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Sydney's Child

Current Issue - Health



Feature Stories

Juvenile Arthritis

Dr Sam Tormey reports on a disease commonly associated with older people, but which can occur in children.

"Andrew was limping, but nobody could remember how or when he had hurt himself, and it wasn't the first time his mum had noticed him walking with difficulty. There were other things, too – he was having daytime naps again and not running around as much as the other kids. It was almost as if the very active three-and-a-half year old was regressing to toddlerhood.

"Some nights he would wake up complaining, other nights he would be screaming in pain. Sometimes the pain seemed to be in his legs; other times it seemed all over. He would point to his left ankle, which on bad days looked red and swollen. After multiple visits to the GP and diagnoses of sprains, viral illnesses and growing pains, a physiotherapist noticed something wrong with Andrew's left ankle that could not be explained by the usual rough and tumble of childhood..."

Vision Insight

Megan Howe reports on the importance of children's eyes being tested before they start school.

"Susan* has worked for many years as an optical dispenser, and runs her own optical store in Brisbane, yet her daughter Emily* was four before Susan noticed problems with her eyesight. "Her eye was turning in when she got tired, and one day after preschool her left eye seemed to be drifting a bit," says Susan. "Then one day she said, 'I can see two mummies'." A test revealed she was long-sighted in both eyes and amblyopic (also known as 'lazy eye') in one. Emily's treatment involved wearing glasses and patching her stronger eye to help her weaker, amblyopic eye improve..."

Blooming Early

Kurt Gebauer writes about the increasing number of children coping with earlier-onset puberty.

"Children will inevitably morph into teenagers, with all the attendant physical changes and challenging attitudes, but what if the typical signs of puberty arrive before the due date? Puberty doesn't count candles on a birthday cake – sometimes a child's biological clock is well ahead of their chronological age.

"A significant and growing number of children – mostly girls – are starting puberty earlier. While most girls start this development at 10 to 11 years of age and boys at 11 to 12 years, it's not uncommon to see six, seven and eight year olds with acne. One of the very early signs of puberty can be written on their young faces..."

A Primary Appreciation

Jacinta Bender reports on a program introducing the joys of Shakespeare to young audiences.

"Shakespeare's works and young children may seem unlikely company, but many educators and one respected Australian theatre company believe primary-school children are the perfect audience for the Bard's dramas.

"They argue that young children are responsive to the fun and excitement of live theatre, and lack negative preconceptions about the playwright. Engaging children with Shakespeare early in their education, they say, is key to combating the negative attitudes many students have by the time they reach high school..."

Pet Benefits

Tiffani Howell looks at the research about families and their four-legged friends.

"While international studies indicate pets provide benefits for children, local research in the area has been limited, according to Pauleen Bennett, Australian president of the International Society for Anthrozoology, which supports research into human-animal relationships.

"Bennett, who is also an associate professor in the School of Psychological Science at La Trobe University, says the range of studies documenting pet benefits is growing rapidly, but relatively few have been conducted in Australia, where our unique environmental and social conditions mean overseas research is not always applicable..."

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Your Stories

A Tough Call

Amanda Sheehan recounts one of her most upsetting parenting moments.

"My daughter was taken to hospital by ambulance recently. An existing chest infection and a sudden drop in the night-time temperature triggered her asthma, and her breathing became very difficult. There was no debate: she needed to get to hospital, but more importantly, she needed immediate treatment, so I called 000.

"It's scary dialling that number. When you hear the voice on the other end of the line reality suddenly hits, and just when you need it most, your voice falters and shakes with the gravity of it all. I was told an ambulance would be on its way very soon. We turned on the front lights, put the dog outside and waited. The ambulance was in our driveway within 10 minutes, although it seemed much longer. They entered our home with an air of confidence and concern and immediately began treating Amy. They placed an oxygen mask over her face, monitored her heart rate, and gave her steroids to open her airways. I watched from the foot of the bed..."

I Can Heal

Susan Macciocca shares her experience of postnatal depression.

"I'm in a hospital, but that's not the weird part. I'm a doctor, so I'm often in hospitals – but not usually in my pyjamas at 3am fighting with a nurse about sleeping tablets. My new baby and I are here because he isn't sleeping. Yet while I toss and turn and plead with the nurse for chemical-induced sleep he is blissfully slumbering. Go figure.

"This hospital is a grotesque place of nurses, rules and boxes into which I don't fit. The other mothers in the mother-baby unit have bonded over their breakfast trays and seem glad to be here, which makes me even more desperate to leave..."

Sweet Retreat

Nina Laitala wonders why children's celebrations have to revolve around unhealthy food.

"My daughter started preschool recently, and during the information session for parents, her teacher explained the centre's food policy: healthy snacks and no chocolate, lollies or chips. We were also asked to try to reduce packaging to promote sustainability and environmental awareness, and I was quite happy to abide.

"So I was surprised to find that to celebrate a child's birthday recently, the child and his mother gave all the children a 'treat' as they left to go home. The treat was an individually wrapped, chewy lolly – the antithesis of the policy the centre tries to encourage. After raising concerns at a staff meeting, I was disappointed to find the teacher and committee considered 'special occasions' an exception to the policy..."

Unexplained Loss

Natalie Larkins writes about the death of her baby sister and her mother's response to this tragedy.

"Growing up, it seemed everyone my family knew had a baby who had died. I grew up with death, and was often shocked to find that friends and schoolmates had never known anyone who had died.

"I was only 21 months old when my three-month-old sister died. I have just the one memory of Naomi, prompted by a photo of her and Grandpa. I wanted to be in that photo too, and had a toddler meltdown as Mum snapped that precious picture of her baby girl and her dad..."

Stuck In The Middle

Caitlin Willis reveals her struggles as a 'sandwich carer'.

"They call us 'sandwich carers' – working, caring for young kids and aged parents as well. The term fits. We are the meat in the sandwich – squashed, trapped, consumed. Some days I can barely breathe.

"Yet I am lucky. I don't live with my mum; she lives on her own, and is only 30 minutes away by car. I also have sisters who share the load, and Mum can easily afford in-home care when the time comes for her to accept help. Many people would consider that a luxury. So what makes it so incredibly traumatic?..."

Doodle No More

Kate King wants to call it as it is.

"With a cupcake in one hand and cordial in the other, I was enjoying the company of a small group of parents in the corner of a four year old's birthday party. Our intermittent squawks of laughter punctuated the party atmosphere like unexpected claps of thunder.

"Having only daughters, I was unable to contribute much to the conversation, but their jovially shared anecdotes of how little boys gradually become acquainted with their genitals were entertaining and eye-opening..."

Fur Better Or Worse

The arrival of two guinea pigs marks the end of Jodie McEwen's pet procrastination.

"I'm just not an animal person; love of creatures is not in my nature. My dad tried to pass on his love of animals, so we had rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, birds, mice and dogs throughout my childhood. He once gave me an almost-dead, day-old chick that had been abandoned by its mother, to hold in my hands and keep warm. Though my burgeoning maternal instinct wished it well, all I could think of was its needle-like claws digging into my palm, and how much longer I was supposed to cradle it.

"My mother recorded my early animal aversion in my baby book: "I like horsies, but I don't want to touch them". Not much has changed since. I don't dislike the beasties, it's just that I prefer not to have any dealings with them. I don't want the responsibility of caring for them, feeding them, cleaning out their cages or touching their scratchy, ugly feet..."

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Special Series

Special Series - D3: Diversity, Difference & Diagnosis

Light And Shade

Amanda McLeod writes about the challenges of raising a child while dealing with a mental illness.

"Being a parent can drive you crazy at the best of times. Balancing home life with work and childcare can send you mad, but throw in sick kids, shared viruses, homework and extra work commitments, and you are nearly driven to the edge. For me, the juggling act sometimes gets too much and the balls come tumbling down.

"It doesn't help that I happen to be crazy – all the time. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when my son was two years old. In my case, it wasn't brought about by pregnancy or postnatal complications. I had my first breakdown in my early twenties, and by the time my now-seven-year-old boy was born I had experienced about a decade of extreme ups and downs. My diagnosis came as no real surprise, but treatment was another story. It took about five years and a major life overhaul for me to achieve and maintain some kind of balance and stability..."

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Reviews

Book Reviews

This month, David Witt reviews:

The Day My Father Became a Bush written and illustrated by Joke van Leeuwen.

Angela and the cherry tree written by Raphaële Frier, illustrated by Teresa Lima.

Chook Chook: Little And Lo In The City written by Wai Chim.

Voyage To The Volcano written by Tom Banks.

And Veronicah Larkin reviews:

Parachute written by Danny Parker, illustrated by Matt Ottley.

Digger Dog written by William Bee, illustrated by Cecilia Johansson.

Hug a Bull: An Ode to Animal Dads written and illustrated by Aaron Zenz.

Crinkly Book of Aussie Animals: From the Bush illustrated by Jill Brailsford.

For the full stories, get your copy.



Regulars

Family Calendar

You can access our online calendar, which is full of wonderful activities and events for families occurring in Sydney in September.

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