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Down syndrome

Why Yoga is like food

by Kipaya Kapiga on October 29, 2014

20142027_MEHCyoga-11PreviewlargeAs far as Emily Davidson, MD, MPH, RYT, is concerned, claiming to not like yoga is like saying you don’t like food. “There’s a really big range of what kinds of yoga practices you can do,” she explains.

Davidson, who is the director of Boston Children’s Down syndrome Program, speaks from personal experience. She started practicing yoga in 1998 after she was diagnosed with coronary artery disease and discovered that, along with improving her flexibility and strength, yoga helped manage the stress of her diagnosis and treatment.

In fact, she liked it so much that she went on to complete a 200-hour yoga teaching program and set out to offer her patients with Down syndrome the same benefits she got from practicing it by launching a yoga class at Boston Children’s Primary Care at Martha Eliot. Full story »

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Self-advocate helps all

by Guest Blogger on April 30, 2013

By Olivia Lepore

Nate at work

Learning that your child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome can be a challenging experience for many parents. At Boston Children’s Hospital, the Down Syndrome Program has found a way to give hope to both parents and children who come to the clinic—his name is Nate Simons. Simons is a valued 24-year-old member of the program’s staff, and like the children he interacts with at the clinic, he has Down syndrome.

Simons—who joined the team last fall—is the program’s second self-advocate, a two-year position funded by a generous gift to the hospital from a patient family. He was offered the role after successfully completing the same application process (cover letter, resume, and interview) as any other Boston Children’s employee.

Angela Lombardo, clinic coordinator, always felt there was something lacking from her team, like a puzzle with a missing piece, but when Nate joined the staff, she knew the puzzle was complete. “We are very grateful for the addition of the self-advocate position,” says Lombardo. “Nate—and his predecessor, Ben Majewski—have been remarkably successful matches.”

Simons works in the clinic two mornings each week, where he welcomes families upon their arrival to the clinic, administers paperwork to families, guides each family to their appropriate appointment room and performs various other tasks wherever the team needs him.

“I do what I can,” says Simons, who says his favorite part of the job is bringing toys to patients and watching the smiles light up their faces.

“He really helps patients and their parents,” says Lombardo. “The families who meet Nate are always so happy and relieved to see him when they return.”

Simons walks the 10 minutes to the hospital from his home in Brookline, where he lives independently in an apartment with his roommate and best friend. The two met while attending the Riverview School for students with learning disabilities in East Sandwich, Mass. Before that, Simons graduated from North Reading High School.

Simons is currently participating in an internship through the Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) “Transitions to Work” program, which teaches job skills to people with documented disabilities. His attendance will soon lead to a second job at CVS in the Boston area. When he’s not working, Simons enjoys playing basketball; he won first place in last year’s Special Olympics basketball event. He also runs track every Sunday through the Brookline Recreation Department.

All of Simons’ colleagues at Boston Children’s agree that his role as self-advocate is essential to the Down Syndrome Program, and Lombardo hopes it’s a position that the program can make permanent in the future. “We are really excited because there are a lot of programs that could follow this example and have self-advocates to represent their patient population,” says Lombardo. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

 

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Grace

CBS This Morning recently took a look at a new test that will detect birth abnormalities at an earlier stage in a woman’s pregnancy. The new test, called the MaterniT21, can be administered at just 10 weeks and is safer and more accurate than current tests of a similar nature.

Detecting birth abnormalities helps families and health care workers prepare for the child and figure out the best ways to treat and support him once born, but there are also concerns about how such testing could affect birth rates of children with identifiable medical conditions.

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, a clinical fellow in genetics at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Down Syndrome Program, was interviewed in the CBS piece and has been following the MaterniT21 story since it first surfaced. Also featured in the story is an adorable young patient of Skotko’s named Grace McLaughlin, as well as her mother Melanie, who discusses how having Grace has changed her life.

Both Skotko and the McLaughlins were also featured in a recent article on prenatal testing in TIME magazine, which explores what these types of tests could mean for future generations.

Click here for the option to read the full article.

To read more on Skotko’s take on MaterniT21 visit Thriving’s first blog on the subject from January 2011.

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Are medical communities the new marketing demographic?

by Tripp Underwood on January 19, 2012

Have you heard about the bald Barbie movement? It’s a grassroots, digital campaign asking Mattel to make a version of the doll without her trademark golden locks to benefit children with illness. According to the group’s Facebook page, which has gained more than 130,000 fans in less than a month, bald Barbie would let “children suffering cancer, alopecia and any other illness that causes them to lose their hair, feel just as beautiful as the dolls they play with.”

Regardless of how people feel about the plastic fashion icon—she’s been around for more than half a century but still seems to be a very polarizing figure; often because of her figure—the online support for bald Barbie is undeniable. Many people seem ready to overlook any issues they may have had with Barbie’s build and stereotyped past in order to focus on her potential as a cancer survival spokes doll. Here’s just a slight sample of the thousands of messages her online fans are sharing with each other:

I will keep posting all the great things about this Bald Barbie God Bless the work you are doing

I’ve forwarded it and wish I could do more. How can I help from Brazil?

Amazing idea! I re-posted a messages about a week ago that said…why don’t they make a hairless Barbie named hope dressed in pink with all proceeds going to help to cure cancer. I had no idea it was actually a work in progress! I 100% support this. I think it would make children fighting this feel good. Anything to help. And why not make dolls with other problems?! Spreading information and helping the cause or even a cure for the cause…what a Wonderful idea!

And it’s not just parents online that like the idea. Cori Liptak, PhD, a psychologist in the Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology Program at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center was recently interviewed about her support for the doll. Full story »

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Brian Skotko, MD, MPP, a physician at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Down Syndrome Program, recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for USA Today, where he addresses concerns raised by a new, easy to administer blood test that can screen for Down syndrome in-utero. In the piece, Skotko wonders what effect the simple and affordable test will have on the birth rates of children with Down syndrome and discusses his own research that shows that a majority of families living with a Down syndrome family member cite the experience as positive.

In mid-October, pregnancy as we know it forever changed in America. The company Sequenom announced that with a simple blood draw at 10 weeks of gestation, a pregnant woman can now learn with near 99% accuracy whether her fetus has Down syndrome. …

With these new tests, however, America also confronts expectant parents with a parade of uncomfortable questions. Currently, only 2% of pregnant women are pursuing chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis. Now, with the simpler blood test, the percentage of women who may choose to undergo testing will grow, if not skyrocket. As the doctors phone the news of the results, more and more expectant couples will be frantically asking: What does it mean to have a child with Down syndrome? And do we really want to find out?

My research colleagues Sue Levine, Rick Goldstein and I recently surveyed more than 3,000 families nationwide who have a member with Down syndrome. The positive results might surprise some: 99% of parents say that they truly love their son or daughter with Down syndrome; 88% of brothers and sisters say that they are better people because of their sibling with Down syndrome; and people with Down syndrome, themselves, spoke up, too: 99% are happy with their lives, and 97% like who they are. My sister with Down syndrome certainly does. (I often wonder: How many Americans can say the same?)

But will this matter? …

To read the rest of Skotko’s opinion piece, please click here.

To see more of Skotko’s writing on Thriving, please browse the many blog posts he’s written as an advocate for people with Down syndrome.

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Let’s get real about Down syndrome

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on September 23, 2011

by Brian Skotko, physician in Children’s Hospital Boston Down Syndrome Program

Brian Skotko, MD, MPP

In mere months, pregnant American women might be able to learn if their fetuses have Down syndrome with a simple blood test. The test will be perfectly safe, eliminating the small, but real, chance of miscarriage that comes with our current diagnostic options. If these tests do become a routine part of obstetric care, thousands of expectant parents will be receiving a phone call from their healthcare provider each year with this message: your fetus has Down syndrome.

That will be a panicked moment, according to women studied in previous research. But, what should healthcare professionals say about Down syndrome? What does it really mean to have Down syndrome? Six years ago, Sue Levine, Dr. Rick Goldstein, and I set out to find the answer to that question. Rather than let Rahm Emmanuel or GQ Magazine have the final word on what life is like with Down syndrome, we spoke to the people who truly understand. Full story »

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Children’s blog makes headlines

by Tripp Underwood on July 19, 2011

Brian Skotko and his sister, Kristin

Children’s Hospital Boston geneticist Brian Skotko, MD, MPP wrote a Thriving blog in response to a hurtful article that circulated throughout the Internet, in which a writer at GQ likened poor fashion sense to “Style Down Syndrome.”

As a member of Children’s Down Syndrome Program, and brother to a person with Down syndrome, Skotko was outraged at the insensitivity of the original article and vowed to do all he could to raise awareness around the negative impacts these types of slurs have.

Good news. He was successful. Full story »

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Mock my pants, not my sister

by Boston Children's Hospital staff on July 18, 2011

The following was written by Brian Skotko , MD, MPP, a Physician at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Down Syndrome Program. It’s in response to a feature in GQ magazine that used insensitive language.

Brian Skotko and his sister, Kristin

On July 15, John B. Thompson of GQ magazine slammed Bostonians as the worst dressed in the nation.  Evidently, our beloved Beantown is actually a “bad-taste storm sewer” where all the worst fashion ideas come to “stagnate and putrefy.”  He further decries, “Boston suffers from a kind of Style Down Syndrome , where a little extra ends up ruining everything.”

Go ahead, GQ, and mock my blue whale-emblemed Nantucket-red pants. Laugh if you want at the loud argyles that I prefer to wear with my black suit. I don’t even care if you dismiss the sexy pink polka-dotted tie that I like to wear with my blue-checkered shirt in clinic. But, whatever you do, do not mess with my sister.

My sister, Kristin, has Down syndrome, and let me explain what “Style Down Syndrome” really is.  “Style Down Syndrome” is smiling when everyone else prefers to frown. It’s spending three summers, in sheer determination, learning to ride a bike because you want the freedom to be like everyone else. It’s singing tunes from Grease at the top of your lungs with your friends. It’s celebrating a third-place victory at a swim meet with as much gusto as the gold medalist. Full story »

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