Who should be screening moms for postpartum depression? More doctors now can

The postpartum depression that can follow having a baby can catch many families off guard and become worrisome not just for the mom experiencing it, but for the baby whose mother might have excessive worries about that baby’s safety or feel a lack of connection to her baby.

That maternal bond is important in the first few years of life as babies learn that if I smile at you, you smile back. If I cry because I’m hungry, you feed me.

“When a baby is parented by a depressed or anxious mother, there is some evidence that long-term exposure can lead to a learning disability, cognitive delays or motor delays,” says Elaine Cavazos, a licensed social worker who specializes in postpartum depression. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas and the clinical director of the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas.

Postpartum depression rates vary from 10 percent to 20 percent to ratios of 1 in 7 postpartum women. It depends on what study you cite.

Getting support from groups like Partners in Parenting or finding fellow parents of young babies can help new parents not feel so alone. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

One of the questions among medical providers has been who can screen for it and when should it be done.

In May the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended that doctors offer more postpartum care for women by adding follow up within the first three weeks of delivery in addition to a comprehensive visit within 12 weeks of delivery. Part of that recommendation is a response to recognizing that symptoms of postpartum depression often happen before the traditional six-week checkup.

Mothers actually see their child’s pediatrician more regularly throughout that first year than their own doctors. Usually within a few days of birth, then at a month, two months, four months, six months, nine months and at one year.

“One of the critical things is we have access to the moms because we have access to the babies at a pretty high frequency,” says pediatrician Louis Appel.

Pediatrician Dr. Louis Appel visits with 15-month-old Jose Romo as mother, Laura Patricia Romo looks on during a well child checkup at People’s Community Clinic. For about seven years, doctors there have been screening new moms for postpartum depression during their child’s well-check visits. AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2007

Recognizing that, the 2017 Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2466 that allows pediatricians to charge Medicaid and child health plan programs for the screening of mothers for depression within the first year of a child’s life even if the mother isn’t covered by those programs but the child is. Medicaid covers mothers with low incomes while they are pregnant until 60 days after delivery, at which point they might not have the insurance to be screened for postpartum depression. Now they can still get screened after 60 days by going through the child’s pediatrician and insurance.

Once screened, pediatricians can refer mothers to mental health services.

Appel, says about seven years ago, pediatricians where he works at People’s Community Clinic began doing the screenings because they were looking at what they could do to help with early brain development.

“The thing we landed on was screening for postpartum depression,” he says. “That early bonding is so important to early brain development in children.”

People’s Community Clinic screens by having the nurse or doctor ask two questions known as the Patient Health Questionnaire 2:

1. During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

2. During the past month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?

If they answer yes to any of those things or if there is a noticeable lack of interaction between mom or baby or an anxiousness around that interaction, the patient would be given a longer 10-question form to fill out.

In this 2011 file photo, nurse practitioner Peggy Wall conducts a prenatal visit with patient Leticia Martinez at in the Women’s Health department at People’s Community Clinic. New guidelines encourage obstetricians to follow up with new moms sooner after birth than six weeks. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2011

Doctors and nurses then refer patients to the clinic’s social workers, sometimes in-person that day or by phone later. If Appel didn’t have those in-house resources, he says he would refer the mom to her primary care physician or to other community health resources or the national crisis line for postpartum depression. Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas also keeps a list of providers and what insurance companies they take.

It’s not just moms who can get postpartum depression. It can happen to dad’s, too, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 4 percent of new father’s experience it as well. Cavazos says that in her practice, she sees dads as well as adoptive parents.

The depression for moms might start in pregnancy. “The more severe cases probably we might have seen while she was pregnant,” Cavazos says.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents actually have a prenatal visit with pediatricians. This can help pediatricians anticipate postpartum depression by looking for any perinatal depression as well as give guidelines for those first few weeks of infant care. It also helps establish a partnership between the doctor and the family, and for the doctor to get a sense of pregnancy complications, family medical histories and any exposure that baby might have had to drugs or alcohol while in the womb.

Cavazos says the hallmark of postpartum depression is intrusive thoughts that something awful is going to happen to the baby or they are going to do something awful to the baby or something awful to themselves and the baby. The mom becomes super vigilant about the baby’s care and won’t let anyone else care for the baby, or she is unable to engage with the baby because she’s afraid she’ll do something wrong.

Cavazos says it’s like she is thinking, “What’s the very worst thing that can happen to her?” and she’s playing it over and over again in her head, but it’s not a Child Protective Case, because it is fear-driven and anxiety-driven, not something she will actually act on, Cavazos says.

Her family will take note that she just doesn’t seem like herself.

Postpartum psychosis, though, can happen, but is very rare. That’s when she doesn’t feel fear or anxious. She feels almost like a deity or something outside herself is making her do things, Cavazos says, and that’s a psychiatric emergency. The mom needs to be separated from the baby and get help immediately.

With postpartum depression, Cavazos will ask the mom if she’s sleeping, and that will get a laugh. She worries if women are getting less than five hours of sleep a day combined. She also wants to know about whether they have access to nutritious food and are eating. She might want them to have their vitamin D and thyroid levels checked to rule out other possibilities.

Sometimes antidepressants will be necessary. Even for moms that are nursing, “the general consensus is if the mom is depressed, the benefits far outweigh the risks of the medication,” Appel says.

Other times, the treatment is self-care and talk therapy.

Cavazos will work on what feelings the moms have about the baby, what things cause them to become overwhelmed with the baby’s care, what resources they have to get help, and also normalize what she is feeling.

Often moms don’t stay long in therapy, usually four or five visits to eight visits because of the amount of bandwidth they have. After all, they have a new baby, but sometimes they will make therapy part of their self-care regimen. Sometimes Cavazos will recommend a support group or some sort of parenting group to help the mom not feel so alone. And she’ll help reassure moms that they have good parenting skills and find ways to strengthen those skills.

RELATED: Partners in Parenting help new moms, dads get support

Appel encourages a mom’s partner or support system to help as much as possible and to “give new moms permission to … take any help people can give,” he says. That whole “sleep when baby sleeps” is important. “You should not be doing the laundry or cleaning the house,” he says.

Austin mom shares her experience of when her child almost drowned

Fourth of July is almost upon us. This week and all summer long, we head to pools, to lakes, to any body of water we can get into with our families to cool off from the heat.

But a fun day in the water can turn tragic in a few minutes time.

Teddy Van Winkle, 3, almost drown in June when he went after a beach ball in a neighborhood pool. Tina Van Winkle

Tina Van Winkle learned firsthand how quickly a child can become submerged in water June 9 while swimming with her son Teddy, 3, her baby Roger and her father at a neighborhood pool in the Wells Branch area. It was a quiet Saturday morning with two lifeguards in their stations and more in the office and about 15 people in the pool, Van Winkle says.

The Van Winkles had been swimming, and Teddy had asked to take off his Puddle Jumper flotation device so he could practice floating. Then, when they were all getting out of the pool, her father was carrying the baby and she thought he also had Teddy as well. She swam to the pool ladder to get out of the pool to follow her dad back to the picnic table.

“I had visually registered that Teddy was with my dad,” she says. She had even seen him out of the water and on the pavement next to the pool, following her dad back to their picnic table. “My dad thought I was bringing up the rear … it was a misunderstanding.”

RELATED: Become a water guardian with Colin’s Hope

Teddy had seen their beach ball floating in the pool and jumped in to grab it. When Van Winkle saw that Teddy wasn’t with her dad, she scanned the pool and saw him floating with just his arms above water in the shallow end, which was about 3 feet. She jumped in and pulled him out. The lifeguards had not registered yet what had happened, she says.

Teddy was limp, but hadn’t lost consciousness and he immediately started spitting out water. They walked home, thinking that everything was fine, but Teddy was lethargic and wasn’t himself.

She took him to the St. David’s Children’s Hospital in North Austin, where he stayed overnight for observation because he had fluid in his lungs.

Van Winkle and her father both had years of swimming experience, he as a lifeguard and swim instructor in his youth and she on the swim team in high school. “I know never to take my eyes off of kids,” she says. “And I did.”


Tina Van Winkle with sons Roger and Teddy had been a lifeguard in her 20s as had her father. Tina Van Winkle

“Even though I already knew a lot of the guidelines about water safety, I didn’t follow them to the letter,” she says.

The experience confirmed with her how quickly it could happen — she estimates he was out of her sight maybe two minutes — and the importance of having someone within arms’ length of a child anytime you’re around water, and the importance of verbally confirming who is watching each child. It’s also a reminder for parents and guardians to have strong swimming skills themselves, she says, because she could jump in quickly and pull him out of the pool.

Even though Teddy can talk about that day and how scared he was, it hasn’t stopped him from swimming. He has been back in the pool twice since then and will take swimming lessons next month.

“He was fearless again,” she says. “Maybe that’s a bad thing, because it led him to believe he could swim.”

Dr. Elinor Pisano, hospitalist at St. David’s Children’s Hospital

Dr. Elinor Pisano, the pediatric hospitalist that saw Teddy at St. David’s, says the hospital has seen a spike in the number of drownings or near-drownings in the hospital this May and June.

“We do see a spike every spring and summertime,” she says, but this year the number of deaths seems higher. She could not give specific numbers.

Deaths can happen within five minutes she says and the likelihood of a fatality or severe brain damage goes up with each passing minute, she says.

“The key thing is supervision,” she says. “It’s not that there is a total absence of supervision; it’s a momentary lapse of supervision.”

Often it’s a case like the Van Winkles’, where there are multiple caregivers and someone assumes that someone else is watching the child.

“Someone turns their back for just a minute, and they later realized that child is underwater,” she says.

Make sure that there is a designated adult watching the child and that that adult is within arms’ length. If you’re that adult and you have to step away, confirm with someone else that they are watching the child, Pisano says.

If a child does become submerged, pull them out as quickly as possible, ask someone else to call 9-1-1 and start CPR. Make sure the child is seen by either an emergency medical technician or in the emergency room to confirm that their oxygen level is normal and that there are no lasting effects.

Related: Is there such a thing as dry drowning?

Other things you can do to prevent drownings include making sure you have a four-sided fence around your backyard pool with a locked gate that closes behind you; and giving kids swim lessons beginning at age 1. Pisano says there was some old thinking that it would give kids a sense of bravery that they could swim before they really could, but now there’s some evidence that it does provide some level of protection. She does warn, “There’s no way to drown-proof your child.”

While drowning is most common in children 4 and younger, it also is common in teenage boys and when there is alcohol or substances involved.

It also doesn’t always happen in in-ground pools. Wading pools, above-ground pools, lakes, hot tubs and bathtubs all can be dangerous.

RELATED: Before you go swimming know what’s lurking in the water

RELATED: Can pools make you sick? 

Follow our swim safety tips:

Don’t forget that even if the pool is safe, water can be a very unsafe place. Keep these things in mind when you head to the pool, lake or beach this weekend.

Before you dip your toes into whatever body of water you choose, practice these rules for water safety we compiled using experts from the YMCA, City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, Colin’s Hope, Safe Kids Austin, the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What does drowning look like?

Unlike what we see in the movies, “drowning is a silent thing. There’s no splashing, yelling or choking,” says Stephanie Hebert, the injury prevention coordinator at Dell Children’s Medical Center and the Safe Kids Austin coordinator. “They go under and when they are under, you don’t hear them, you don’t see anything.”

Drowning also doesn’t take long. Irreversible brain damage happens in as little as four minutes. Children who drown are usually missing for less than five minutes and usually are in the presence of at least one parent.

For children younger than 15, it’s the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths, behind motor vehicle accidents. Children younger than 5 are more at risk. Boys also are more susceptible because they tend to take more risks.

It can happen anywhere. Pools with lifeguards, natural bodies of water, bathtubs and toilets.

As of mid-May this year, 16 children already have drowned in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

It’s also preventable, so let’s focus on that.

Watch the water

The No. 1 thing parents can do to prevent a child from drowning is supervise their children.

For young children, that means getting in the water and having hands-on contact or being within arm’s length.

For older children, that means watching them in the water at all times. Reading a book in a lounge chair or talking to a fellow parent or texting isn’t supervising.

The Austin-based drowning prevention nonprofit group Colin’s Hope distributes 75,000 water safety packets every year that include a Water Guardian bracelet. The bracelet slips on and signifies that you are the designated adult watching the children in your group. If you need to take a break, you hand it to another adult, whose sole job is watching the water.

The City of Austin ordinance requires that kids 9 and younger have an adult with them to be in a city pool and that kids ages 10 to 14 can be by themselves if they pass a swim test, but why chance it? Supervise everyone in your group.

Vacation is also no time to let your guard down. Kids can drown in cruise ships and hotel pools.

Always have a phone nearby and learn CPR. A water safety class is also a great idea.

Good swimmers drown, too

Even kids who know how to swim can drown, says Alissa Magrum, executive director of Colin’s Hope, which was started by the parents of Colin Holst, a 4-year-old who drowned in an Austin pool in 2008. Colin had had swim lessons and was at a life-guarded pool with his family and friends watching.

“A lot of families think, ‘My kids are decent swimmers; they’ve had swim lessons, they are fine,’ ” Hebert says.

But things happen. Children accidentally swallow water. Or they hit their heads. Or they misjudge their abilities. Or they get tired or dehydrated or hungry.

Donita Grinde-Houtman, the aquatic supervisor for Austin Parks and Recreation, says lifeguards respond most often between 2 and 6 p.m. because kids get tired. “Kiddos have been at the pool all day long, they’re getting tired, and they don’t recognize that they don’t have the energy to swim as far as they need to.”

Take frequent breaks. End earlier than you think you should. Rehydrate and refuel throughout the day.

Not-so-good swimmers need more help

That doesn’t mean water wings, pool noodles and other pool toys to stay afloat. Put a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket on your budding swimmer. They have to have one on for getting in a boat, so why not extend that to any body of water?

Before you go to a pool, define where the shallow end is, especially for not-so-good swimmers. One of the most common reasons lifeguards make a water rescue, says Bret Kiester, the executive director of the Hays Communities YMCA and the aquatic directors liaison for all the Austin-area YMCAs, is when kids who aren’t good swimmers find the deep end. Sometimes they’ve monkey-crawled along the side of the pool to that end; other times they’re following an older sibling or they don’t know where the deep end starts.

Lifeguards are great but not a guarantee

Be hesitant to swim in a place without a lifeguard because they add a layer of protection. However, they’re not insurance.

One lifeguard Magrum was working with put it this way: “We are not baby-sitters. We are here in an emergency.”

Lifeguards have a lot of people to watch, not just your child. Their job gets even more difficult the more people are in the pool and the less-clear the water is. They also get distracted by children horsing around (i.e. running around the pool) and other emergencies not in the pool.

Lifeguards, who go through similar training programs, are supposed to scan 180 degrees every 10 seconds from top to bottom, from right to left. If you see a lifeguard who isn’t doing that or you notice that lifeguards aren’t getting frequent breaks and rotating out, alert a supervisor.

Swim lessons

Swim lessons statistically have been shown to reduce a child’s chances of drowning, but it’s not a magic shield.

The YMCA and the City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department start swim lessons as parent-and-child classes at age 6 months, old enough for a child to have good head control.

Those early classes are about familiarizing the baby with water and teaching parents good water safety with their children.

By age 3 or 4, children can take solo lessons, but if you’ve missed that age, don’t worry. “It’s never too late to learn how to swim,” Kiester says. He’s had students as old as 92 learn to swim.

Kids are grouped by age, then by ability, and there are adult classes, too — something parents who don’t know how to swim should consider in order to be able to save a child in danger.

Swim lessons are not just about learning strokes. They teach about being comfortable and water safety.

Sometimes kids will have a bad reaction to swimming lessons. It might be the time of day or it might be the coolness of the water, Grinde-Houtman says.

If your child is truly afraid of the water, Grinde-Houtman says, you might have to take a step back and start with something like sitting at the side of the pool and putting her feet in the water.

Free swim lessons are available from the Austin American-Statesman’s Swim Safe program, which provides lessons at YMCA locations and City of Austin pools.

A great time to do swim lessons is in the winter, Kiester says. They tend to be less crowded and when summer starts, kids won’t have to re-learn to be comfortable in the water again.

Natural bodies of water

Rivers, lakes, springs and oceans get tricky. The surface is uneven. “You might be wading in waist-deep water and the next step you’re in 16 feet of water,” says Clara Tuma of the LCRA.

You also can’t see the bottom to know if someone has fallen in.

It’s also hard to judge distances. People often get in trouble because they pick a point to swim to and underestimate how far it is. “They run out of energy halfway there,” Tuma says. “They can’t just stop and sit under a tree.”

Wearing a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket allows them to rest and float if they need to.

And often people get confused as to where they are to report an emergency.

Swimming on natural bodies also means you’re not the only thing out there. Keep a look out for boats and personal water crafts that might not be able to see you.

In oceans, teach kids how to deal with rip currents that push swimmers away from the shore.

Never swim alone no matter what type of water you are in.

Keep safe at home

Each year many kids drown at home. Kids can drown in as little as 1 inch of water.

Never walk away from a young child in a bathtub, not even to answer the phone or grab a towel.

Keep locks on toilets if you have infants and toddlers. Keep plastic kiddie pools empty as well as mop buckets.

If you have a backyard pool, install a locking gate system on all four-sides of the pool. If a child goes missing, check the pool or hot tub first before looking inside the house.

Teach baby-sitters about pool safety.


Know which sunscreens work best and what to look for in a sunscreen. AMANDA VOISARD / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen and bug spray, too. 

We tested more than 20 sunscreens last week to see which ones worked best and last year we tested 16 bug sprays to see which one actually repelled mosquitoes. 

Traveling to Houston this summer? See how Space Center Houston has become a certified autism center

Space Center Houston, where you can learn all about the latest in space exploration by NASA has been named a Certified Autism Center by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards.

What does that mean?

The Resource Prospector 2015 (RP15) Rover Prototype is shown at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.  Brett Coomer /Houston Chronicle

It means that the staff has been trained on accessibility and inclusion strategies for people with autism. It also means that the center has made improvements to the center to make it more accommodating for people with autism and other sensory and cognitive differences.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics education is for everyone,” said William T. Harris, the center’s president and CEO, in a press release. “This certification highlights our dedication to be inclusive and to inspire the next generation of problem solvers.”

Workshops taught staff, especially those in guest services, what to do when a child does things like run when he gets overwhelmed.

“We train our team about awareness and sensitivity, best practices for instruction and interactions,” said Stephanie McMahon in a press release. She is a special education certified teacher and mother to an autistic child, who is now the senior lead instructor in its Education Department, and the inclusion and accessibility coordinator.

McMahon has helped develop a “Stellar Explorer Guide,” that individuals and school groups can use to prepare guests with autism for an upcoming visit and vocabulary cards for non- or low-verbal guests that can help with transitions and timelines.

The Center also has Sensory Friendly Evenings for which families can sign up.

Get the complete accessibility guide here.

Find out more about Space Center Houston, at spacecenter.org.

RELATED: New guides to eating out at restaurants for children with autism

RELATED: Wings for All program prepare kid with autism for airline travel

RELATED:  Tips on how to go on vacation for families with autism or serious illnesses

RELATED: Mom shares less-than-pretty truth about raising a son with autism

RELATED: Why do so many kids with autism not get diagnosed by age 2?

RELATED: New numbers show increase in autism rates, but there’s more to that

Austin girl playing Carnegie Hall Friday with students from Orpheus Academy of Music seven years after stroke

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Well, for the more than 40 kids from Austin, it’s taking lessons from Orpheus Academy of Music and lining up to get one of the slots in Orpheus’ first Carnegie Hall concert. The classical music school is celebrating its 15th anniversary in a big way with this concert on Friday at the famed New York City venue.

Klondike Steadman director of musical arts at Orpheus, said the music school allowed students to secure their spot by registering in person at 8 a.m. on a Saturday months ago. People started lining up, sitting in their lawn chairs outside the school, at 10 p.m. the night before.

“What we go for is how dedicated will you be,” Steadman says, of how students got picked for the concert.

The performance will be extra special for 12-year-old Casey Irwin and her mom Julie. On Friday, Casey will be singing “My Funny Valentine.” She likes the song for its humor and because it fits with her voice and her range.

Casey Irwin, 12, plays piano with one hand. She’s used music to recover from a stroke when she was five. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Casey began voice lessons when she was 7 as a way to help her talk again after she had a stroke when she was 5.

“She couldn’t talk at all,” Julie Irwin says of her daughter when she first had the stroke. “She couldn’t read, she couldn’t make a word.”

Yet, at Casey’s first singing lesson, the teacher told her to take a pencil, read the lyrics and make notes in the sheet music.

[cmg_anvato video=”4427030″ autoplay=”true”]

Irwin says she didn’t think Casey could do that and wanted to jump in and try to explain the limitations Casey faced, but she didn’t. “The teacher was nonplussed by it,” Julie Irwin says of the stroke.

Irwin walked away and let the lesson happen, and Casey, who has lasting damage to her right hand from the stroke and had to learn how to write with her left, sat down and made notes on the sheet music.

“She was so motivated to do it,” Irwin says.

This picture of Casey Irwin was taken just before she had her stroke at age 5.

Casey’s musical ability was part of her even before the stroke, her mom says. As a preschooler, she had a male music teacher and she would sing exactly an octave up from what he was singing. That’s rare, Steadman says.

Everyone had told Irwin that some kind of music would be helpful for Casey to regain language. Music and singing use a different part of Casey’s brain, and singing could form the bridge between.

“Music really helped me,” Casey says. She was motivated to learn how to read by reading the lyrics.

“It helped her healing,” Julie Irwin says.

The stroke happend July 11, 2011, the summer after Casey’s kindergarten year. She was in the pool at Reed Neighborhood Park.

Luckily, Julie Irwin was right there when Casey came up out of the water. Casey couldn’t walk or talk. “Her whole face was drooping,” Julie Irwin says. Casey started crying, but she couldn’t make a sound.

“I knew it was extremely serious,” Irwin says.

Irwin was screaming for people around her to call 911.

Casey says the stroke didn’t really hurt, but she remembers thinking, “I’m going to die,” she says. “It was very scary, but then my mom was right there, and I knew I was going to be OK.”

They went by ambulance to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas and Casey stopped breathing along the way. Doctors got Casey stabilized and the recovery began.

Casey Irwin and her mom Julie can just now talk about the stroke that happend to Casey seven years ago. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Casey couldn’t make any sounds at first, but then a week later, she made a grunt while playing with a balloon with her grandparents. Then with more therapy and time, and she learned how to point with her left hand to get what she wanted. Then in another month, she could say 10 to 15 words.

Julie Irwin likened it to her daughter suddenly being an infant again and learning to talk: first grunts and babble, then pointing, then a few words. “She had a fairly strong accent,” Irwin says, like she was drunk, for a very long time.

Casey was in therapy constantly, first at Dell Children’s, then at a specialized rehab center in Dallas, then outpatient therapy back home.

She relearned how to walk, first with six people helping her, then on her own with a specialized electronic boot to stimulate the nerves.

Her speech began to come along, but she would mix up words or be searching for a word, which still sometimes happens. She’ll be talking about Niagara Falls when she meant Neanderthals.

And she still has weakness in her right hand, which she holds in a fist close to her chest.

“Doctors said it was going to get better,” Casey says of her hand. “They don’t really know,” Julie Irwin says.

In addition to taking voice lessons and music theory at Orpheus, Casey has now started taking piano. Her teacher gives her music that is written for or arranged for people with the use of only one hand. Again, like that first voice lesson, Julie Irwin walked out of the room and let the lesson happen. Casey was able to play with her teacher. “It’s helpful to have a place that didn’t make (the effects of her stroke) a thing,” Julie Irwin says. “They aimed a little higher,” she says.

Steadman says he has learned a lot from his wife, Wendy, who is also a music teacher, and got her start teaching adult with disabilities. Now 50 percent of his wife’s students would be considered on the autism spectrum or having another disability. “Everybody is special needs,” Steadman says. “Every single student has areas where they excel and areas where they need to learn,” he says.

Casey is now playing Bach on the piano, about a year after starting lessons, and it has helped strengthen her right hand.

“It shows what I can do in a different way,” she says. “I tried it out and I really liked it,” she says of piano. Julie Irwin says Casey already plays better with one hand than she did with two hands when she took lessons as a child.

Casey is a bit nervous to play at Carnegie Hall. “Am I sure I want to do this?” she’s been asking herself.

Performing regularly is part of Orpheus’ curriculum. Students play for one another regularly as part of music theory class and in regular recitals. It’s all about confronting stage fright, and as Steadman says, being a part of something bigger than yourself. “Together we inspire,” he says the school’s philosophy is. “Casey’s been such a big part of it.”

A hot weekend ahead of family fun in Austin, June 29-July 1

It’s going to be hot, hot, hot this weekend as June turns into July. Find these fun family events in and around Austin:


Blanton Museum. Each summer, the Blanton brings creative programs for different age groups that have you learning about art as well as making it: Deeper Dives for ages 8-10, 10 a.m. Fridays; Free Diving for ages 11-14, 1 p.m. Fridays.  Blanton Museum. 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. blantonmuseum.org

“Peter Rabbit,” 3:30 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch.

Teen Videogame Free Play. 2 p.m. Fridays, Central Library.


The Little Mermaid. 8:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $10. EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens, 1101 FM 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org

​”​MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers.​”​ More than 300 young performers celebrate the 100 years of Leonard Bernstein. $29-$254. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

A sign welcomes all to one of the homes at Woodland Faerie Trail. Carolyn Lindell, For American-Statesman


Zilker Botanical Garden opens its Woodland Faerie Trail now through Aug. 10. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. Maybe you’ll see a fairy. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Club. “The Land Before Time,” 10 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Lakeline. “Sing,” 10:30 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Mueller. 10 a.m. Friday, 9:55 a.m. Saturday, 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Slaughter Lane.  drafthouse.com

Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) star in the film “Black Panther.” (Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios)


Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for children younger than 3. Learn about the sea this month. 9 a.m. Saturdays. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Book People 10:30 a.m. story time, “Pete the Kitty,” Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble story times. Each Saturday all Barnes & Noble locations offer 11 a.m. story times. “Pete the Kitty,” Saturday. barnesandnoble.com

Literature Live Presents “King Midas.” 2 p.m. Wednesday, Little Walnut Creek Branch; 2 p.m. Saturday, Manchaca Road Branch.

“Black Panther,” 2 p.m. Saturday, University Hills Branch.

Keep Austin Playing. Enjoy fun and games for all ages, including rock walls, obstacles courses and more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Free. Palmer Auditorium, 900 Barton Springs Road. austintexas.gov


Instant Ice Cream workshop, for ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Pollyanna Theatre Company’s “If Wishes Were Fishes.” 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $10.50-$13.50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Spoonful of Sugar Improv for Families with Hideout Theatre. 11 a.m. Sunday and Saturday. $12-$8. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org

Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins” is at the Paramount Theatre this Sunday.


Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday with the theme Stars & Stripes, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. You’ll hear from the author of the book “W is for Weird: An Austin Alphabet,” learn about voting from the League of Women Voters, make a patriotic hat and join a parade, and add to a mural with a local artist. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Paramount Summer Movie Classics. Show your kids all the great films you or your parents grew up on. “Mary Poppins” 1 p.m. Sunday; $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

10 patriotic things to do with kids in Austin this Fourth of July

At a time when politics might divide us, give your kids a lesson in patriotism and an appreciation of our history this Fourth of July week.

Here are 10 things you can do in and around Austin to celebrate our country’s birthday:

The crowds arrived in record numbers to participate in the 4th of July, 2016, firework celebration at Auditorium Shores and the Long Center. JOHN GUTIERREZ/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN

1. Go big. Gather with thousands of your closest friends at Vic Mathias Shores to hear the Austin Symphony Orchestra perform and then see the skies over downtown Austin light up with fireworks. H-E-B Austin Symphony July Fourth Concert and Fireworks, 8:30 p.m. July 4. Free. Vic Mathias Shores. austinsymphony.org

Madelyn Padilla-Harris, 4, waits to ride her decorated scooter as Ruger, her uncle’s puppy, left, looks on during the Georgetown Fourth of July Hometown Parade. Rodolfo Gonzalez/American Statesman 2012

2. Go smaller. Find your neighborhood Fourth of July parade, and watch it, or better yet, decorate your bike, stroller or wagon and join it. Several Central Texas small towns also have parades. Red, White & Buda parade starts at 9 a.m. on Main Street and then follow-up activities happen in the greenbelt near the library. At night, see the fireworks at 9:30 p.m. at the Buda Sportsplex. In Georgetown the parade begins at 11 a.m. in San Gabriel Park. At night, the fireworks happen at 9:30 p.m. at the McMaster Athletic Fields.

Take kids on a tour of the Texas State Capitol. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2006

3. Take in state history. The Bullock Museum offers many patriotic events next week. Kick off the week with Free First Sunday with the theme Stars & Stripes, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. You’ll hear from the author of the book “W is for Weird: An Austin Alphabet,” learn about voting from the League of Women Voters, make a patriotic hat and join a parade, and add to a mural with a local artist. Create art on Tuesday as part of Make it Tuesdays. This week’s theme is Red, White and Yum, 10 a.m. July 3. Go on a tour of history lead by your senses during History Detectives, 10 a.m. July 5. And Learn about how a real cowboy works with ropes in Yippee Yay! 2 p.m. July 7. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

You also can take a free tour of the Texas Capitol daily. The free tours leave from the south foyer near the tour guides’ office every 30 to 40 minutes. There are themed tours including Women in Texas History, 11:15 a.m. daily, and Heroes of the Texas Revolution, 2:15 p.m. daily. 1100 Congress Ave. tspb.texas.gov

Related: Find more patriotic ideas to share with your kids

4. Honor the fallen. Go on a scavenger hunt of the Texas State Cemetery. Do your research online at cemetery.state.tx.us first. You can download an audio tour and map there. Can you find the two American Revolutionary War heroes? How about the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Can you find all of the Texas governors and first ladies buried there? How about famous Texas authors? Don’t miss the Veterans Memorial Section, the Medal of Honor Monument, the World War II Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the Gold Star Mothers Monument, the Purple Heart Monument, an Alamo survivor and Confederate Field. 909 Navasota St.

In Williamson County, you can go the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial, 2 Texas Drive, Georgetown.

Or visit the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, 2200 W. 35th St. The museum is free and open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Later this month you can see the museum in action at a Hands-on History event, 6-9 p.m. July 21. That event is $5. texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org

Farther out, you can learn about World War II at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, the home of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. You can see a re-creation of the battle at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. July 14 and 15. Tickets to the show are $10 and best bought in advance. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 340 E. Main St., Fredericksburg. $15 adults, free for World War II veterans, $10 military, $6 children. pacificwarmuseum.org

Learn about African American history at the George Washington Carver Museum. American-Statesman

5. Take a different look at history. Head to the George Washington Carver Museum for a look at African American culture in Austin. The first Saturday of the month the Carver Museum has hands-on activities from noon to 4 p.m. The rest of the month, check out the families gallery about 10 notable Austin families and the children’s gallery, which highlights science and technology advances from African Americans. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov/carvermuseum

Check out the Asian American Resource Center, which has changing art exhibits. This month Myanmar Cultural Day is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 7. 8401 Cameron Road. austintexas.gov/aarc

Head to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and see its latest exhibits. This summer, the center will have a Sábados en Familia program for families 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 11. The center is regularly open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. 600 River St. austintexas.gov/esbmacc

See the different exhibits about being president at the LBJ Museum. American-Statesman

6. Sing “Hail to the Chief” at a presidential library. We’re lucky to have the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin on the University of Texas Campus. The current new exhibits are “Get in the Game,” about equality in sports, “The Civil Rights Act of 1968,” and “The 1968 Olympics.” The museum is free on the Fourth of July. Other days it’s $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 military, $3 children and students. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 2313 Red River St. lbjlibrary.org

Or take a road trip to the other two presidential libraries in Texas. The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas has new exhibits on preserving Iraqi Jewish traditions and the first ladies. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $19 adults, $16 seniors, $17 teens, $13 children, free for active-duty military. 2943 SMU Blvd., Dallas. georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu

The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station offers a Fourth of July Celebration on July 4 with kids’ activities and fireworks from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. New exhibits include “The Greatest Legislation: An American Legion Centennial Salute to the GI Bill,” “Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State,” and “Leonardo Da Vinci: Machines in Motion.” The museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $9 adults, $7 seniors and military and $3 children and college students. 1000 George Bush Drive W., College Station. bush41.org

Families will once again gather to at Zilker Hillside Theater for the annual summer musical. American-Statesman

7. Celebrate an American icon. This summer, the Zilker Summer Musical salutes Elvis with “All Shook Up.” The musical launches July 6. 8:15 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org

Or celebrate an American tradition by seeing a baseball game at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The Round Rock Express are playing at home through Wednesday, then return July 12. Tickets are $7-$30, but there are always deals. 3400 E. Palm Valley Blvd., Round Rock. Roundrockexpress.com

Make patriotic things in the kitchen at the Thinkery this week. American-Statesman

8. Celebrate America at a children’s museum. The Thinkery, offers two upcoming workshops: Instant Ice Cream workshop, for ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Pop and Fizz workshop, for ages 4 and up. Create your own “fireworks” in the kitchen. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. July 7-8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org Toybrary Austin offers a Fourth of July Party, 10:30 a.m. July 3. $10. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

The Science Mill in Johnson City is open July 4 with hands-on activities.You can stay in Johnson City and see the fireworks at 9:15 p.m. at the Blanco County Fairgrounds. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. $10 adults, $8.50 children. 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-TX, addresses a rally at the U.S. Capitol. Learn how to contact your representatives. You can also take a virtual tour as well. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

9. Take a virtual tour of Washington, D.C. Yes, it would be great to physically visit with the kids, but if you can’t get there, log into your computer. The Smithsonian has a lot on its website, including a special section just for kids. si.edu/kids. Virtual Field Trips is for teachers, but you can find on YouTube one of its virtual tours of monuments with some geography and history of the city’s main attractions. Find it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iK3GsAcwKaI. Michelle Obama leads a White House virtual tour that you can find on the ObamaWhiteHouse.Archives.gov site.

10. Put your values in action. Find a cause your kids are passionate about, do some research about it and lobby your senators and representatives at the state and national level by writing letters, sending emails or making a phone call.. Find out who represents you and their contact information at Who Represents Me? fyi.capitol.texas.gov

Related: Two books that help teens become active

St. David’s surgery recovery program reduces opioids, hospital stay

Marty Martinez, 52, loves golf. He plays at least 36 holes a week, usually Saturday and Sunday, sometimes Friday. He calls it “competitive golf,” a group of friends regularly playing for bragging rights.

Yet, when his hip pain got really bad, what he calls a 12 out of 10 on the pain scale, he finally agreed to do something about it and have hip replacement surgery April 12.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was,” he says of the pain. After the surgery, his pain was reduced to no more than a 2 out of 10 during recovery, he says, and people commented about how he looked so pain-free or so happy.

He had the surgery on a Thursday morning, went home the next day and didn’t need any pain medication by that Saturday morning.

Martinez took advantage of the new pain management program at St. David’s Medical Center called the Enhanced Surgical Recovery program. Martinez also works there as the facilities engineering operations manager,

Marty Martinez, the facilities engineering operations manager at St. David’s Medical Center, had a hip replacement this spring using new pain management techniques. St. David’s Health Care

“Our hospital is one of a handful of sites that piloted that program,” says Dr. Erick Allen, an anesthesiologist at St. David’s Medical Center, but it’s based on protocols and techniques that have been used in Europe, Allen says.

Related: Dell Medical School, Seton pilot program to lessen opioids given after childbirth

The program, which began two years ago at St. David’s, has a few different components both before and after surgery. It is being used for gynecologic oncology and colorectal procedures as well as orthopedic operations such as on spines, hips, knees.

First staff works on educating the patient about being a willing partner in their own recovery and care to make sure they have buy-in and that the patient understands the procedure and the post-surgical care.

Then instead of fasting the morning of the surgery, patients are given clear liquids like apple juice, some sports drinks or even black coffee to drink up to two hours before the surgery. This makes sure they are not dehydrated. “It’s been demonstrated with clear liquids that those clear liquids are emptied from stomach within two hours,” Allen says. There isn’t the fear of these liquids getting into the lungs during anesthesia.

Doctors also attach patients to a fluid monitor to make sure they are not operating on a dehydrated or overhydrated patient.

Not fasting and better management of fluids means that patients are starting their recovery with energy reserves and better wound healing capabilities, less anxiety, better insulin management, Allen says.

Doctors also use many different medications for pain control instead of just opioids. Some of those medications are given before the surgery. They are using nonsteroidals like Motrin or Advil, as well as Tylenol and low-dose steroids. They also use gabapentinoids like Lyrica, as well as a ketamine lidocaine infusion. They also decrease the amount of gas anesthesia given and decrease the use of narcotics after the surgery.

They also pay attention to the pain at the incision point by doing using a nerve block or a pain medication pump while in the hospital.

Allen also says there has been an organized effort to reduce the strength of the narcotics used as well as the amount of refills allowed. It has been a challenge getting some patients who have been on narcotics for a long time before surgery comfortable post-surgery, but even those patients can use this protocol, Allen says.

The final key is that patients are up and moving and out of bed much sooner than before to avoid pneumonia, blood clots and other complications.

The feed-back has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Allen says. A big factor is shortening the length of stay. “If you can get people home quicker, in their own bed, it’s a huge satisfier. They can eat what they want on their schedule, with fewer drains and tubes.”

People, he says, are starting to request this technique from their surgeons.

“Five years from now this is going to be the expectations that patients have,” Allen says. “This is truly a better mousetrap. Patients are happier, there are few complications and it’s cheaper.”

The cost savings come in shortening the length of stay in the hospital for patients. Some additional resources, like help with patient education, more infusion pumps, more mixing of medications, and more help getting people out of bed, do happen, but the shorten stay in the hospital offsets those additional expenses.

Great Britain, Allen says, decided to go to this standard of care 10 to 15 years ago. “I do think we’re a little slow to get to this,” he says. “It will be the standard.”

All of the St. David’s HealthCare hospitals are moving to this standard if they haven’t already, Allen says.

“It was really impressive,” Martinez says. Within two weeks, he was putting again, and by three weeks. he was back on the golf course. “You can’t believe it.”

Girls Giving Grants high-schoolers help Foster Angels

Last week, 82 Austin-area girls participating in the Girls Giving Grants gave $8,200 to the Foster Angels of Central Texas. The grant is the biggest one that the Impact Austin program for eighth through 12th grade girls has given out.

Girls Giving Grants gave Foster Angels a grant for $8,200. Impact Austin

The girls participating in the program do the research on potential grantee nonprofits organizations, argue their case for the grant of their choice and then vote on which grant to give out.

Each of the girls donated $100 of their own money to fund the grant.

“After reviewing nearly 40 grant applications and conducting two site visits, our membership selected Foster Angels of Central Texas because of its mission to improve the lives of children in foster care,” said Akshara Anand, Girls Giving Grants’ 2017-18 president and a recent graduate at Liberal Arts and Science Academy, in a press release. “We are always incredibly humbled by the impact each nonprofit we review has on our community. Their work has further inspired us to incorporate philanthropy into all stages of our lives.”

Since 2006, Girls Giving Grants has given more than $70,000 to local nonprofit organizations. Girls can now enroll in the 2018-19 class. Girls who cannot afford the $100 contribution are eligible for one of six scholarships, raised by Girls Giving Grants members. Find out more or apply at www.girlsgivinggrants.org.

The grant was given the same day as Impact Austin, which empowers women to be philanthropist, presented $446,000 to four local nonprofit organizations:

  • CASA of Travis County, Inc. – Catalyst Grant
  • Jeremiah Program – Community Grant
  • Communities in Schools of Central Texas – Education Grant
  • Helping Hand Home for Children – Health and Well-Being Grant

RELATED: Girls Giving Grants helps Center for Child Protection get a new therapy dog

We all scream for ice cream at the Ice Cream Festival, more family fun this weekend, June 22-24

It’s going to be a beautiful weekend in Austin, and hot, but not too hot. Time for some ice cream at the Ice Cream Festival or a classic movie at the Paramount Theatre or the Bullock Museum.


Londyn Targa-Stephan and her mother, April Targa, enjoys some ice cream at the Austin Ice Cream Festival. American-Statesman


Blanton Museum.  Deeper Dives for ages 8-10, 10 a.m. Friday; Free Diving for ages 11-14, 1 p.m. Friday. Blanton Museum. 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. blantonmuseum.org

Toybrary book event. “Penguin & Shrimp” story time. 10:30 a.m. Friday. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

Magician John O’Bryant. 2 p.m. Friday, Terrazas Branch. library.austintexas.gov

Teen Videogame Free Play. 2 p.m. Fridays, Central Library.


The Little Mermaid. 8:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. $10. EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens, 1101 FM 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org


Zilker Botanical Garden Woodland Faerie Trail. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. Maybe you’ll see a fairy. Reserve your spot online at and on austintexas.gov/parksonline. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org

Young Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” See the famous play in a replica of an Elizabethan theater. 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. $11-$18. The Curtain Theater, 7400 Coldwater Canyon Drive. www.austinshakespeare.org


Austin Ice Cream Festival. Sure, there’s chocolate and vanilla, but we bet there will be bacon flavor, too. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday. $15-$67.50. Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St. austinicecreamfestival.com

Lloyd H. Miller of the Deedle Deedle Dees. 2 p.m. Saturday, Manchaca Road Branch. library.austintexas.gov

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers. Learn about under the sea, for children younger than 3. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

The Williamson Museum. Midsommar Festival. Celebrate Swedish heritage. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Free. 8 Chisholm Trail, Round Rock. williamsonmuseum.org

African American Book Festival. Explore new works for all ages. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov

Barnes & Noble story times. Each Saturday all Barnes & Noble locations offer 11 a.m. story times. “Jurassic Park,” Saturday. barnesandnoble.com

The Bullock Museum is offering its Summer Family Film Series: “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh,” 2 p.m. Saturday. $5. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com


Pollyanna Theatre Company’s “If Wishes Were Fishes.” 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $10.50-$13.50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Spoonful of Sugar Improv for Families with Hideout Theatre. 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. $12-$8. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org


BackYard at Waller Creek Sunday Funday. Games, face-painting, bounce house and more. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Free for kids younger than 12, $5 adults. 701 E. 11th St. backyardbaraustin.com

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. Hear a different ensemble from the symphony each week. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Paramount Summer Movie Classics. Show your kids all the great films you or your parents grew up on. “The Little Mermaid” 1 p.m. Sunday, $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

Kupira Marimba. 3 p.m. Sunday, Central Library.

What’s it take to be a professional ballerina? Austin teen featured on PBS Kids show explains

Matilda Solis, 15, started dancing with Ballet Austin when she was 9. The Austin teen recently was featured on the new PBS Kids show “Kid Stew,” which is about kids, for kids and made by kids. Her episode premiered earlier this month and will re-air June 30.

Solis now is studying ballet as a student at the School of American Ballet in New York City. She left home in February 2017 to first train at the Miami City Ballet School, and then last summer found her way to the School of American Ballet.

Matilda Solis is featured in ‘Kid Stew’ episode. Family photo

Even though she’s used to watching herself in the mirror when she dances, it was weird to see herself on television, she says. “Kid Stew” interviewed her when she was still in Miami. “I thought it looked really good at first, but I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

It was a tough decision to leave Austin and her family, including twin sister Isabella, also a dancer.

“For me, I felt like I had reached a point where I wasn’t improving as much as I wanted to,” she says. “There’s more that I could have been doing elsewhere.”

She knew she needed to take that next step and go to places where she could train for a career. “I knew I needed to step up the ladder,” she says.

Leaving home meant that her parents — her mother is a lawyer and her father owns a juice store in Belize — couldn’t follow her. They visit every few weeks, though.

“It’s weird, but I’ve definitely grown accustomed to not having my parents around,” she says.

Now she lives in the dormitory, takes two or three 90-minute ballet classes a day and does online academic work in between. She also takes Pilates classes to strengthen her body.

When she’s 18, she can audition for an apprenticeship with a company for a year, and if that goes well, she will be asked to join that company’s corps or she’ll have to find another spot in a different company or head to college.

“It’s tough, for sure,” she says of the process to become a professional ballerina. If she is accepted into a company, she plans to take online college courses while dancing.

Solis comes from a diverse background. Her father is from Belize, and her mother is multiracial, including European and African-American. At her school, she says, about 35 percent of the students are not white. Ballet, she says, is changing.

“You can tell that a lot of companies are trying to make their corps more diverse,” she says. “It’s amazing, but it can be difficult to know that’s how it is now.”

She’s been told to be who she is, and there are people like her who are diverse and successful.

Her favorite things to perform are jumps. Right now she is not jumping. She’s in Austin recovering from foot surgery. In two weeks, she’ll be able to start dancing in ballet flats, and in three weeks, she hopes to be back in pointe shoes.

It took some time to get comfortable with pointe, which she started when she was 12.

“You have to have a good foundation to start pointe,” she says. “You have to have strength and everything you need to be able to do that.

“I loved it so much.”

Good training to strengthen her body is important, as well as diet. While we might think of ballerinas as people who eat very little, that’s not the case, she says. “We focus on eating,” she says. “It’s a really important factor. You need food to build muscle and have energy. Ballet is so strenuous. It’s important to get all the nutrients you need.”

Solis says she loves everything about ballet. “It’s such a difficult thing to do,” she says. “It’s such a hard activity, but it’s also so rewarding. … Once you work at it and achieve it, it’s so satisfying.”