(BPT) - With the significant impact elections have on our country, would it be surprising to hear that only 38 percent of eligible Americans voted in the 2010 election? What happened to the other 62 percent of voters?
Perhaps it’s an overwhelming amount of information. Or maybe it’s a lack of access to the right information that keeps voters from feeling engaged. With the November mid-term elections quickly approaching, now is the time to learn more about candidates and issues on the ballot so you can make your vote count.
Here are five tips for staying informed and updated on the latest with local races and issues that matter so your vote counts on Election Day:
1. Know where to go
It’s important that you have registered to vote and know the local polling location where you can go to cast your ballot. Call your local city hall or visit http://rockthevote.com, a nonpartisan website. Additionally, learn about absentee voting options if you’ll be traveling on Election Day.
2. Get a go-to guide
Elections are personal and your election information should be as unique as you are. Whether you’re focused on the races on the biggest stage or those handling business just down the street, the Bing Voter’s Guide is designed to bring you the most comprehensive, balanced and reliable information based on the races, ballot measures and issues that matter to you this November.
3. Use customized tools
Voters are looking for customized tools and information to help them make the right decision this fall. With Bing Predicts, you can see the impact voting results will have on top issues and get the latest news on how key races at the local, state and national levels will affect you. Visit bing.com/elections to learn more.
4. Cast your vote
Make time in your day to visit your local polling place. Know voting hours and what form of identification is acceptable beforehand. To save time, avoid peak voting periods like over the lunch hour. Many states have laws that require employers to give employees time off to vote, so learn about your rights. Additionally, some cities allow voting by mail, so ask if that is an option for you.
5. Watch the results
Your local news stations and government websites should report on voting results. You can follow the polls on Election Day after voting is closed or get results the next morning. No matter the results, you should feel proud you learned about the issues affecting your community and took action to vote and make a difference.
(BPT) - While breast cancer awareness has greatly increased over the last two decades, a recent national survey found that women and families are not talking enough about breast health. Eighty-seven percent of women said they could talk to their daughters about anything, but less than half said they have actually talked with their daughters about breast cancer. A person’s most influential health role models come from within the family, so it’s important that families - mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts - start talking to each other more about breast health.
Simply being aware is not enough. According to the Ford Warriors in Pink breast cancer awareness and education program and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, breast health conversations among families - particularly between mothers and daughters - can help loved ones understand their risk for the disease, learn preventive steps, ensure timely screening for early detection and ultimately save lives.
For many women the obvious next questions are: How do I bring up this subject with my daughters? What’s the right age to talk to them? What do I say?
Talking about your family’s health history isn’t easy for anyone. Discussing human anatomy - particularly a woman’s breasts - can be an awkward conversation for mothers and young daughters, according to Dr. Susan Love. For others, cultural stigma prevents them from speaking openly about their diagnosis.
When 51-year-old Marisol Rodriquez was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she felt embarrassed to talk about it - even with her then-teenage daughter, Ariel. Marisol says her “proud Peruvian” heritage created a barrier to communication, resulting in her being very private during treatment. It wasn’t until she joined a breast cancer survivors’ dragon boat racing team three years later that she became more comfortable talking about her experience and sharing this with her daughter.
Only 50 percent of mothers who have had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer have talked to their daughters about breast health, according to the survey commissioned by Ford Warriors in Pink. “Families need to become more comfortable talking about this with each other if people are going to continue to make strides in the battle against this disease,” says Love.
Now in its 20th year in the fight against breast cancer, Ford Warriors in Pink is encouraging families everywhere to talk about breast health and reminding women to encourage their daughters, no matter what age, to get to know their breasts. Not because they might have cancer – but because breasts are an important part of their overall health and well-being. Having these important conversations are not about alarming people; it’s about empowering them. And recognizing every conversation will be different is important, especially when considering your daughter’s age and stage of life. By starting these conversations earlier, families can set the foundation and open the line of communication for later in life.
Today Marisol embraces her role as a mother and survivor by advocating for important health conversations as a Model of Courage for Ford Warriors in Pink. Here are some conversation-starting tips that she follows from Dr. Love:
* Recognize the conversation will need to be adapted depending on your daughter’s age and stage in life: Approaching breast health as part of the larger picture of overall health and wellness can make it an easier conversation starter, particularly for adolescent daughters.
* Emphasize the function - not just the form - of breasts: By teaching the importance of the breast as an organ, mothers can help young daughters understand why and how to take care of their body as a whole.
* Choose a casual setting: Sitting down at the dinner table may seem overly formal or intimidating. Instead, try starting a conversation in the car or somewhere a little more intimate. Research shows both mothers and daughters feel that the car is a comfortable place for important health conversations - the audience may be captive but there will be less pressure to stay on one topic once the ride ends or the scenery changes.
* Use family get-togethers to more broadly explore your family’s health history and risk for breast cancer, highlighting its importance as a disease and as a conversation among loved ones.
Ford Warriors in Pink and Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation are just a few of the organizations that not only raise breast cancer awareness, but promote important preventive conversations about breast health. As part of its efforts to drive more breast health conversations, Ford Warriors in Pink is honoring its Models of Courage, who like Marisol, have embraced breast health as a family affair. Though there’s no cure yet for breast cancer, a simple conversation could lead to a timely screening that can save a life. And more, these conversations can help equip the next generation of women to feel more comfortable making breast health and breast cancer an everyday conversation and help continue to fuel the fight against breast cancer.
(BPT) - Many people agree that it’s the people they encounter throughout their lives that really make it worth living. But can the people you meet in your final months truly have that much of an impact?
For many hospice patients, including Houston Hospice El Campo patient Bryan Caldwell, the answer to this is clearly “yes.” On a daily basis, he’s come to realize that choosing hospice is about much more than choosing the services it offers. It’s about the people who truly care and strive to make special moments happen for him.
Caldwell is a former NFL player, surfer and rancher who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma shortly after celebrating his 50th birthday. When his disease became unresponsive to treatment, he sought the support of hospice in order to “keep moving and keep living each moment that comes along.” Since that decision, Caldwell’s hospice team and family have given him the strength and ability to do the things he loves, like fishing, gardening and raising birds.
Caldwell’s hospice team includes nurses, social workers and physicians to provide all of the medical expertise and support he needs. Other hospice team members can include health aides, trained volunteers, clergy, counselors, and speech, physical and occupational therapists.
For Caldwell - and many other patients - the hospice nurse is one of the most vital parts of the hospice experience. Caldwell’s nurse visits him each week and has become part of his hospice family. Nurses make routine visits to the patient’s home, making sure that pain and other distressing symptoms are well-managed and reporting back to the physician and other team members. Hospice nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making them an accessible and important resource for the patient and family.
Social workers are another key ingredient to the hospice team. Caldwell’s social worker was able to reintroduce him to his hobby of raising pigeons. Social workers’ responsibilities can vary from patient to patient. They often help patients and family caregivers navigate a range of practical and financial matters, including information about insurance and health care decisions. Perhaps most importantly, they can coordinate activities for patients to help them stay involved in the things that are most important to them.
Another cornerstone of hospice care is involving the patient’s family. Hospices rely on family members as part of their care plan to increase the patient’s comfort and quality of life. Caldwell’s wife, Krista, is with him every day, and the hospice team supports her in caring for his needs and participating with him in what he calls his “timeless time.” In many cases, hospice organizations educate family members so they can be more comfortable caring for their loved ones. Being comfortable at home on hospice allows Caldwell to enjoy more time with the rest of his family, including his children, grandchildren and four dogs.
Hospice is often described as specialized medical care, but that is only part of the story. As Caldwell has experienced, it is often the people who provide this care that make hospice the best choice for getting the most out of life’s final moments.
To find your local hospice, and to see more of Caldwell’s story called Finishing Strong, visit MomentsOfLife.org.
(BPT) - There’s no denying that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is on society’s radar. President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative hosts a yearly STEM-themed science fair at the White House. STEM summer camps are popping up across the country and hundreds of thousands of parents, educators and policymakers convene annually at STEM conferences nationwide. The nation’s job market even reflects the popularity as recent data shows that across STEM fields, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by almost two to one.
Although STEM education is recognized as a crucial way to spark students’ interest in innovation and technology, there remains a perception that it only focuses on a few areas of study and does not expose students to more creative activities or job fields, like visual arts, music or writing. However, STEM education helps children develop several crucial skills outside of an interest in science, especially at the elementary level, and these skills can be applied across most areas of study. Here are a few extra benefits of STEM education beyond the beaker and microscope:
* Cultivating creativity – Creativity is rooted within the scientific process, especially when it comes to figuring out solutions to problems. STEM education encourages students to look beyond the obvious solutions and come up with creative ways to make something work in a new or different way than is typically intended, such as figuring out how to survive without natural sunlight. This kind of experience parallels the creative process a musician or artist undertakes, as there may not be a wrong or right answer and the student will likely discover something interesting no matter what.
* Building teamwork skills – Many popular STEM activities, such as building a bridge using only toothpicks and gumdrops, require students to work in pairs or groups to accomplish their objective. This gives kids opportunities to learn how and when to both lead a group and listen to their peers, and demonstrates the value of what they can accomplish when they put their heads together to complete a task
* Becoming problem solvers – STEM education centers around problem solving. The entire practice of engineering is about finding a solution to a problem, and if that doesn’t work, starting over again and finding another one. This kind of thinking helps kids develop crucial problem-solving skills so that they are ready to tackle life’s problems, big or small.
Recent studies have shown that kids are not asking as many questions as they grow older, causing a loss of interest in their environment. This startling notion has prompted policymakers and educators to take action. In 2013, several groups including the National Research Council (NRC); Achieve, Inc.; the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); as well as thousands of science educators, scientists, business leaders, and other leaders in science education, came together to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards emphasize exploration and experimentation, rather than unengaging lectures or rote memorization of facts.
In addition to new science standards, there are many programs that reinforce STEM skills and foster a love of science in kids of all ages, such as the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program. The world’s largest K-12 science award program, ExploraVision invites students to think ahead 20 years into the future and propose an idea for a new technology and approach based on a challenge or limitation that exists today. ExploraVision incorporates many of the science and engineering practices promoted in the NGSS, so teachers can use it as an opportunity to enrich their curriculum with hands-on experiences or offer it as an extracurricular opportunity for their students.
“ExploraVision provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience the benefits of STEM education, especially at the early age in the kindergarten-3rd grade level of the competition,” says Bill Nye, acclaimed scientist, educator and program spokesperson. “As they work together to solve a real-life scientific problem, they develop not only an interest in science, but also develop their creativity, leadership skills and communication skills.”
While STEM education may increase the prevalence of much-needed scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it will also help contribute to a generation of well-rounded, inquisitive children who are equipped with skills to help them become the future leaders of the world.
(BPT) - Fragile X Syndrome may sound a bit strange, like something from a sci-fi TV show. And although this disorder can cause unusual behaviors, especially in adolescents, it’s actually the most common known cause of autism and other inherited intellectual disabilities.
Fragile X Syndrome, also known as FXS, FRX or Martin-Bell Syndrome, affects about one in 4,000 males and one in 8,000 females of all races and ethnic groups. Here’s what every parent should know about this mysterious disease.
Is Fragile X Syndrome the same thing as autism?
No. Autism is a behavioral diagnosis for a range of symptoms generally characterized by an impaired ability to communicate and interact socially. Fragile X Syndrome is caused by a gene mutation and is the leading known genetic cause of autism. Most boys and some girls with this gene mutation have some symptoms of autism.
What signs suggest my child may have Fragile X Syndrome?
Most children and adolescents with Fragile X Syndrome will be intellectually impaired, and boys tend to be more severely affected than girls. Many children will exhibit some of the following behaviors:
* Hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention, especially young children
* Speech delay
* Hypersensitivity to loud noises or bright lights
* Hand-biting or flapping
* Being afraid or anxious in new situations
* Not making eye contact
* Over aggressiveness, particularly among boys
* Seizures (epilepsy), which affect about 25 percent of people with Fragile X Syndrome
People with Fragile X Syndrome also can have certain physical characteristics, which can be hard to recognize in babies and young children. These include a long face, large prominent ears, flat feet, double-jointed fingers and low muscle tone.
What can I do if my child has Fragile X Syndrome?
“The National Fragile X Foundation offers person to person support, educational materials and information about daily living strategies and treatments. With partial funding from the CDC, the NFXF created a national network of 26 Fragile X clinics. The NFXF connects families to these clinics and to affiliated, parent-run support groups located across the county. We also fund basic science and clinical research and regularly meet with policymakers to make the case for increased funding for Fragile X research and programming,“ says Jeffrey Cohen, director of public policy and government affairs at the National Fragile X Foundation. “We also help families impacted by Fragile X Syndrome find clinical trials that they can participate in to advance research toward potential treatment options. Patient participation is critically important to advance science.”
For example, a new clinical trial investigating a drug that has been safely used for 30 years to treat other conditions in Europe and Asia, is now recruiting males and females (ages 15-55) with Fragile X Syndrome to be part of a 6-week clinical study. The study is researching the effects of the drug on symptoms exhibited by those with Fragile X. The study is being conducted at various sites throughout the United States. For more information about the clinical trial and to see how you or your son or daughter can qualify for it, visit www.TheFragileXStudy.com.
Can my child be tested for Fragile X Syndrome?
Individuals suspected of having Fragile X can be tested with a simple genetic blood test. Parents also can take the test to determine if they could pass the mutation for Fragile X on to their children. According to the CDC it’s estimated that about one in 151 women and one in 468 men carry the mutated gene. That’s more than one million individuals in the U.S. and nearly 30 million globally.
Because symptoms can be subtle, especially in young children, testing should be considered for anyone with signs of autism or unexplained developmental delay or intellectual disabilities. Although testing is easy and usually covered by health insurance, many people with Fragile X Syndrome are not correctly diagnosed.
What’s it like to have a child with Fragile X Syndrome?
Parents’ experiences are as unique as their children. But they typically can expect to spend a lot of time just helping their children perform simple daily tasks and learn how to live with their impairments, not to mention all the visits with doctors, specialists and school officials.
(BPT) - Halloween night is swiftly approaching and parents want children to stay safe while having fun. It’s easy to take the tricks out of trick-or-treating with simple Halloween safety and nutrition tips.
As you prepare to send off your little ghouls and goblins for a night of fun, keep in mind these tips from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals:
Prepare for trick-or-treaters
Before Halloween night begins, make sure your yard is safe and ready. Replacing burnt out light bulbs and turning on outdoor lighting will help prevent accidents as night sets in. Experts at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital recommend removing items from your yard that kids could trip over like sprinklers, hoses and rakes. They also encourage appropriately guarding pets to avoid potential injuries.
Give out the goods
Consider giving out healthier alternatives to your trick-or treaters this year. Health care professionals at Janeway Children’s Hospital Foundation suggest handing out sugar-free gum, whole-grain crackers or raisins. Stickers and pencils make great giveaways as well.
Let your kids shine
Sending your kids out in the dark doesn’t have to be scary or unsafe. Adding reflective tape to your children’s costumes or candy buckets helps them be seen in the evening hours. Doctors at Gillette Children’s Hospital recommend adding flashing buttons to your child’s costume. They also encourage attaching mini flashlights to your children’s wrists or candy buckets to allow them to see in poorly lit areas.
On average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year, according to SafeKids.org. Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital recommends children younger than 12 trick-or-treat and cross the street with an adult. Always walk facing traffic on sidewalks or paths if available, and take advantage of all traffic signals and crosswalks.
Beware of tricks
Getting home after a long night of treat collecting is exciting, but before your kids dig into their loot, do a quick inspection of their candy bag and look for any tampered treats. Throw away any candy that is unwrapped or has a torn or worn wrapper.
Limit candy intake
Discussing and setting expectations for how much candy your children are allowed to eat can limit overindulging. Specialists at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta encourage sending trick-or-treaters out after filling up on a healthy family dinner and letting kids choose three to five pieces of candy to eat on Halloween night. To avoid a post-Halloween sugar surge, allow kids to choose their favorite candy and then offer to buy back or trade any leftover candy for money or a special prize.
To learn more about your local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and ways you can help make kids healthier, visit CMNHospitals.org.
(BPT) - Your school days are finished and that summer vacation is within your sights. This year you’ve planned the trip down to the last detail and made all of the final arrangements, but even if you’ve given your destination extensive thought, you may not have considered what you’re leaving behind. And that could be dangerous.
Empty homes temporarily vacated by summer travelers are ideal targets for thieves. Almost half of Americans count only on simple door and window locks to keep their home safe while they’re away, according to the 2014 Safety and Security Survey conducted by Master Lock. In addition, the items you bring with you can also be a target for theft.
To make sure you and your valuables remain safe, the professionals at Master Lock offer the following safety and security tips:
* Protect the home front – A home that looks deserted is an easy target for thieves. To keep your home looking occupied, set your lights on a timer and stop your newspaper and mail delivery. You should also ask a trusted neighbor to check your home periodically and alert the police of any suspicious activity. You can grant easy access to authorized visitors by storing your spare key in a portable key safe like the Master Lock 5422D.
* Limit distractions on the road – A focused driver is essential for any safe road trip, so plan to limit distractions by muting cell phones and packing provisions to keep young passengers fully entertained. Also, making frequent stops to refuel your body and clear your mind can boost energy and make for a safer journey.
* Prevent your luggage from going home with someone else – When you travel, you often place important items like money or a camera inside your luggage. Despite this common practice, only 16 percent of Americans said they actually secure their luggage when flying, according to the safety and security survey. Instead, keep your valuables in a carry-on and use a TSA-accepted luggage lock to ensure the contents of your carry-on and checked bags remain secure.
* Protect your home away from home - Once you are on vacation, make sure to lock up any valuables whenever you are away from your room. If your hotel doesn’t offer an in-room safe, bring your own portable 5900D SafeSpace to keep passports, jewelry and small electronics safe while you and your family are out and about.
* Take advantage of technology – Advancements in technology continue to make travel easier and safer. One way to keep kids safe is to take a cell phone picture of them every morning while you’re on vacation. This way, if something happens and you become separated, you’ll have a recent picture that shows exactly what they are wearing that day. You can also use the Master Lock Vault app and website to store digital copies of important data including travel documents, insurance cards, passports and medical information. This ensures you’ll have easy access to this information in case your paper documents are lost or not readily available.
While planning for a summer vacation can be an exciting time, a little preplanning can ensure the items you take with you and those you leave behind remain safe and sound.
(BPT) - While summer is most looked forward to for warmer weather, more time spent outdoors and family vacations, when the weather heats up, burglaries and home invasions increase as well. It is essential that families and individuals learn to protect themselves and their homes from unwanted intruders. With burglaries taking place every 14.5 seconds across the U.S., according to American Police Beat, it is essential to no longer push home safety aside. Instead, be aware of the increased likelihood of a break-in and take preventative action.
Jennifer Cassetta, a nationally recognized martial arts and personal safety expert, encourages conversation, awareness and education surrounding the issues of home and personal safety.
“Unfortunately in today’s society, break-ins and burglaries are something that people often feel invincible from, but also don’t like to talk about. The simple fact is that with today’s growing crime rates, it is more likely than we would like to think that something could happen to us,” says Cassetta. “Because of this, it is essential that we don’t walk around in fear but that we become educated, aware, and informed about our home and personal safety.”
As far as overall home protection, Cassetta recommends the SABRE Home Series, a new series that includes a wireless protection system as well as several standalone door and window alarms that are now available nationwide at Target stores. She believes that the line is not only effective in warding off intruders but with the easy DIY installation and affordable price points, it provides an approachable and effective means to superior home safety that is accessible to everyone.
In addition, families and individuals should consider the following steps to ensure their homes are as safe as possible:
* Today the tendency is to post all whereabouts on social media, including vacations. However, posting about summer vacations or utilizing any location-based apps on social media can alert potential burglars of a vacant house that will be safe and ideal for them to enter. Refrain from posting about whereabouts on the Internet until after returning home.
* With over 50 percent of intruders entering through first floor windows and back doors according to AsecureLife.com, it is crucial to be aware of vulnerable entry points throughout the home in order to protect them efficiently.
* Ensure your first floor windows and front door are completely visible from the street. Do not block them with trees, bushes, or plants so criminals can hide behind them while trying to gain access to your home.
Do you have home safety tips that have worked for you and your family? Share your advice on staying safe at home or while away via social media using the hashtag #SafeIsSmart. For every use of the #SafeIsSmart hashtag in June, SABRE will make a $1 donation to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
(BPT) - A creepy-crawly feeling. An irresistible urge to move your legs. The inability to sit still for long periods of time. These are common complaints of those living with moderate-to-severe restless leg syndrome (RLS), a progressive and chronic condition that affects 2-3 percent of U.S. adults.
RLS is a neurologic disorder that causes these symptoms and it is no laughing matter. According to Yve Cook, a photographer from New York City living with RLS, "When I was first diagnosed with RLS, I laughed at my doctor - I thought he was kidding! It didn't sound like a real disorder. It sounded silly because I had always been fidgety, but he said it was because I may have had RLS since childhood."
While RLS can impact even the simplest day-to-day activities, such as watching a movie, driving long distances or sitting through a lecture, it also has a big impact on a patient’s sleep.
“Because symptoms mostly occur in the evening, many individuals experience sleep disturbances,” said Dr. Enrico Fazzini, a board certified neurologist. “Inadequate sleep can impact work, personal relationships, and even trigger other health concerns.”
Cook agrees, “I had a lot of trouble sleeping for many years and the lack of sleep eventually triggered other significant health issues. I couldn’t work. The sleep problems compelled me to seek medical attention.”
For many people, RLS is a progressive disease that may get worse over time. While there isn’t a cure for RLS, there are several treatments available to help manage the symptoms. However, finding the right treatment option for individual patients requires careful coordination with a physician, and may take many years.
“Despite being on treatment, my RLS symptoms continued to progress over time. I began feeling it in my arms in the middle of the day. I just wanted some relief and decided to find a doctor who specializes in movement disorders, like RLS,” notes Cook. “After working together to find the right treatment for me, I'm now sleeping better, and I don't have to keep moving my legs around for relief.”
In addition to medication, patients may also be able to implement several lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms, such as finding activities that help them cope (walking or stretching) and adopting good sleeping habits (going to bed at the same time each night).
“As a photographer, I couldn’t do my job and what I love without the right medication and tools to manage my RLS symptoms,” Cook said.
For more information about RLS symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, visit: www.relieve-restless-legs.com.
(BPT) - School-aged kids count down the days to summer vacation when they can play outside and take a break from homework duties. However, being out of the classroom isn’t all fun and games – summer learning loss is a real issue that parents worry about every year.
Research shows students can lose two to three months of learning over the summer break, which means teachers spend more time in the new school year revisiting topics from the year past. Kids deserve time off, but that doesn’t mean learning should fall by the wayside. Parents today have more options than ever to keep kids learning and having fun throughout the summer months.
Make math practice fun
Parents can keep math skills fresh and make learning fun by pairing math and technology this summer. Games and customized learning activities engage kids to fight math learning loss and even get a head start on the upcoming year. For example, the TenMarks Summer Math Program (http://summermath.tenmarks.com) is a customized program for students in grades 1 through Algebra 2 and Geometry. Students work at their own pace – just one hour a week – through a personalized program that features hints and video lessons to refresh topics they’ve learned and introduce new math concepts for the upcoming year. Levels, points and customized rewards provide a motivating and fun environment. TenMarks Summer Math Program is free this summer (previously $39/student). Also new this summer, the TenMarks Summer Math Program is available as a Kindle App; as well as on any browser or iPad.
“Using TenMarks over the summer definitely had a positive impact on my daughter – it helped her move up a grade in school,” said Renee Lennon, mom of 4 kids from Maryland. “By having videos and helpful hints, my children were able to use TenMarks independently all summer long.”
Research reading titles that inspire
Instilling a love for reading is important for all kids, whether infants or teenagers. That’s why the summer months are the perfect time for children to read books of their choice or start a fun new series. Reading programs are plentiful during the summertime, but with so many books to choose from, it can be overwhelming for parents and kids to narrow down options. To ensure kids select books they’ll love, it’s smart for parents to have the inside scoop on which titles are popular. Amazon’s Summer Reading for Kids site (www.amazon.com/summerreadingkids) offers curated lists that will keep young readers turning the pages all summer long, as well as other themed booklists, such as Graduation Gifts for Little Scholars and Nature Nonfiction, to encourage learning enrichment. It’s simple to search for books by age group so parents can find the perfect read for their children.
Find science learning opportunities locally
Inspiring curiosity through hands-on activities helps to strengthen science skills during summer break.Fortunately, there is a multitude of scientific opportunities that allows kids to go outside and explore. For example, planting a vegetable garden helps children learn how photosynthesis works. Investing in a magnifying glass or microscope can also provide endless hours of activity for little explorers. For children of all ages – consider visiting a local zoo or science and technology museum. Students can also explore specialized science summer camps where kids can create their own science experiments and build their understanding for subjects such as physics, biology and engineering.
Combating summer brain drain doesn’t have to be difficult for parents or students. With a few creative ideas and engaging programs, children will be ready to go to the head of the class come fall.
(BPT) - On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig said goodbye to the crowd at Yankee Stadium: "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." The bad break he referred to was his career-ending diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known today as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Seventy-five years later, researchers studying ALS are using cutting-edge stem cell science to develop treatments and, one day, a cure.
ALS affects nerve cells called motor neurons that control a person's muscles. As the disease progresses, the brain loses the ability to control voluntary muscle movement, which slowly causes paralysis, eventually taking away the ability to breathe.
Monica Carrasco, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at Columbia University, lives on the cutting edge of ALS research. Carrasco uses human stem cells to study the ways ALS functions. Her current project focuses on the interaction between motor neurons and cells known as glia that help maintain the balanced environment neurons require to function properly. Stem cell research can be very intense, she says, because the cells need attention every day.
The breakthrough that made her projects possible came in early 2006, when another lab pioneered the process for developing stem cells for motor neurons. At the time, people mostly used mice to study ALS, but only a tiny fraction - 5 percent - of ALS cases can be studied with mice models. That imposed serious limitations on ALS research.
Carrasco says that stem cells will be huge for many diseases. For ALS, they already are. The ability to develop stem cells from the skin samples of many different ALS patients gives researchers the big picture that studies using mice could not. As a result, the past few years have been a hotbed of new discoveries.
To support those discoveries, the ALS Association funds more than 98 projects with a total award value of $18.1 million through its Translational Research Advancing Therapies for ALS (TREAT ALS) program. From 2006 to 2008, Carrasco was the recipient of the Milton-Safenowitz Postdoctoral Fellowship for ALS Research from the ALS Association. Funding for this two-year scientific research award was made possible by the generosity of the Safenowitz family through The ALS Association Greater New York Chapter in memory of Milton Safenowitz, who died of ALS in 1998.Dr. Carraso has since received several other support grants from the association to continue her work and says that the ALS Association’s funding has been “Incredibly important. We wouldn’t be able to study ALS in the lab without that support. There are many things that we could not be doing right now without it.”
Research today is “advancing as fast as I have ever seen,” she says.
Many ALS patients have lost up to 60 percent of their motor neurons by the time they are diagnosed. Carrasco wants to better understand the causes and phases of ALS and enable doctors to diagnose the disease as early as possible. Early diagnosis is crucial to effective treatment, she says. “By understanding the mechanism of the disease, we can move on to develop drug treatments.”
There’s still a long road to travel before stem cell research into ALS reaches its full potential, Carrasco says. “You have to consider that only in 2006 was the technology developed to take skin samples and develop the skin samples into pluripotent stem cells,” she says. “This is unique and very new. It’s not just about using the cells; it’s about asking the right questions and understanding exactly what information you can get out of the cells. There is huge hope, but these are the really early days.”