Tomorrow, Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas will unveil a new sculpture in its healing garden. “Gabriel,” a rugged angel wing made of of fossilized bluestone by artist Bobby Jacobs, will rest there in honor of Ben Breedlove. Breedlove died Christmas Day 2011 at age 18 from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that caused his heart muscle to thicken.
The sculpture is a gift by the artist and his wife Elizabeth Bryan Jacobs, who is an artist as well and wrote the books “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings,” and “Soul Models: Transformative Stories of Courage and Compassion.”
The couple loved Ben’s story and wanted to do something in his memory They reached out to Ben’s parents, Deanne and Shawn Breedlove, about donating a sculpture and having it at Dell Children’s, where Ben was often a patient and where Deanne Breedlove still volunteers on the family advisory council.
The sculpture is fitting of Ben, Deanne Breedlove says. “He told us he believed and felt that an angel came to him and comforted him, and he had great faith. It’s a very good symbol for Ben’s faith and thankfulness,” she says.
She thinks of the families that will be in the healing garden and see this angel and be reminded of God’s peace and presence. “They do a lot out there in the garden,” she says. “It’s really for the kids.”
For the Breedloves, Deanne says their big thing in life is “to focus on the thankfulness that we had sweet Ben with us as long as we did,” she says. “He was a huge gift to our family.”
Each Christmas, they try to do something that has to do with Ben, either to play the annual monopoly game that he loved or watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The sculpture will be one more way to remember Ben Breedlove each time Deanne Breedlove volunteers at Dell Children’s or another family walks near the shady spot where
Ben Breedlove’s angel wing rests.
Bullock Museum.American Indian Heritage Day. Performances and activities. 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday. Free. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com.
Austin Kiddie Limits. Hear kids music plus build things, make art and dance. Free for kids 10 and younger with parent with a wristband. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Zilker Park. aclfestival.com/kids.
Sweet Berry Farm fall fun. The Texas-shaped hay maze and smaller candy corn hay maze are open through Nov. 6. You can also find hay rides, pumpkin decorating, a train and more. Priced per event. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls. sweetberryfarm.com.
Family Movie Night: “The Jungle Book,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Windsor Park Branch.
Barnes & Noble Events: Lego Rogue One build. 4 p.m. Saturday, all locations. 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all locations: Highlights magazine story time, Saturday.
Thinkery.Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Learn about falling leaves, 9 a.m. Saturday. $4.50. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. Thinkeryaustin.org.
Girl Scout carnival. Inexpensive games and fun for the whole family. 10 a.m.-noon. Saturday. Tanglewood Forest Park, 9801 Curlew Drive.
Read to Bonnie the Dog. 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Yarborough Branch.
Made with Code. 1 p.m. Saturday, Twin Oaks Branch.
Saturday and Sunday
Barton Hill Farms fall festival. Find a lot to do including the maze in the shape of Lonesome Dove, live music, pumpkin painting, train rides and more. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Through Nov. 13. $11 adults, $8 3-10 years old, free for children 2 and younger. $1 off online. Barton Hill Farms, 1115 FM 969, Bastrop. bartonhillfarms.com.
Thinkery.Whisks & Wizards for kids 4 and older. Create magic in the kitchen. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8 child, $8 adult. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.Thinkeryaustin.org.
Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday. Learn about butterflies, their life cycle and more. Noon-3 p.m. Sunday. Free. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com.
Neill-Cochran House Museum. Sunday Funday: Off the rack. Learn how to dye fabric. 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Free. Neill-Cochran House, 2310 San Gabriel St. nchmuseum.org
“Rosita y Conchita.” See this bilingual Día de los Muertos play about two sisters who try to reunite. $8-$12. Sunday. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org.
Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday. Learn about butterflies, their life cycle and more. Noon-3 p.m. Oct. 2. Free. Little Texans. Drop in and play for ages 2 to 5. 10 a.m. Oct. 13. Science Thursdays. 10 a.m. Oct. 20. Hands-on activities from Central Texas Discover Engineering including boat races. Story time. 10 a.m. Oct. 27. Spooktacular. Come dressed in costume and enjoy spooky science, “Toy Story of Terror” and ghosts of the pirate ship La Belle. 5 p.m. Oct. 28. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com.
Neill-Cochran House Museum. Sunday Funday: Off the rack. Learn how to dye fabric. 1-4 p.m. Oct. 2. Free. Neill-Cochran House, 2310 San Gabriel St. nchmuseum.org.
Thinkery. It’s the Great Pumpkin! Paint a pumpkin and look inside a pumpkin. 9:45 a.m. Oct. 10, for 1-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Oct. 10, for 2-year-olds ; 11:45 a.m. Oct. 10 for ages 3-year-olds, $20 one child and adult. Little Thinkers Club: Art Start: Nature as our Canvas. 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 1 year-olds, 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays, for 2-year-olds through Nov. 16. $20 per class. Tinkering Tots: Make it Move. 9:45 a.m. Fridays for 2-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Fridays for 3-year-olds through Nov. 18. $20 a class. Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Learn about falling leaves, 9 a.m. Oct. 1; corn, 9 a.m. Oct. 8 and 10; farm animals, 9 a.m. Oct. 15 and 17; farm harvests; 9 a.m. Oct. 22 and 24; five little pumpkins, 9 a.m. Oct. 29; and Happy Halloween!, 9 a.m. Oct. 31. Special guests throughout the month. $4.50. Whisks & Wizards for kids 4 and older. Create magic in the kitchen. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Oct. 1-2, Oct. 15-16, Oct. 29-30. $8 child, $8 adult. Superhero capes for ages 4 and older. 11:15 p.m. Oct. 8-9, Oct. 22-23. $8 child, $8 adult. Sewn Circuits for ages 8 and up. Make light-up embroidery. 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Oct. 8-9, Oct. 22-23. $8 child, $8 adult. Family Night: Halloween Hootenanny. Many Halloween activities for the whole family to try. 6-9 p.m. Oct. 28. $15-$13. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. Thinkeryaustin.org.
Contemporary Austin. Families Create! Tall Tales. Write a book with Austin Bat Cave. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 8. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org.
Wildflower Center. Bug Night Out! See the bugs come to life with your flashlight, plus hands-on activities. 6-9 p.m. Oct. 7. Wildflower Center, 4801 LaCrosse Ave. wildflower.org
Hill Country Science Mill. UT’s Fun with Chemistry Day. Blow up pumpkins, make magic potions and more. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 15. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org
“Rosita y Conchita.” See this bilingual Día de los Muertos play about two sisters who try to reunite. $8-$12. Oct. 1-2, 8-9, 16, 22-23 and 30. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live.” The PBS show hits the stage. 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Oct. 16. $20-$55. Long Center. 701 Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org.
“The Man Who Planted Trees.” Based on the book by Jean Giono, this play shows you what a man and his dog can do. 7 p.m. Oct. 28, 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29-30. $22. Stateside at the Paramount, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org
The Alamo Drafthouse. “PBS Kids: Halloween Special.” 10 a.m. Oct. 29-30, Lakeline and Slaughter Lane. Reserve tickets for $1-$3 donation online. drafthouse.com.
Halloween Concert. Hear Halloween-themed music from the Austin Symphony. $10-$15. 3 p.m. Oct. 23. Long Center. 701 Riverside Drive. austinsymphony.org.
Austin Kiddie Limits. Hear kids music plus build things, make art and dance. Free for kids 10 and younger with parent with a wristband. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 1-2, Oct. 7-9. Zilker Park. aclfestival.com/kids
Barton Hill Farms fall festival. Find a lot to do including the maze in the shape of Lonesome Dove, live music, pumpkin painting, train rides and more. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, plus Oct. 10. through Nov. 13. $11 adults, $8 3-10 years old, free for children 2 and younger. $1 off online. Barton Hill Farms, 1115 FM 969, Bastrop. bartonhillfarms.com.
Sweet Berry Farm fall fun. The Texas-shaped hay maze and smaller candy corn hay maze are open through Nov. 6. You can also find hay rides, pumpkin decorating, a train and more. Priced per event. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 1801 FM 1980, Marble Falls. sweetberryfarm.com.
Boo at the Zoo. Dress up and enjoy the zoo with Halloween-themed activities. 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in October. $15. Austin Zoo, 10808 Rawhide Trail. austinzoo.org
Fall Holidays Fair. Learn about festivals and celebrations in Asia and more. Free. Noon-4 p.m. Oct. 15, Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road.
BookPeople events. Kami Garcia and Jamie Mcguire in conversation “The Lovely Reckless” and “Providence.” 7 p.m. Oct. 3. James Dashner reads “The Fever Code,” 7 p.m. Oct. 5; Lauren Oliver and Kendare Blake read “Replica” and “Three Dark Crowns,” 7 p.m. Oct. 12; Marie Lu and Margaret Stohl read “The Midnight Star” and “The Black Widow,” 7 p.m. Oct. 17; Donna Janell Bowman reads “Step Right Up,” 3 p.m. Oct. 23. Laurie Halse Anderson reads “Ashes,” 7 p.m. Oct. 24; Jacqueline Kelly reads “Skunked!” 6 p.m. Oct. 26. Jay Asher reads “What Light,” 7 p.m. Oct. 28; Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Kiersten White and Jessica Cluess read “Gemina,” “And I Darken,” “A Shadow Bright” and “Burning,” 2 p.m. Oct. 30. Story times. Paramount Theatre “The Man Who Planted Trees,” 11:30 a.m. Oct. 1; Colors of Fall, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 4; Milly McSilly, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5; Sandy Loker reads “Can I Sniff My Way To Heaven?” 11:30 a.m. Oct. 8; Golden Books, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 11; Staci Gray sings, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 12; Deborah Kadair Thomas reads, 11:30 a.m. Oct. 15; Tiny Tales to You Petting Zoo, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 19; Anna Westbrook reads, 11:30 a.m. Oct. 22; Dogs vs. Cats, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 25; Preposterous Puppet Show Players, 10:30 a.m. Oct. 26; Monster Mash, 11:30 a.m. Oct. 29. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com.
Barnes & Noble Events: Lego Star Wars Rogue One build, 4 p.m. Oct. 1, all locations; Trenton Lee Stewart reads “The Secret Keepers,” 7 p.m. Oct. 20, Arboretum. 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all locations: Highlights magazine, Oct. 1; “Tek: The Modern Caveboy,” Oct. 8; “Pete the Cat and The Missing Cupcakes,” Oct. 15; Halloween, Oct. 22; “If you Give a Mouse a Brownie,” Oct. 29.
At the library
Read to Bonnie the Dog. 11:30 a.m. Oct. 1 and 15, Yarborough Branch.
Made with Code. 1 p.m. Oct. 1, Twin Oaks Branch; 1 p.m. Oct. 22, Hampton Branch.
Saturday Movie Matinee, “The Woman in Black 2.,” 2 p.m. Oct. 1, University Hills Branch; “The Jungle Book,” 2 p.m. Oct. 1, Windsor Park Branch; “Victor Frankenstein,” 2 p.m. Oct. 8, University Hills Branch; “The Last Witch Hunter,” 2 p.m. Oct. 15, University Hills Branch; “Goosebumps,” 2 p.m. Oct. 29. University Hills Branch.
Note: This story was originally published Sept. 24, 2016.
Boarding a plane with kids in tow can be a challenge for any parent. Did we pack enough activities and snacks for the time spent waiting at the gate and then in the airplane? Is my kid going to have a meltdown going through security, waiting at the gate, boarding the plane or even on the plane?
Earlier this month, 25 Austin families got to try out what it would be like to board a plane through the WingsforAll program. All of the families have children with autism, which can make a trip to the airport more difficult.
An airport is the very definition of sensory overload: crowds, alarms going off, airplane noises, motorized carts and more. It can be an overwhelming place for children with autism.
“It’s the fear of a meltdown, ” says Jennifer Penhale about why she and husband Matthew have not flown with their four children. Collin, 8, and twins Carrie and Lori, 11, have autism. Nathan, 13, does not. They’re a military family and move often. They would love to be able to fly to see family. They’ve been driving all over the country instead.
Penhale worried most about going through security, but all four kids did OK. “TSA was very accommodating, ” Pen-hale says.
Vanessa Pipkin brought her 4-year-old son Maddox to the WingsforAll program. “We’ve been worried about traveling with him, ” she says while checking in at the ticket counter. “We’ll see how this goes.”
The worry for her is that he’ll become overly anxious. “We want him to be comfortable.”
September was the first time the WingsforAll program was done in Austin. It took about a year for the Arc of Texas, the Arc of the Capital Area and the Autism Society of Central Texas, with help with the Doug Flutie Foundation, to work out all the details with Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, American Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration. Deborah Wallace, the chief development officer of Arc of Texas, hopes the program will expand to two WingsforAll days in Austin next year.
WingsforAll not only gives families a chance to try moving through the airport but also provides education and training to airport, airline and TSA staff. “It will help us be able to serve them better, ” says Ramonika Carr, aviation programs coordinator at the airport.
Before the families arrived, they received a book with pictures of the actual Austin airport. The book gave a step-by-step guide on how to go to the airport, get your boarding pass, go through security, wait by the gate and board the plane. The families could prepare their kids by showing them the book and talking about what was going to happen.
Then once families arrived, they were greeted by airport volunteers holding WingsforAll signs. Families checked in at an information table and the rest of their day was structured to mimic what it would be like if they were really going on a flight.
They went to the ticket counter and got their boarding passes. Then they went through security. TSA had created a dedicated lane for the families and had been trained that the families might need more time, might have children that don’t want to give up the stuffed animal they are holding, might have trouble getting out of a stroller, etc.
Families then found their way to Gate 21, where they did what families always do when waiting to board a plane: They waited and waited and waited.
Like many kids, they grew restless in the hour to an hour and a half that they waited. Parents walked with them or pulled out the iPads or books. Volunteers helped keep kids in the gate area. The families were treated to dinner by airport vendors.
Yecenia and Marco Liceaga are planning to take a trip with 3-year-old Sebastian. This was a test run. “It will be less stressful for the future, ” Yecenia Liceaga says. Sebastian was doing remarkably well as he waited, but soon he wanted to walk. So his dad took him for a walk.
Eventually, it was time to board the plane. American planned forall the scenarios. A couple of people were first-class passengers and got to board first. People in the military were invited to go on. Then came the call for people traveling with children or needing extra assistance.
The families lined up to get their boarding passes scanned and then walked down the jet bridge. It was loud and many of the kids were uncertain about the gap between the bridge and the plane. Some were carried on or helped over the gap. Only one child didn’t make it onto the plane. He waited on the jet bridge with large earphones an American Airlines ground crew member gave him to dampen the noise.
The other families found their way to their seats, practiced stowing their backpacks and putting on their seat belts.
The flight crew ran through the different scenarios: the safety demonstration, the safety check to make sure everything was properly stowed, putting away electronic devices, preparing for takeoff, being able to use electronics devices, preparing for landing by making sure seat belts were still fastened and tray tables and electronics were up. And then they “landed in Dallas.” Of course, the plane never really left the gate.
Evelyn Kelley was excited that her son, John Kelley, 16, did so well on the flight. He loved being in the window seat. “We’re going to take him now, ” she says. “We worried, ‘How is he going to do?’ Now we know.”
Ben Camp’s son, Nicholas, 9, was sitting on the other side of the plane by the window. “He got a little nervous, but we made it through.” They had enough distractions to keep him busy.
The families learned what they need to do to prepare for a real flight. Jim and Irma Canfield brought their 28-year-old son, Steven. They learned that they need to practice putting away his backpack. The last time they flew “it was overwhelming, ” Irma Canfield says. “Now we have practice.”
The airport gave each family a goodie bag, and kids could take a picture with the pilots if they wanted to. Then it was time for everyone to get off the plane and head home.
“It means a lot, ” said Matalie Odem, who brought 7-year-old son Zoreyan Jones. “He’s never been at an airport before. With his autism, we didn’t think he could handle an airport.”
Now she knows he can. Zoreyan’s only tears: when he realized the plane wasn’t going to go anywhere and that they would be getting off exactly where they got on.
One of the biggest dangers of specializing early is overuse injuries. It’s estimated that as many as 46 percent to 50 percent of all athletic injuries are due to overuse, but that’s a hard thing to estimate because often sports injuries are not categorized.
Dr. Matthew Ellington, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, says most of his patients are doing just one sport. And it might surprise you which athletes he sees the most. It’s not football, soccer or baseball. It’s dancing, gymnastics and cheerleading. The reason? Those athletes are practicing 15 hours a week and they might only get one day off. “It’s a lot of stress with no rest,” he says.
In dancing and cheerleading, it’s knee injuries. Gymnastics, it’s wrists. We’ve actually written about girls and knee injuries before. That study found that girls were 2.5 to 6.2 times more likely to have an anterior cruciate ligament injury than boys. Some of it is physiological differences in the way boys’ and girls’ bodies are made, but a big factor is the number of hours that are being dedicated to that sport.
Ellington does see plenty of boys as well as non dancers, cheerleaders and gymnasts.
In baseball players, it’s elbows. In basketball, soccer and volleyball players, it’s knees. He doesn’t see as many football players with these types of injuries, he says, mainly because football is one season. However, as kids have started to play flag football in the spring, he is seeing some.
A lot of the injuries are happening during puberty when the skeleton is growing faster than the muscles and ligaments an catch up, Ellington says. Their bodies were meant to have a variety of activities and not endure the same moves over and over again. Remember when kids just went out and played?
The recommendation is that kids get at least three months a year where they are not participating in the one sport. Those three months don’t have to happen all at once, but can be three months on, one month off.
Ellington also recommends at least two to three days off a week, except for stretching. He’d like to kids to do that twice a day.
When kids do have an injury, they have to let their bodies rest and not try to push their way back onto the field or gym floor. And parents have to listen to the doctor and let their child rest.
Parents also need to act when their kids are in pain and not let them “shake it off.” They can also attend practices and make sure that kids are doing stretching and strength training and not just hard-pounding exercise. And, of course, they can make sure that kids are involved in a variety of sports and take time off.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors use these talking points based on the report’s findings:
The primary focus of sports for young athletes should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.
Participating in multiple sports, at least until puberty, decreases the chances of injuries, stress and burnout in young athletes.
For most sports, specializing in a sport later (ie, late adolescence) may lead to a higher chance of the young athlete accomplishing his or her athletic goals.
Early diversification and later specialization provides for a greater chance of lifetime sports involvement, lifetime physical fitness and possibly elite participation.
If a young athlete has decided to specialize in a single sport, discussing his or her goals to determine whether they are appropriate and realistic is important. This discussion may involve helping the young athlete distinguish these goals from those of the parents and/or coaches.
It is important for parents to closely monitor the training and coaching environment of “elite” youth sports programs and be aware of best practices for their children’s sports.
Having at least a total of three months off throughout the year, in increments of one month, from their particular sport of interest will allow for athletes’ physical and psychological recovery. Young athletes can still remain active in other activities to meet physical activity guidelines during the time off.
Young athletes having at least one to two days off per week from their particular sport of interest can decrease the chance for injuries.
Closely monitoring young athletes who pursue intensive training for physical and psychological growth and maturation as well as nutritional status is an important parameter for health and well-being.
The U.S. Olympic Committee, along with National Governing Bodies, created five stages of age-appropriate sports activity for any sport:
Discover, learn and play (ages 0–12 years)
Develop and challenge (ages 10–16 years)
Train and compete (ages 13–19 years)
Excel for high performance or participate and succeed (ages ≥15 years)
Mentor and thrive (for Life)
So, yes, keep your kids active, just make sure they rest and do a variety of different activities.
“With such a young vulnerable age group. … it is disturbing and should alarm us,” Ranus says.
While the numbers didn’t give the reasons, Ranus, in working with schools, parents and students has some ideas. She points to the fact that preteens and teens are spending a lot of time on social media, where there’s a lot of pressure to be seen in a certain way and there’s a lot of bullying. She also points to the amount of pressure parents and schools are now putting on kids.
“We’re not the type of community and culture where we value play and value kids just having time to just be, to be outside, to unwind and to be connected (to their community),” she says.
Instead, we worry about kids being on all the right athletic teams, doing all the right activities to be successful. That’s a lot of pressure.
Ranus and NAMI Austin help educate parents in a six-week support program. One of the biggest questions parents ask is how do you know it’s mental illness and not just the typical whirlwind of emotions that come with the preteen and teen years.
It’s the severity of it, Ranus says. “It’s impacting the child’s daily life.”
The things they love to do, they aren’t doing anymore. Their grades are suffering. They have a whole new group of friends that you don’t know or they no longer interact with their friends.
Sometimes “the funk” will last for a few days, but they get past it. When it becomes the funk that lasts for weeks at a time, that’s cause for concern.
“So often what we see is is when they are trying to get back up, they just can’t seem to get able to,” she says. “There’s more going on than just being a teenager.”
Ranus knows firsthand about being a parent to a teenager with suicidal thoughts. Five years ago, her then 18-year-old daughter was struggling, but it didn’t look like what you typically think of as depression. She was sullen and angry. There was a lot of slamming doors. The kid who Ranus though of as the “cruise director” of the family, wasn’t coming up with fresh ideas of things to do. She was in a dark place.
Ranus says her daughter felt isolated because she would look at other kids and think everyone else was doing fine. And, they of course, would have looked at her and though she was doing fine. “She would just hide it,” Ranus says. “She knew how to put on that mask to get through the day.”
After her daughter was hospitalized and came through it, her daughter’s friends would tell her that they knew something was wrong and they would talk to each other about their worries, but they never said anything to her.
NAMI Austin has been going to high schools and now middle schools to educate students and teachers about mental illness.
Students get a handout with tips on how to talk to their friends if they notice a change in a friend’s behavior. It encourages them to start the conversation with these statements:
I’ve noticed that you haven’t been acting like yourself lately. Is something going on?
It worries me to hear you talking like this. Let’s talk to someone about it.
I am always here if you ever need me.
I want you to know that you are not alone; I am always here for you.
It suggests kids should continue to do these things to help their friends:
Check-in regularly and include your friend in your plans.
Learn more about mental health conditions to understand what your friend is going through.
Avoid using judgmental or dismissive language, such as “you’ll get over it,” “toughen up,” or “you’re fine.”
Remind your friend that their mental health condition does not change their worth or the way you feel about them.
Your friend may be feeling confused, alone or scared. Reassure him or her that with the right services and supports, it gets better.
It also gives kids these 10 warning signs of mental illness:
Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks.
Seriously trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so.
Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors.
Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason.
Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain.
Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real.
Repeated use of drugs or alcohol.
Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits.
Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still.
Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities.
When NAMI Austin first started talking to students and teachers, it was at the high school level. Ranus worried the first time NAMI Austin went to a middle school that the kids might be too young. The new statistics reassure her that middle school is the place to start having this conversation, as do the middle school teachers who tell her what they have been seeing, like the coach who sees his students wearing gym clothes that expose the scars on their arms from cutting.
For parents, it’s time to trust the instincts and get help. And it’s time to stop worrying about what other parents think.
“As parents, when our kids are doing well, we puff out our peacock feathers,” she says. But, when they are not. “We feel like we failed as a parent. These are real medical issues that require treatment that require medication. If you child has diabetes and has got to take insulin, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent.”
We have to start thinking of mental illness as a medical condition and normalize it, Ranus says.
Where should parents go? Start with your pediatrician to get a mental health professional recommendation. If the pediatrician doesn’t take you seriously, find a child psychiatrist. You can also call NAMI Austin, 512-420-9810, namiaustin.org, to find resources.
Music and Movement. For ages 3-5. 11 a.m. Friday. Austin Public Library, Howson Branch.
Austin Diaper Bank’s Family Fun Fest and Diaper Drive. Music, bounce house, art and science activities and more. You can also get your picture taken with Princess Sofia, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty, and see an Austin Fire Department fire truck. Bring size 4 diapers or larger or unused leftover diapers to donate. Noon-3 p.m. Saturday. Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive. austindiapers.org
Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Learn about Big Bend National Park, 9 a.m. Saturday. $4.50. Suminagashi Fabrics for kids 4 and older. Create Japanese marbled fabric. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 and 3:15 p.m. Saturday. $8 child, $8 adult. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. Thinkeryaustin.org.
Science Saturday. Learn about the Science of Gaming. 4-6 p.m. Saturday. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park. txmost.org.
Slow-Mo Day at Hill Country ScienceMill. Enjoy a slow-motion photo booth, videos of life in slow motion, plus interactive stations. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Ladybird Lane Johnson City. sciencemill.org
BookPeople. Story time with Beth Guillot, who reads “Elizabeth the Dreamer,” 11:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com.
Barnes & Noble Events: 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all locations: “The Cookie Fiasco!”
Saturday and Sunday
Thinkery.Tinkering with Tools for ages 4-7. 12:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8 child, $8 adult. Woodworking for ages 8 and up. 2:15 and 4:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8 child, $8 adult. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. Thinkeryaustin.org.
Chase Johnson, 11, is like many boys his age. The Dripping Springs-area fifth-grader loves karate and basketball. He’s unlike most fifth-graders in that this year, he started his own foundation. Chase for the Cure tries to raise awareness about epilepsy as well as send kids to Camp Brainstorm, a one-week camp in Rockport for children ages 8-17 who have epilepsy.
The idea came from Chase because he knew students in school were learning about “all the popular diseases” like cancer and diabetes. “No one ever talked about epilepsy or asthma.” He wanted to know why that was.
Chase for the Cure is holding its first big fundraiser, the Hoop-a-thon and Skills Challenge on Oct. 22. At the event people can pledge to donate or get friends to donate money for each basketball basket they make in five minutes. People in sixth-grade and older can participate in a basketball skills challenge tournament and kids kindergarten through fifth grade can improve their skills at a clinic. Of course, there’s also a silent auction.
All the money will go toward helping send more children to Camp Brainstorm, which costs about $900 per kid, and to help Epilepsy Foundation of Central & South Texas raise awareness. Chase is also speaking at elementary schools in the Dripping Springs school district about epilepsy and the Hoop-a-thon.
Close friends know that Chase has epilepsy, as do his teachers, but most of his classmates don’t. Chase knows the statistics he got from the National Epilepsy Foundation: 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy sometime in their lifetimes. In kids, it’s about 1 percent of all kids or 10 kids in 1,000. And while, his family has been told unofficially there are four kids at his school with epilepsy, they believe there’s probably even more.
Chase’s doctor, child neurologist and epileptologist Dr. Karen Keough, of Child Neurology Consultants of Austin, says epilepsy can be “a very stigmatizing diagnosis. There are many, many children with epilepsy… There’s so much epilepsy in children, it’s right under everybody’s noses.” Children who are on medicine for epilepsy often won’t have the grand mal seizure that you see in movies. “They’re more likely to have subtle seizures and might not be aware of them,” she says. “If you don’t know what they are looking for, you don’t know it’s epilepsy. It’s ‘that was weird. Why does that child do that?'”
Epilepsy also looks different for every kid. “Typical is not a good word to use in the world of epilepsy,” she says. “There’s so much variation.”
Epilepsy typically is first seen in infants or when the child is a toddler, Keough says. Usually new cases don’t happen when kids are in elementary school, but the risk of developing it goes up as puberty starts, she says. The other group of people that get newly diagnosed commonly are seniors.
Chase was diagnosed when he was 3. He didn’t have a grand mal seizure. Instead his seizures started in his face. He felt like his face and mouth were tingling. Now, if he’s awake, he can feel it happen because his jaw locks up.
Chase started on medication and tried many different kinds to control his seizures, which mostly happen at night. Father John Johnson even hooked up a motion-censored camera in Chase’s bedroom to record the seizures.
About two-thirds of otherwise healthy kids with epilepsy can manage their epilepsy on medication and about 80 percent of those otherwise healthy kids will outgrow epilepsy, Keough says.
Chase isn’t one of those. More than a year ago, he got a vagus nerve stimulation device, which some people call a pacemaker for the brain. Every 1.1 minutes the device in his chest sends a pulse for 14 seconds up a lead wire in his neck that touches the vagus nerve. That nerve runs from his brain stem to his abdomen. The pulse helps the affected part of his brain regulate his epilepsy. That combined with medication has reduced the number of seizures Chase has.
Chase knows when the device goes off and you can hear it in his voice, which gets gruffer, every time it fires. Other than that, which you would have to know about to pick up on that it was happening, Chase looks like a normal kid and seems like he has a pretty normal life.
Except, there is always the fear that he could have a big seizure again. The biggest danger of seizures is injury. In the United States, the most common causes of epilepsy death is drowning while having a seizure in water or a head injury from a fall, says Keough. (In the rest of the world, it’s falling into a fire.) Sometimes epilepsy that is not controlled leads to something called Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy. Their heart stops in a seizure, Keough says.
Seizures also can damage the brain. The Johnsons know that Chase already has some memory difficulties, specifically in short-term memory processing. It just means that Chase needs to hear things more than once to retain it. “He has incurred some challenges,” John Johnson says. Though both his parents say that Chase has been lucky because they caught it early, before a big seizure and they have been able to regulate it with medication and the VNS device. Keough has told them not to be fooled that a big seizure won’t happen.
The lack of predictability of when a seizure is going to happen makes living with epilepsy hard. You can’t say, “I’m going to stay home on a Friday night because I know I’m going to have a seizure,” she says. “It happens at random,” she says. “And that’s hard to accept.” Doctors do know that two things might cause an increase in seizures: a fever or an infection.
For Chase, that means when he’s swimming, someone always has their eyes on him, which of course, he finds annoying, but he knows why that is.
While his parents worry, of course, about what will happen if he has a big seizure, Chase is more worried about making his next epilepsy presentation. “I’m nervous,” he says. “What if I mess up in front of the whole school?”
“He’s not shy about this,” says Mom Kelly Johnson. “He’s the best Chase you could have.”
What Chase wants you to know if you witness a seizure (from the back of his Chase for the Cure bbusiness cards):
Make a note of the time.
Cushion the head.
Remove the glasses.
Loosen tight clothing.
Turn the person on their side.
Put anything in their mouth.
Hold them down or restrain them.
Try to move them.
Put water or another liquid in their mouth.
Chase for the Cure Hoop-a-thon and Skills Challenge
When: 1-5 p.m. Oct. 22
Where: Dripping Springs High School gyms, 940 W. U.S. 290, Dripping Springs
Cost: $5 to participate in the Hoop-a-thon; $15 for skills challenge participants
The lovable Bridget Jones is having a baby … and it got all Hollywood.
Yes, like many a movie, the scenes of going into labor, birthing the baby and then mother and newborn moments are all fairy tales, comic impossibilities and other absurdities. Read my review of the film, here.
Here are just a few of those unrealistic moments:
Of course, her water actually breaks and at an inopportune moment.
Of course, there’s an epic journey filled with pratfalls and impossibilities just to get her to the hospital.
Of course, the dad (or in this case, dads) freaks out.
Of course, she actually dilates and is too far along to get the epidural.
Of course, she gets feisty and a dad might get hurt.
Of course, the doctor is with her the whole time. There’s no nurse who’s handling her case, who has gone missing for what seems like hours.
Of course, her labor is a whole 10 minutes.
Of course, she pushes out the baby — no C-section needed.
Of course, the baby is already three-months-old, alert and adorable. (No cone-shaped head in sight).
Of course, Bridget Jones looks amazing and refreshed, just moments after the birth.
Of course, she is instantly in love with this baby.
Of course, there is a sweet moment between Mom and Dad/Dads.
Can you relate to any of this?
Where is the hours and hours of labor?
Where is the scheduled induction or the C-section? Or the emergency C-section?
Where’s the waiting and waiting and waiting and begging for an epidural?
Where’s the starvation and the exhaustion?
Where’s the spouse falling asleep or eating a burger in front of her during her labor?
Where’s the baby coming out after hours of pushing to have a cone-shaped head and gunk all over him?
Where’s the baby who refuses to sleep at all for the first 24 hours?
Where’s the weeks of recovery, including sore boobs and a sore butt?
Where’s the exhausted mother lacking a shower or clean clothes, sporting the completely uncombed hair and unbrushed teeth?
Like many a Hollywood movie, the myth of a perfect labor gets perpetuated here. It’s creates one more reason why women often feel bad about themselves after birth — like they failed at something that’s supposed to be so natural.
Reality check: Birth is beautiful, but it’s also messy and scary and exhausting and overwhelming and often feels like you are completely out of control … because you are. And sometimes nature takes over, and sometimes it doesn’t and you need a lot of medical intervention.
And that baby doesn’t come out looking amazing. And it won’t be the last time when motherhood or your child disappoints you. And that, Bridget Jones, is reality.
OK, so last week I warned you that it was going to rain on Saturday and it was the most gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky. This week, I have to say the same thing, according to the National Weather Service. So, let’s hope that my magic works and no rain falls our way on Saturday.
Austin Zoo Conservation Day.Celebrate the zoo’s 26th anniversary with activities and demonstrations from Texas Parks and Wildlife, Austin Astronomical Society, Travis Audubon, The Natural Gardener, TreeFolks, Travis County Master Gardeners, Horned Lizard Conservation Society, Millberg Farms, Two Hives Honey, Austin EcoNetwork, Texas Master Naturalists, 4-H Central and Girl Scouts. The first 200 visitors to Conservation Day will receive a free packet of native heritage flower or vegetable plant seeds from Seed Savers and Native American Seed. 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. 10808 Rawhide Trail. austinzoo.org
Thinkery.Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Learn about Enchanted Rock, 9 a.m. Monday; the Johnson Space Center, 9 a.m. Saturday. $4.50.
“Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath” from Pollyanna Theatre. 9 a.m. Saturday. Allen R. Baca Center, 301 W. Bagdad Ave. Round Rock Public Library, 216 E. Main St. $6.50. pollyannatheatrecompany.org.
BookPeople. The Dark Knight story time, 11:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com.
Made with Code. 1 p.m. Saturday, Southeast Branch, Austin Public Library.
Thinkery. Suminagashi Fabrics for kids 4 and older. Create Japanese marbled fabric. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 and 3:15 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $8 child, $8 adult. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. Thinkeryaustin.org.
Austin Museum Day. Find many free museums, both the tried and true and the unusual, with special hands-on activities. Sunday. Free. austinmuseums.org.
Waller Creek Conservancy Sunday Funday. Crafts from Austin Creative Art Center, Austin Art Garage, Imagination Playground, Quick Draw Photo Booth and more. Entertainment Hey Lolly puppet show, Hideout Theater Improve and the Peterson Brothers. Plus food trucks and free frozen treats for the first 100 kids. 2-6 p.m. Sunday. Palm Park, 711 E. Third St. wallercreek.org
BookPeople. Rafi Mittlefehldt reads “It Looks Like This,” 3 p.m. Sunday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com.
Perler Bead Palooza. 2 p.m. Sunday, Faulk Central Library.