equals hungry and restless kids. The Cheerios® that used to pacify our kids at a younger age, soon turned into sticky apple slices, crumby granola bars, and drippy drinks. These snacks didn’t always make it into our kids’ mouths. More times than not, we’d find the leftovers in the child car seat. And after playground dates, our worn out kids mixed their dirty bottoms with this flavorful mess.

The only way to try and return their car seat to “like new condition” was to unfasten it from the vehicle, unhook the harness straps from the back of the seat, and then peel away the manufacturer’s car seat cover. Into the wash it went and if we were lucky, some of the stains disappeared. Then we’d reverse the process to put the seat back together. This process is not easy and takes plenty of time. When we’d go to put the child car seat back into our car, we could never quite get it right and would have to venture to our local Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for a trained technician to properly resecure it.

Sitting and talking with other parents, we knew we weren’t alone. Our frustrations were echoed amongst our friends. Some told us stories of leaky diapers and potty training accidents. Others, had kids who easily became carsick and frequently vomited. We’ve all experienced runny noses and drool that finds their way onto sleeves and nearby surfaces.

Searching the shelves at our local baby and toddler store, we found all sorts of mess-preventing items, like sippy cups, bibs, and high chair mats, but we couldn’t find something that would protect our child’s car seat cover from the inevitable every day dirt and grime accumulation. How could we create a better way to clean our children’s car seat covers while keeping them safe?

We turned our frustrations into action. Once we put our children to bed, we turned “together time” into “brainstorm time”. We carefully looked at both outgrown and current seats and we tried to figure out how to remove a car seat cover without having to disassemble the seat. We put our ideas on paper. We drew car seats and cut out the paper models. We did the same thing with scrap fabric. We even cut apart the manufacturers car seat cover to fully explore some options. Our late nights led to creation of specially designed release elements for a child car seat cover…5 years and many prototypes later, the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover was born!

The S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover – (Secure And Fast, Easily Removable) – allowed us to remove and wash an otherwise disgusting car seat cover without having to jeopardize the car seat’s secure position in our car. It took less than 1 minute to remove and put back the cover. Our kids could now sit in a clean seat and we could eliminate removing the entire seat from the car, and avoid additional trips to the DMV. And, since proper hygiene is the first line of defense in keeping your child well and safe from illness, we now had an easy way to ensure our car was as safe an environment as our home!

But there were other ways we wanted it to be “SAFER” too. During the manufacturing process, we made sure the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover underwent lab testing that included checking for absence of specific toxins and against flammability. The testing also included proper washability, ensuring that it will hold up to multiple washes in the washing machine. In the end, we came up with a cover that was <1/8 inch thick and slipped easily on top of an existing car seat cover.

Once we were comfortable with our solution we knew we wanted to market it so kids like yours could be S.A.F.E.R., too. We were granted two patents for our designs and received a “Gold Medal” at INPEX 2008- America’s largest invention trade show.. Most important of all we received numerous comments from parents like you that their child’s car seats were a mess and they hated cleaning them…the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover made all the difference.

HEALTHFUL HINTS:

Car Seat Safety

  • Always check that your child car seat is tightly secured in your vehicle by pushing and pulling it side to side. It should not move more than one inch in either direction. We encourage a child car seat to be installed at least initially by a certified child passenger safety technician. Locate one in your state here.
  • Shoulder harness straps for children in a forward facing car seat should always sit at or above the child’s shoulders. The S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover has 3 levels of slots, designed to line up with a manufacturer’s original design.
  • Harness straps should be pulled tightly against your child and the chest clip should be at armpit level. Do not wear winter coats in a child car seat.

Keeping your child seat cover clean:

  • When washing a child seat cover, wash it in a mesh bag on a gentle cycle to minimize damage (the S.A.F.E.R. Child Car Seat Cover can be washed in the mesh “wash me” bag in which it was originally packaged).
  • Since the cover needs to maintain its shape to function properly, hang it to dry overnight – do not put it in a dryer. This will reduce the possibility of shrinkage.

************************************************************************************************************************** Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in 2011.  Now that another summer of road trips and family outings has passed, and it’s time once again to clean out the car (and discover what really happened to that gooey treat that went missing), we thought it might be a perfect opportunity to introduce the S.A.F.E.R. Child Seat Covers to you again.  Enjoy!

Brecker Bunny Safety Books

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:11 am

You don’t leave the hospital with an instruction manual on how to protect your child…you learn only by doing. I would do anything to not have learned this lesson the way we did, but it is our reality. Laying on the hospital gurney, cradling my 21-month-old, I sang our favorite lullaby, “Gentle Breeze” through tears. I tried to wish away the moment, but his screams and cries of, “Mama hurts, mama hurts” kept Front cover of book showing bunny familyme firmly grounded in the heartbreaking reality…this was happening…and it was happening to my baby. All the wishing and singing could not ease his pain.

On April 6, after returning home from a walk, I received a frantic call from my husband. He was in the ER. Our son had been badly burned in the tub. Now, my initial thought, before I reached the hospital, was that it couldn’t be too bad. Like all concerned parents, upon moving into our newly constructed home, we made sure to have our son’s tub installed with a device to prevent him from turning the water on too hot. We also had asked to have our water temperature set appropriately. After seeing our son in the hospital, I knew something had gone horribly wrong.

In the time it normally takes for our son to go upstairs and get his blanket and then come back down, my husband heard screams. Rushing up the stairs with our one-week-old in his arms, my husband found our son sitting in our master bath whirlpool tub, crying frantically as the skin peeled away from his legs and feet. His diapers and overalls provided some insulation for the rest of his body, but his feet were horribly damaged. After three weeks in the hospital and skin grafts, our son was allowed to come back home. But care was not over. He had compression socks for over a year and another surgery as well. And the time it took for this to happen?

Less than 10 seconds…

After careful investigation, it was discovered that our water temperature was set above 135 degrees Fahrenheit, which can cause third degree burns for a child in 10 seconds. At 126, third degree burns can occur in under two minutes. Legally, all water heaters must be set by the manufacturer at 125 degrees Fahrenheit, however, it is best if temperatures are set at 110 when there are small children in the house.

Sitting in the hospital and feeling helpless and like a failure did nothing to help Breck or heal the emotional wounds my husband and I had, so we began the process of reaching out. What could we learn? What could we do to teach our child and ourselves about safety? We were disappointed by what we found. We decided to do something about it.

It became our family’s mission to find out the top reasons why toddlers get burned and create a book that was a bedtime story with a purpose. Brecker Bunny Learns to Be Careful was born. It is the loving collaboration between burn nurses and doctors at University of Madison Hospital and Clinics , Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety (WAFS) www.wafs.org and me, the mom. After meeting with experts from the Burn Center in January of 2005, much research, finding an illustrator, a partner (WAFS), funds, a printer, and learning the publishing ropes, the first printing of Brecker Bunny Learns to Be Careful! A Lesson in Fire and Burn Safety was handed out to survivors and supporters at the WAFS Camp for Burn Survivors in August of 2007.

To date we have delivered over 120,000 of this title alone. We printed it in Spanish and Brecker has a lighter safety book called Brecker Bunny Asks for Help too! Next on the agenda…the rest of the safety series: water safety, passenger safety, bicycle safety, even stranger danger. All books with real lessons, about real kids (now bunnies), made easy and fun to read at bedtime. I wish that my Breck never had to experience his burns, but seven years later, my eight year old has helped to keep many children a little safer…and he even has the thank you letters to prove it!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

1. Tips when reading a safety book:

  • Sit in close proximity with your child while reading. A snuggle goes a long way to help children’s brains chemically calm making them more receptive to what they are learning.
  • Choose one to three things to emphasize each time you read a safety book. To stop and point something out on every page is confusing and overwhelming.
  • Don’t be afraid to get up and move the book. Most kids and adults learn best by moving their lesson. If you are learning to stay three feet away from a fireplace…pace of three feet and practice.
  • Make children partners in safety, rather than merely the recipient of the lesson. Look for opportunities to ask them how they can make a room or situation safer.

2. Tips on Burn Safety in and around the home (based on the top 3 accidental reasons toddlers in my area end up in the Burn Centers):

  • Keep children 3 feet away from stoves, ovens and microwaves. There are so many children in burn clinics who have been scalded by caramel, coffee or hot water spilling as it comes out of the microwave. Usually these burns occur on little ones’ faces.
  • DO NOT TRUST YOUR HAND TO TAKE THE TEMPERATURE OF THE BATHTUB! Test your water temperature by holding a water thermometer or candy thermometer under the stream of water after it has had the opportunity to heat up. If it is over 120 degrees Fahrenheit, change your water heater immediately. Consider setting the temperature below 110 degrees Fahrenheit if you have very young children or elderly people in your home. Their skin is thinner and easier to burn. Also, it is more difficult for them to get out of tubs quickly to avoid a burn.
  • Candles and fireplaces should never be allowed to burn unattended.
  • Keep a three foot rock perimeter around campfires and do not allow children within the ring. I get letters from moms telling me that they thought if they were standing next to their child, the child would be safe; yet, one quick trip or fall and hands and feet can end up in a fire.
  • Most importantly, stay vigilant. Periodically do safety checks around your house. There are many great checklists online and of course, in the back of Brecker Bunny!

Be Bunny Buddies and keep your family safe!

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Editor’s Note: we first ran this post in April of 2010.  The story of Brecker Bunny provides an excellent opportunity for parents to learn and teach a variety of safety messages in an entertaining and attention-getting format. We hope that reading this post again will help save more children from the pain and suffering of an unintended burn.

Sign Language for Emergency Situations: ASL, English & Spanish

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 12:44 am

It’s been almost four years since the first run of my video – Sign Language for Emergency Situations -ASL, English and Spanish appeared at my front door. I carefully opened the huge boxes and looked at the “zillion” copies that were all over my living room floor. How funny, that this little DVD carried so much history with it… none which is reflected on the DVD itself or its’ cover.

You see, I first decided to create this DVD on a date that will be easy to remember- September 11, 2001. It was a date in which many families, including mine, were intimately impacted by the days’ events. I had a brother and a cousin within sneezing distance of the World Trade Center that day. I had other relatives and numerous friends who all had Manhattan addresses. I also knew that many deaf individuals resided in NYC and wondered how terrified were they on that fateful and tragic day when communication was minimal at best and fear was at an all time high. In addition, my own family lives within a half hour to the nation’s capitol. Our local area, including our neighborhood, has dozens of families who work for government agencies, many of them deaf.

DVD - multi-lingual sign language for emergenciesThat is the day I decided that I wanted to be part of the communication solution for those in the deaf community. I knew that my brother had benefited that day from the ability to ask questions of others as he walked the streets looking for a way to get home. He was able to assist others with the information he received and be a benefactor of the generosity of total strangers. He also could hear. But, what happened to the people who were not able to communicate during the flurry of madness on this unbelievable nightmare of a day? Pencil and paper was not practical when there was so much happening and the need for safety was tantamount. If only the emergency first responder knew simple signs such as – EVACUATE!, GO INDOORS, ARE YOU HURT?, WHO IS MISSING?, WHAT IS YOUR NAME? EXPLOSION! DO YOU NEED HELP?

It took me a long time to wrap my head around the events of 9/11. I know that I am not alone. But, then it came to me- I needed to develop something to help people who speak two of the four most common languages, other than English, in the United States to get assistance during natural disasters, medical crisis or if ever there was another 9/11! So, with help from my friends, especially Karina Prizont Cowan, I developed Sign Language for Emergency Situations with ASL and narration in Spanish and English. The entire DVD is signed and open captioned – for all to have access.

I started this journey by querying people who would be first to respond during an emergency. I went to fire stations throughout our local area and ask them what they would include. I asked each emergency first responder questions such as – How much time would they dedicate to learning a new skill, such as basics of sign language and what they would want to add, if anything? I also talked to school nurses, health care providers within hospital settings (including pediatrics), educators, parents of special needs children and even people I “met” through social media. I made sure to include deaf people in my “focus” groups. Showing them list after list of vocabulary words and phrases. Finally, the final list was generated and a DVD was filmed. Afterwards, I showed it to many who helped with their initial input. Modifications were made to the video at the very strong request of first responders who wanted it “short and sweet- 25 minutes or less!”. We also decided to add the Sign Language for Emergency Situations mini-chart that accompanies the DVD as an enclosure. The last piece prior to duplication was two super endorsements- Alison Rhodes the Safety Mom and Mackenzie Kelly of NORCAL Ambulance.

When the DVD was completed we put it up on YouTube and asked many people to “check it out”. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Then I began to think how can I get this to the people who it could benefit most. Twitter, Facebook, friends and good old word of mouth were very effective. Harris Communications- a large distributor of products for the deaf and hearing community who wish to learn ASL, etc. “hopped on board”. Hilary Bilbrey, owner of InspiredbyFamily.com and the creator of the Brecker Bunny Series took my DVD to a safety conference and was kind enough to give me feedback from the very people who I wanted to reach- the emergency first responder!

knowledgeDozens of phone calls later I have talked to people from all over the country who wanted to know how to access the product, workshops and more. They are excited about the DVDs and the mini-chart for emergencies. They are thrilled that we have a unique product, which no one has encountered before, a TRILINGUAL emergency communication series with English, Spanish and ASL! Also, they like that our little company is accessible and affordable since so many areas have been hard hit financially.

It’s been a while since those first boxes appeared, but during that time I have made a number of guest speaking appearances to help train emergency personnel around the country. Unfortunately, with all the recent school shootings, it has become even more important to ensure each first responder is prepared so they can help children with special needs as well as those without.  And it has become our mission to help make this possible.

Four years later we know this is still only the beginning!

HEALTHFUL HINTS

Tips for getting started when learning American Sign Language (ASL):

  • Learning ASL can be loads of fun! Start with a few words at a time and practice with your family, friends, and co-workers to help your skills to improve quickly (and teach others!)
  • Parents should start with signs such as: MORE, HELP, FINISHED, BE CAREFUL with their children (depending on the age and developmental level of the child would determine where to start)
  • Also, knowing the letters of the alphabet and numbers 0-10 should be essential for beginners. Why? Because in a true emergency these would be the words most needed to help convey personal information and get an immediate response. If you can spell or read the ASL alphabet (known as the manual alphabet or fingerspelling) then you can convey any information to a deaf person who can “read ASL” and vice versa, such as names, email addresses, and phone numbers.
  • Children and adults with special learning challenges often need to sign adaptively. However, adults who live and work with these individuals should sign correctly. The same is true for parent of young children. “Baby sign babble” will give way to correct signing if the adults are good language models.

Signs for Emergency Situations

  • Knowing the Signs for CALL 9-1-1! HELP! PAIN, EVACUATE! could save LIVES!
  • If First Responders, Law Enforcement officers, Health Care providers, School Nurses and Educators knew basic emergency ASL signs they could help communicate and facilitate assistance during natural disasters, acts of terrorism, emergency health care situations, or if a person is lost or has been abducted.
  • Non-emergency situations also can be a reason to learn sign language such as in the case of looking for a lost puppy or fixing a “boo-boo” that occurred on the school playground.

Enjoy your journey and let me know if I can help you along your way.

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Editor’s Note: It was July of 2010 when we first introduced you to Louise Sattler of Signing Families and her wonderful DVD “Sign Language for Emergency Situations.  In the wake of all the recent tragedies affecting children, Louise has made a commitment to focus her efforts on ensuring emergency first responder disaster preparedness.  Given her passionate dedication to helping save children’s lives, we wanted to take a moment and re-introduce this wonderful DVD to the Pediatric Safety community.