What to ask at Meet the Teacher event

This week, many elementary schools have Meet the Teacher events.

The folks at Edutopia website have compiled a list of 19 meaningful questions to ask your child’s teacher for a productive conversation during meet-the-teacher night.

Sixth grade teacher Sarita Lakey, left, greets student Brayan Lopez, as he arrives at Austin Achieve public school for the start of a new school year. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

As schools and parents across Central Texas prepare for the meet-and-greet, here are five questions from the Edutopia list that would work for most any grade level:

  • How will you respond if or when my child struggles in class?
  • What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?
  • What kinds of questions do you suggest that I ask my children on a daily basis about your class?
  • Is there technology you’d recommend that can help support my child in self-directed learning?
  • What are the most common barriers you see to academic progress in your classroom?

RELATED: Teachers offer this advice for going back to school

Remember, Meet the Teacher is as much a get-to-know you session for you with the teacher and for the teacher with you. It’s also a crazy time for teachers who are meeting as many as 25 to 30 students and their parents for the first time.

Here are our don’ts for that day:

Find more information and tips about back to school with our special back to school site, statesman.com/back-to-school-2018.

— Statesman education editor Robert Eckhart contributed to this blog.

How to take a great first day of school photo

[cmg_anvato video=3921824 autoplay=”true”]

RELATED: Do you know when your school starts? 

We want to see your first day of school pictures! If you do remember to take a photoS, send it to readerphotos@statesman.com or tag us @statesman on Twitter or Instagram.

Meredith Hemphill at her new school, Gullet Elementary, in 2004. Sarah Barnes

When you do take your photos, consider these things:

Think about the background and location. Make sure it doesn’t overpower the people in the photo.

Worry about the lighting. You want to see their faces and what they are wearing, not the shadows on their face or behind them.

Get a full-body shot if you can. You want to be able to see how little they are compared with what’s around them.

Take it in an identifying place to help you remember the year. We love to do it in front of the class list or the teacher’s door. It usually will say the grade and the teacher’s name.

Ben Villalpando couldn’t wait to start kindergarten in 2006. Now he’s a senior in high school.

Take it in the same spot each year. For years, we took our photos in front of the crayons that said “Cowan” at Cowan Elementary. Now we tend to have to sneak a photo session in the car on the way to the high school bus stop or drop-off line. The same background helps us see their growth.

Don’t worry about smiles. They might not smile. That makes it all the more memorable of who they are at this age.

Shopping for back to school this tax-free weekend? Check out what we found

Every year, we go shopping. We go shopping for back-to-school clothes in July for our back-to-school section.

This year, we shopped for 10 different kids at five different stores and outfitted them with clothing, shoes and backpacks.

[cmg_anvato video=4150069 autoplay=”true”]

Check out some of our finds:

RELATED: What’s tax-free this weekend and what’s not

Ready for class: On Kolby Tate, 12th-grader, Levi’s 511, dark gray jeans, $69.50, Urban Pipeline plaid flannel shirt, $36; Batman shirt with raised Batman emblem, $15, all at Kohl’s; iPack backpack, $22.49, at Target; and Vans classic checkered shoes, $59.99, at DSW. On Chloe Lown, 12th-grader, Wallflower jean and plush jacket, $60, So shirt with laced sleeves, $20, Tinseltown Denim Couture jeans, $48, and So Sugar maple Boots, $59.99 all at Kohl’s; and Swiss Gear backpack/purse, $49.99, A New Day earrings, $14.99, and necklace, $16.99, all at Target. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

First-day jitters: On Joaquin Badgley-Finan, kindergartner, space shirt, $9.99, jeans, $24.99, shoes, $26.99, at Old Navy; and space jacket, $24, and Skip Hop Zoo Pack Bailey Bat backpack, $20, both at Carter’s. On E.J. Ocampo, sixth-grader, red Levi’s cargo shorts, $42, at Kohls; button-down shirt with space theme, $16.99, at Old Navy; Cat & Jack truck lunch box, $9.99, at Target; and Fila Fraction 2 running shoes, $39.99, at DSW. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Let’s roar: On Mirielle Badgley-Finan, dinosaur shirt, $18, gold space leggings, $6.97, and camo and gold hearts shoes, $38, all at Carter’s; and space backpack, $24.99, at Old Navy. On Avery Knox, second-grader, dinosaur top, $16, at Carter’s; built-in flex shorts, $19.99, and Epic shoes, $19.99, both at Old Navy; and CRCKT dinosaur lunch box, $8.99, at Target. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Getting back to work: On Kona Badgley-Finan, fourth-grader, unicorn leggings, $16, at Carter’s; skort, $22.90, and flower sequin shirt, $24.90, both at Justice; So Zina sequin shoes, $54, at Kohl’s; sequined unicorn lunch box, $12.90, at Justice; and Skip Hop Zoo Pack Luna Llama backpack, $20, at Carter’s. On Julian Gonzalez, second-grader, Urban Pipeline short sleeve hoodie shirt, $20, and Urban Pipeline awesomely soft fleece pants, $32, both at Kohl’s; Zip-it lunch box, $7.99, at Target; Under Armour Blue Lockdown 3 shoes, $55, at DSW. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Made it through the first day: On Julian Knox, sixth-grader, Far Out Dude shirt, $10.99, palm tree fleece shorts, $17.99, and surfer shoes, $9.49, all at Old Navy; and CRCKT space backpack, $18.99, at Target. On Emma Ocampo, second-grader, star leggings, $10.99, NASA T-shirt, $16.99, silver star shoes, $24.99, all at Old Navy; ‘Jurassic World’ tutu, $16.99, at Target; and sequined owl backpack, $39.90, at Justice. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

RELATED: Get more back to school at statesman.com/back-to-school-2018

RELATED: What do teachers recommend you do to start the school year off right?

Shopping for back to school this tax-free weekend? Pick up diapers for Austin Diaper Bank

Tax-free weekend is almost here. Friday-Sunday, you can get most clothing and school supplies tax-free. That’s an 8.25 percent savings.

You know what you can also get? Diapers, both ones for babies and ones for adults.

RELATED: What’s tax-free this weekend and what’s not

The Austin Diaper Bank needs your diapers. AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

The Austin Diaper Bank would be happy to have your donation. Right now, they particularly need size 5 and size 6, but they’ll take any size diapers and they’ll take ones for adults, too.

“While diaper donations slow during the summer, the need does not,” said Holly McDaniel, executive director of the Austin Diaper Bank, in a press release. “If we can’t replenish some of our supplies, some of our neighbors in Central Texas may not get the diapers they need to keep babies or other family members clean, dry and healthy during these hot months.”

You can drop diapers off at these locations:

Whole Foods Downtown (Outdoor Bin)
525 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78703

AustinBorn
5555 N. Lamar Blvd. Suite C127
In PS Business Park

Austin Diaper Bank Warehouse (Outdoor Bin)
8711 Burnet Road, back of Building B, 78757

BabyEarth (Outdoor Bin)
106 E. Old Settlers Blvd.
Just east of I-35 in Round Rock
Store hours: M-Sat 9-8 and Sun 11-6

Big Sky Pediatric Therapy
9433 Bee Caves Road, Suite 101
Near Laura Bush Library at Cuernavaca
Store hours: M-F 8-5

College Nannies + Tutors
3736 Bee Caves Road, Suite 3
In Walgreens shopping center
Store hours: M-Th 10-8, F 10-4, Sun 11-4

Dance Xplosion
9600 Escarpment Blvd. Suite 750
By Starbucks
Store hours: M, T, TH, F: 9-12, 3-7, W: 3-8, Sat. 8:30-12:30

Evans Family Dental
9001 Brodie Lane
Right behind Jet’s Pizza
Hours: M-Th 7:30-4

Just4Kids
101B Pecan Street W.
In Pflugerville
Store hours: M-Sat 10-7 and Sun 12-6

Kid to Kid Austin
14010 N. U.S. 183, Suite 420
By Barnes and Noble and Texas Land and Cattle
Store hours: M-Sat 10-7 and Sun 12-5

Special Addition
7301 Burnet Road
Across from Ichiban
Store hours: M-Fri 10-6 and Sat 10-5

Wells Branch Community Library
15001 Wells Port Drive
Austin, TX 78728
Hours: M-Thurs 10-8, Sat 10-6 and Sun 1-6

If you don’t want to mess with the stores, you also can shop the bank’s Amazon wish list. 

Find out more about the bank at www.austindiapers.org.

Help shy, socially awkward kids head back to school

For those extroverted kids, going back to school can be exciting: Tons of friends to see again. New ones to make. Things to look forward to like school events, hanging out before and after school, the cafeteria at lunch.

For those kids who are naturally introverted, are socially awkward, on the autism spectrum, anxious, geeky or shy or whatever label you like, it can be very stressful.

 Joaquin Badgley-Finan is starting kindergarten; E.J. Ocampo is starting middle school. Those can be tough transition times, especially if your kid is an introvert. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Cheryl Perera, a licensed clinical social worker for Baylor Scott & White Outpatient Mental Health in Round Rock, is the mother of two such children herself. First she wants kids to know that it’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to be anxious about returning to school. It’s OK to feel awkward. Parents should honor their feelings and invite them to continue to share their feelings with you.

She has some suggestions on how to make the transition easier:

Before school starts

Go to orientation or Meet the Teacher. It’s a relaxed setting for kids to make connections before school starts.

RELATED: Things to ask on Meet the Teacher

Sign up for activities. If they can start before the school year begins, it can give kids a chance to start interacting and slowly build relationships before school is “on” and they have to sit at the lunch table.

Give kids talking points. Have them figure out their hobbies or interests so they have something to talk to other kids about.

Have a party and invite other kids. Make it an active party where the kids are doing something. Communication will happen naturally if they are active.

Hang out in the neighborhood park or pool. Your kids will find other kids that will be at their school. School won’t feel so awkward if they’ve seen some of their peers before.

Prepare for the first day of school. Know that as soon as you leave or as soon as they get on the bus, they probably will be fine. If it’s a big transition year like kindergarten or the first day of middle school or high school, know that it often looks worse than it is. Help by packing the backpack and lunch the night before and picking out what to wear.

RELATED: Teachers recommend doing these things right now

All year long

Model how to communicate. Give kids strategies about what to do when you meet someone new. Some tips she shares are pay a compliment to the other person or ask a question about what they like to do to help find some common ground.

Be supportive, but not a “fixer.” If they have a rough day, sympathize with them, then ask open-ended questions to get them talking. Ask them what they think theycould do differently the next day and have them come up with their own ideas.

Honor their feelings and invite them to continue to share their feelings with you. You can even share a time when you felt awkward or nervous.

Have a 504 plan or and individualized education plan if you need it. Things like autism and anxiety can qualify your child for special services. Schools often have social emotional learning classes for kids who struggle with talking to their peers.

Have an emotional safety plan. Help them anticipate what could happen with friendships and what their response will be. Give them strategies for what happens when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Where will they go? What will they do? Which adult will help them?

Find a supportive other adult. For kids, they might need a psychologist to talk to, but they also could have a trusted teacher, scout leader or parent of a friend to talk to as well.

RELATED: Find more back-to-school tips

Before school starts, find family fun in Austin, Aug. 10-12

For some of you, this is the last weekend before school starts. Others of you have more time, yet still the summer is dwindling.

Find something fun

FRIDAY

That’s My Face, Youth and Young Adult Film Series continues with “The Mask You Live In,” 6:30 p.m. Friday. George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov

Art Smart Public Mural Project.  1 p.m. Friday, Pleasant Hill Branch.

Lego Lab. 3:30 p.m. Friday, Hampton Branch. 2 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Zilker Botanical Garden Woodland Faerie Trail. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. Open through Friday. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org

Summer Stock Austin’s “The Music Man.” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Friday. $26-33. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Summer Stock Austin’s “Rob1n.” Musical by Allen Robertson and Damon Brown explores what if Robin Hood was a girl. 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday. $9-18. thelongcenter.org

Jessica O’Brien, left, and Riley Wesson perform in the musical “All Shook Up” at Zilker Hillside Theatre. Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp offers morning movies for a $1 to $5 donation. Plus you can collect stamps for prizes. “Prince of Egypt,” 10 a.m. Friday, 10:15 a.m. Sunday, Mueller. 10 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Slaughter Lane. “Despicable Me,” 10 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Sunday, Lakeline. 

Zilker Summer Musical’s “All Shook Up.” 8:15 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org

“Beauty and the Beast” comes to the stage at Zach Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

SATURDAY

Splash Bash. Free community event with swimming, bounce house and more. Learn how to prevent drowning as well as have fun. 1-4 p.m. Saturday. TownLake YMCA, 1100 W. Cesar Chavez St. austinymca.org

The Austin Humane Society Teddy Bear Surgery, 1 p.m. Saturday. Free, but you must register, austinhumanesociety.org, 512-646-7387. Austin Humane Society, 124 W. Anderson Lane

Families create events play with different media at Laguna Gloria.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Create Ice Paintings during Contemporary Austin’s August free Families Create event, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers, for birth to age 3. Splash into Summer in August. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

The Williamson Museum offers Hands on History. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. 716 S. Austin Ave. williamsonmuseum.org

Paramount Theatre’s summer series. “Grease,” 1 p.m. Saturday. $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

“Daniel Tiger.” (PBS)

Alamo Drafthouse Events. “The Karate Kid,” 1 p.m. Saturday, Village. “PBS Kids: Back to School with Daniel Tiger,” 10 a.m. Saturday, Lakeline. 10 a.m. Saturday, Mueller.  drafthouse.com

The Bullock Museum is offering its Summer Family Film Series: “Toy Story,” 2 p.m. Saturday. $5. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

BookPeople events. Vanessa Roeder reads “Lucy and the String.” 2 p.m. Saturday. Story time. All in the Family, 10:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble Saturday 11 a.m. story times at all locations. “A is for Astronaut.” barnesandnoble.com

Gods and Heroes Party. 2 p.m. Saturday, Howson Branch.

Bianca Serra, 4, visited the Umlauf Sculpture Garden with her family where she prayed with a bronze statue of a nun. LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

SUNDAY

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 26. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum remembers President Lyndon Baines Johnson during Family Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road. umlaufsculpture.org

Get Curious with Tumble! A Science Party for Kids. 2 p.m. Sunday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Family Matinee “The Nut Job 2.” 3 p.m. Sunday, Little Walnut Creek Branch.

Austin Ukestra-Ukulele Group. 1 p.m. Sunday, Recycled Reads.

Where are you shopping for back to school? Check out where the crowds will be

[cmg_anvato video=4150069 autoplay=”true”]

A new survey from commercial real estate firm JLL asked 1,000 parents how they plan to shop for back to school

How much will they spend?

62 percent said less than $250, about 3 percent more than last year

22 percent said between $250 and $500, about 3 percent less than last year

16 percent said more than $500, about the same as last year

Where will they spend their money?

50.3 percent will go to Walmart

47.3 percent Target

15.8 percent Amazon

9.9 percent Staples

7.1 percent Office Depot/Office Max

6.8 percent Kohl’s

5.4 percent JC Penney

4.9 percent Old Navy

3.8 percent Macy’s

2.2 percent Best Buy

The school supply aisle at Target is the second most popular place for school supplies according to a survey. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN STATESMAN 2016

When will they get their shopping done?

54. 1 percent said they will shop at least two weeks before school

33.6 percent said between 2 and 4 weeks before

20.5 percent said more than a month before

10 percent will shop the week before school starts

3.3 percent said they won’t start until after school begins

12.7 percent shop throughout the year as school is needed

How many stores are they shopping at?

53.7 percent said 1-2 stores

32.8 percent said 3-5 stores

7.4 percent 6 or more stores

6.1 percent said no stores at all

Two years ago, we took two kids’ school supply list and went shopping for them at various stores to compare prices. Walmart did well, but H-E-B did was the big shocker. In many items it beat Walmart and others. 

RELATED: Don’t forget tax-free weekend is this Friday-Saturday.

 

Get kids with food allergies ready for back to school with these tips

[cmg_anvato video=4302628 autoplay=”true”]

When your kid has a food allergy, diabetes or another life-threatening condition, back to school can be stressful. What will happen if your kid with a peanut allergy accidentally sits next to the kid with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gets exposed to peanut butter? What will happen if your kid with celiac disease is offered a birthday cupcake or is told something is gluten-free and it’s not? Or if your kids with diabetes has a low blood sugar moment?

Maplewood Elementary School students eat lunch in the cafeteria. If your child has a food allergy, talk to the school ahead of time to negotiate how to avoid that food. Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman 2015

Dr. BJ Lanser, who is the director of the Pediatric Food Allergy Program at National Jewish Health, offered these tips about managing food allergies, that could be applied to other conditions as well:

  • Meet with school staff members: Set up meetings with principals, teachers, nurses and cafeteria staff. This ensures that everyone is informed and prepared and allows a parent to understand how a child’s school manages food allergies.
  • Create a written plan: Work with an allergist to develop an action plan that outlines all necessary information on your child’s allergy, including how to prevent accidental exposures and how to recognize and treat symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Post pictures: Tape pictures of your child to the classroom wall with information on their allergies to alert anyone that comes into the room. You can also post one on your child’s desk, which can serve as a secondary reminder when snacks are served.
  • Make safe snacks: Pack allergen-free snacks for your child in case someone brings in a treat for the class. Send the snacks to school with a label specifying that they are safe, or leave some with their teacher so your child won’t feel left out during classroom celebrations.

I’ve also written about how to handle school issues when you have a child with a gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease. A lot of the same principles would apply to any food allergy or intolerance. Some of the suggestions:

  1. Have approved snacks at school for the teacher to give out if there is a cupcake day.
  2.  Educate the teacher and the classes’ parents about why your child can’t have the cupcake and offer parents solutions of what they could bring for your child.
  3. Empower kids to be their own advocate and understand what they can and cannot have.

We’ve also gathered tips from chef Amy Fothergill, who has kids with gluten allergies and has a gluten-free cookbook. She suggests:

Have good communication with teachers and other parents. Be vocal about what your child’s food needs are and be proactive about finding solutions. However, don’t expect that the teacher or parent will change what they are planning to suit your child. It’s nice when it happens, but not realistic to depend on that.

Try to pre-plan with similar food alternates. Fothergill finds out ahead of time when there will be a party at school or what a birthday party host will be serving. If it’s not what her children can eat, she will make her children the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free equivalent if that is possible. A teacher even asked her to make the whole class gluten-free spaghetti for an event so that it wouldn’t be an issue.

Try to always have food on-hand. Fothergill keeps a freezer of food, especially baked goods for parties. She also sets up teachers with either pre-packaged cookies or frozen cupcakes they can keep in the freezer at school for when parties happen. Of course, on the occasion when her kids don’t have access to an alternative, they learn that “they can’t always get what the want,” she says. “Sometimes you have to wait.”

Eat before an event. If her kids are headed to a play date, she has them make a gluten-free sandwich beforehand. If there aren’t good choices at the event, they won’t be hungry.

Bring something with you. She also tries to have snacks on-hand wherever they go.

Learn where there could be cross-contamination. They stopped eating things like corn chips and fries because of the cross-contamination that happens when a restaurant fries the onion rings or the chicken nuggets in the same fryer as the chips or the fries. She’s also learned to always ask questions even if you would think something like a risotto would be gluten-free, but you find out that that particular chef puts flour in his risotto. She’s also learned to look at beauty products as well.

And again: Empower kids to be their own advocates. It gets easier with time, but her kids have learned how to talk to adults and their friends about their food needs. “It makes them independent,” she says.

Halloween, which is really only two months away can be a difficult time for kids with food allergies or intollerances.

Marty Barnes, founder of Casey’s Circle, supporting medically fragile kids had these suggestions for handling things Halloween:

  1. Encourage neighbors to stock non-food items in their trick-or-treat basket, such as glow bracelets, stickers, tattoos, noise makers, bouncy balls.
  2. Put a sticker on your child that says “non-food items only.” That way you don’t have to explain at every door why you can’t take the candy.
  3. Place a sign on your door that reads “Non-food items available here.” Or paint a pumpkin teal. The Food Allergy Research & Education group created the Teal Pumpkin project to represent that you are food-allergy friendly by having non-food treats at your house. You can download a Teal Pumpkin sign here. 
  4. Take the candy if you don’t want to be impolite, but take it to an orthodontist participating in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program. I searched my ZIP code and found three locations nearby.

There are a lot of great things happening in the world of food allergies. ‘Specially for Children, which is affiliated with Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, is now a FARE site.  This means that kids who are at ‘Specially for Children can participate in research studies, like a peanut allergy study.

Austin school district, health officials warn parents about West Nile virus

Last night, we got this message from Austin Public Health and Austin Independent School District:

A batch of different types of mosquito breeds are seen after being collected by the City of Austin in 2016. AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

In recent weeks, Austin Public Health has seen an increase in mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile Virus in the Austin area.

We’d like to remind you of symptoms and preventative steps because we know this is a time of year when families and students are spending a lot of time outdoors.

Most people infected with West Nile Virus do not have any signs or symptoms. However, if you do see symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, body aches or skin rash, seek medical attention.

Some preventative measures for your family are:

  • The best defense is with an EPA-approved insect repellent. Follow directions and apply as directed. epa.gov/insect-repellents
  • Stay inside when mosquitoes are active. For most mosquitoes in the U.S., activity peaks during the dusk hours.
  • If you have to be outside, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants that are light colored. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.
  • Drain any water that collects around your home. Mosquitoes need only a teaspoon of water to breed.

For more information on preventative measures, visit cdc.gov/features/StopMosquitoes/ or austintexas.gov/health.

We look forward to seeing everyone back at school Aug. 20.

Thank you,
City of Austin Health and Human Services and Austin ISD

This follows news that mosquitoes in Cedar Park tested positive for West Nile.

In July, Travis County was put on alert for one West Nile case.

RELATED: Five things to know about West Nile Virus

Looking for ideas on how to prevent mosquitoes? Last year we tested 16 repellents to see which ones worked best. Hint: DEET matters.

RELATED: Why do mosquitoes bite some people and not others?

 

Back to school: Are your child’s vaccinations current?

Every year, there are kindergarten and seventh-grade parents ready to send their kids off for the first day of school who have to turn around and head to the doctor’s office. Either they need proof of vaccination or they are missing a required vaccination or the exemption form to opt out of vaccines (which is never a good idea unless there’s a medical reason. At the University of Texas, we’ve had cases of mumps in recent year because of the lack of vaccinations.).

 

LVN Tanya Roland vaccinates Fatima Wolfe, the 1-year-old daughter of Jordan Wolfe, at the Shots for Tots vaccination clinic at St. John’s Community Center. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Don’t get caught missing a vaccine or without your paperwork. Find your children’s shot records and make sure they are in compliance with the 2018-2019 school vaccination schedule:

Kindergarten-Sixth Grade

Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: four or five doses depending on which version your kid got.

Polio: four or three doses

Measles, Mumps and Rubella: two doses

Hepatitis B: three doses

Varicella: two doses

Hepatitus A: two doses

Seventh graders

All of the above, plus

Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis: three doses of the primary series plus a booster within the last five years

Meningococcal: one dose

Eighth- throught 12-graders

All of the above, but if the diptheria/tetanus/pertussis shot has not been given in the last 10 years, a booster is needed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends these vaccines for the 11-year-old or 12-year-old check up:

  • HPV vaccine
    Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against HPV infections that cause cancer. For kids age 9-14, it’s two doses, one six months to a year after the first. For kids 15 or older, it’s three doses, the second one to two months after the first; the third, six months after the first.
  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine
    Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against some of the bacteria that can cause infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia). These illnesses can be very serious, even fatal. It recommends one dose at 11.
  • Tdap vaccine
    Tdap vaccine provides a booster to continue protection from childhood against three serious diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough).
  • Flu vaccine
    Preteens and teens should get a flu vaccine every year, by the end of October if possible. It is very important for preteens and teens with chronic health conditions like asthma or diabetes to get the flu shot, but the flu can be serious for even healthy kids.

RELATED: FluMist will be back this year

The CDC recommends this vaccine at the 16-year check up:

  • A second dose of meningococcal ACWY

The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine recommends this vaccines at the 16-year check up:

  • meningococcal B vaccine.

RELATED: Back to school to-do list: Schedule doctor visit for vaccines, sports physicals

Think your child doesn’t need to be vaccinated. Dr. Don Murphey, an infectious disease specialist at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, who has been treating infectious disease in Texas children for almost a quarter of a century, explained to us last school why vaccines are so important.

Last year he saw seen mumps cases, like the ones at UT, come into Dell Children’s. Last year by August, Texas had more than 200 cases. “Before 2000, we had almost no cases of mumps,” he says.

He’s also seen in recent years more measles, whooping cough, pneumococcal meningitis and Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis.

What’s going on here?

We’re seeing what doctors have been seeing in Europe, especially France and the United Kingdom, but on a smaller scale, Murphey says. The rates of mumps and measles in particular skyrocketed there after “The Lancet” medical journal published a 1998 study by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that it later had to retract. Wakefield lost his license because of it.

Wakefield’s study found a link to autism from the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. Multiple studies including those funded by plantiff’s lawyers who were looking for a link found no-such link. What happens, though, is that the MMR vaccine is given around the same time — about 12 months to 15 months — as when many kids with autism start to show signs.

Yet, the misinformation and the fear of vaccines persisted. Parents in Europe stopped vaccinating and Europe no longer had the “herd” immunity that happens when at least 90 percent to 95 percent of the population are vaccinated against a disease.

Diseases like measles and mumps that we just didn’t see are happening again. We rely on the herd immunity to protect us. You see these vaccines are not fool-proof, and they have waning effects. In the case of the students at UT, even if college students have been vaccinated as children but are exposed to mumps now, they might not be fully immune and get it.

Murphey says the mumps vaccine we use “is a very safe one. It doesn’t cause any meningitis,” he says. “It works great for herd immunity, but it doesn’t work if you’re exposed.”

If you do get mumps, it isn’t the worst thing most of the time. You get a fever, you feel bad for a few days, he says. Boys can also get an infection in their testes and girls in their ovaries. What is scary is that mumps can lead to meningitis and deafness.

While mumps is not a terrible disease, we could avoid the whole thing, if people who can get immunized do get immunized, he says.

For parents who are considering or are using an alternative vaccine schedule and delaying vaccines, Murphey encourages them not to. “Alternative schedules have never been shown to be any safer,” he says.

By delaying vaccines, you’re not protecting the most vulnerable population, who can get the most sick from these disease — infants and small children. They end up in the hospital or worse.

“You want to start protecting those kids as soon as possible,” Murphey says.

Vaccinate, please, if not for your own child, but for the other children.