“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2009: Part II

If you are a parent or someone who takes care of kids in any way, shape or form (which I’m guessing you are if you’re reading this) there are three words that have dominated your world for the past couple of weeks: “back to school”. It is likely that you have not spent a day, opened a newspaper or a journal or gone backtoschool-3to the sites you typically visit on the internet and not seen these words staring back at you in an article telling you: “How can you best prepare your kids”, “The 101 things you should know before sending your kids back to school …” etc. Sometimes it seem like there are a million articles…by a million experts. Unfortunately, with so much information it can be a bit overwhelming at times, when all we really want is someone to give us the answer to the very basic question of “what should I do to handle this particular situation.”

So for those of you who didn’t read part I, I’ve gone through all my sources and created a “best of” health and safety tips across all the expert information I’ve found, in the hopes that it will save everyone a little time that they could be otherwise be using to get 5 more minutes (or 1 extra hug) in with their kids before they head off to school. (*Please note: as with yesterday, I am sourcing other author’s tips and will cite all references below – all copyrights, credit and thanks belong to them)

Heading to School:

Waiting for the Bus:

  • Arrive at the stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives and stay out of the street while waiting for the bus to arrive
  • Wait on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone
  • Look before stepping into the street to make sure there are no cars passing the bus
  • Cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus to make sure drivers can see them. Drivers have a blind spot of 10 feet in front of the bus.
  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before exiting and exit from the front of the bus.
  • Ask the bus driver for help if anything is dropped while entering or exiting the bus.

While on the bus:

  • Remain seated, forward facing at all times and keep the aisles clear.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver unnecessarily – this includes throwing things
  • Keep heads and arms inside the bus at all times. Parents should also make sure that they remove loose drawstrings or ties on jackets and sweatshirts that can snag on bus handrails, and replace with Velcro, snaps or buttons.

Walking to school:

  • It’s recommended that children under ten never cross the street alone – additionally:JB230908walk-01.jpg
  • Choose the safest route and walk it with children.
  • Instruct children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings.
  • Make sure children look in all directions before crossing the street and teach them to never dart out into traffic.
  • Direct children to not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs – teach them to cross at a corner or crosswalk.
  • Warn children to be extra alert in bad weather
  • A bright colored jacket might make your child more visible to traffic.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school

Riding a bike to school:

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Know the “rules of the road”: Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic, use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
  • Do not allow children to ride on the road without direct adult supervision until age ten.

Btw – Here’s a great brochure by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that uses graphics and humor to teach little kids how to be safe on their way to school

During the School Day:

Eating during the day:

  • Many schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. This gives you the option of packing lunch on the days when you, or your child, don’t like the meal served.
  • Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines. Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%.


  • Today, unfortunately bullying occurs in many different forms and can sometimes be difficult to Back to school-bullyingrecognize. The American Academy of Pediatrics has detailed guidelines on managing bullying from the perspective of the child being bullied, the child who is the bully and the bystander. Across all 3 categories, what is consistent is involving a parent or another adult to develop a proactive solution. Rather than try and abbreviate this section, if this is an issue for your child, well documented and excellent guidelines can be sourced here

Keeping them safe at school:

  • Ask your child about safety in his or her school. Where do they feel most safe? Least safe? Why?
  • Identify comfort levels and methods for reporting safety concerns. Do students have at least one adult and/or method they would feel comfortable in reporting safety concerns to at school?
  • Examine access to your school. Are there a reduced number of doors that can be accessed from the outside (while still allowing children to exit from the inside in an emergency)? Do faculty know who is in their school?
  • Determine if your school has a school safety team, safety plan and ongoing process, as well as a school crisis team and school emergency/crisis preparedness guidelines. Are these plans and guidelines reviewed regularly – at least once a year? If so, do the students, school employees and parents know about them? Are they tested and exercised?
  • Do school officials have meaningful, working relationships with police, fire and other public safety agencies serving their schools? Do they have direct input on school safety plans?
  • Finally 5 excellent questions that your schools crisis mgmt team should know the answer to – if not, get involved (same author):
    1. How do you dial 9-1-1 from the school phones? Do you need to get an outside line first?
    2. What is the actual street address of the school if asked by a 9-1-1 dispatcher?
    3. If your schools nearby walking evacuation site is a community church, does someone have the keys to get in if no one from the church is there when you arrive?
    4. How long does it really take to mobilize your school bus drivers in the middle of the day if you need to evacuate multiple buildings (e.g. half the school +)?
    5. Have you ever trained students NOT to open doors to people on the outside trying to get into the school?

After School:

Getting home safe and staying that way :

  • Make sure your child walks home with a group of friends or a responsible adult.
  • Make sure to have an adult at the bus stop after school to make sure the kids get home safely.backtoschool-bus stop meet
  • Make a code word that will be used when someone else they do not know will pick them up. Every time you have someone pick your child up from school they have to know your secret code word or you child will not get in the vehicle.
  • Let them know that if an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or is following them have them call 911 and go back to school, to the police, or to a friend’s home as quick as possible. They need to find a safe place.
  • If they are going to be alone in the afternoons, teach them to go straight home, keep doors locked and not answer the door for anyone.
  • Finally, remind them never give out personal information to strangers or on the Internet.

So folks, I know it was a long list, but I hope it’s one you’ll find useful. Until next time keep them healthy, keep them safe…and remember we’ll keep doing our best to help you do both, because one ouch is definitely too many


As we did yesterday, sending out thanks and recognition to some very smart folks for some really terrific advice:

  1. Waiting for the Bus, While on the bus, Walking to school and bullet # 4 of Riding a bike to school: (Parents Need to Talk to Children About Safety When Sending Them Back to School, Susan Laurence of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center July 24, 2009)
  2. Riding a bike to school, Eating during the day, Bullying, and bullet # 8 of Walking to school: (Back to School Tips: American Academy of Pediatrics 2009)
  3. Keeping them safe at school: (Parents & School Safety – Can you Prevent Another Tragedy? How Safe is Your Child’s School: by Ken Trump president of National School Safety & Security Svces and 25+ years of school safety experience)
  4. Getting home safe and staying that way : (Children’s safety tips to remember for back to school: Melina Ann Collison, St Louis Crime Examiner, July 27, 2009)
  5. bullet # 5 of Getting home safe and staying that way : (ADT Safety Tips: Back-to-School Safety, Aug 10, 2009: Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security and former head of security for Washington DC Public Schools)

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“Best of” Back-to-School Health and Safety Tips 2009: Part I

It’s that time of year again…back to school. Some of our kids have already left, some are just heading out…and although we can send them off with a hug, typically there’s a little more we want to do to protect them and make backtoschool-3sure there are little to no “ouches” to care for when they arrive home. And our job isn’t easy, because unfortunately the hazards they face – bullying, gangs, drug sales, reckless drivers and predators, just to name a few – can happen before, during or after school. The best we can hope for is to make sure they are healthy before they walk out the door, ensure their trip to and from school is “uneventful”, and equip them with the tools, knowledge and resources to help them keep themselves safe and healthy until they are once again in our care.

To assist our efforts, experts provide us with articles and blog posts of “back to school” health guidelines and safety tips and do’s and don’ts lists, addressing all of these issues in many different forms. In fact there is a wealth of knowledge on the web on how to best prepare your child and send them off to school. Having sourced and searched, and read and compiled, what I would like to do here is save you a little time – which at this time of the year we all know is in incredibly precious – and share with you the best of what I found. (*Please note – I am sourcing other author’s tips and will cite all references below – all copyrights, credit and thanks belong to them)

Before School Begins:

Prep for pre-school physicals: backtoschool-health check2

  • Bring your child’s immunization records. If you can’t locate those records, contact your school’s nurse for the most recent copy on file.
  • Make a list of any questions you may have regarding your child’s physical, emotional or mental development.
  • Encourage your child to be open and forthright with the doctor about any health-related issues
  • Don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Don’t confuse pre-participation sports physical exams with school physicals. Sports physicals are required in advance of every school year or sports season.

Consider a back-to-school health check list:

  • Have your child’s hearing checked.
  • Have their vision screened. Young children often don’t know they can’t see well enough for schoolwork
  • Be sure immunizations are up to date.
  • Investigate possible learning disabilities. If you suspect your child may not be processing information correctly, speak to a teacher or contact a learning center for advice.
  • Inventory your child’s mental health. What’s your child’s behavior like? If your child seems anxious or unsteady, talk to your pediatrician or a counselor to help identify the source and a solution
  • Plan ahead on prescriptions – especially if medications will need to be given at school
  • Scan the scalp.
  • Equip the athlete. If your child will participate in sports, be sure that he or she has all the protective equipment needed for the sport.
  • Schedule a trip to the dentist. Address any sleep issues.

Conduct a backpack check:

  • When fully loaded, your child’s backpack should weigh less than 15 percent of his body weight. To help yourbacktoschool-5 child know what this weight feels like, use your bathroom scale to measure the right backpack load.
  • Buy a backpack with two wide, padded straps that go over the shoulders — and make sure your child uses both straps at all times.
  • Your child’s backpack should not be wider than his body.
  • Choose a backpack with a padded waist or chest belt. This distributes weight more evenly across the body. Multiple compartments also help distribute the weight.
  • Consider a backpack with a metal frame (like hikers use) or on wheels (like a flight attendant’s bag). Check with your child’s school first to see if these types of bags are allowed.
  • Make sure your child isn’t carrying unnecessary items. Laptops, CD players and video games can add a lot of pounds to a backpack.
  • Heavier items should be placed closer to the back of the backpack, next to the body.
  • Finally teach them to pick up their backpack like any heavy object – bend at the knees to lift.

Deciding when they’re too sick for school:

  • As a rule of thumb, a child should stay home if he has a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit OR
  • Vomited more than once
  • Diarrhea
  • A very frequent cough
  • Persistent pain (ear, stomach, etc.)
  • A widespread rash

For those with “big kids” going off to school, make sure their health is covered:

  • Know the plans benefits. Make sure you have read and, in fact, understand the entire contents of the plan brochure.
  • What doctors are covered? Can students use their own doctors when at home?
  • Does the plan have any authorization or referral requirements?
  • How much does it cost? Prices and payment options vary greatly from plan to plan.
  • What are the plan exclusions? Often student health plans are considered “accident and sickness plans” meaning they exclude or provide very limited routine and preventative care
  • Are there any pre-existing condition limitations? Will your child’s ongoing condition be covered?
  • What are the plan maximums? Some student plans are extremely basic and therefore the aggregate benefit maximum may be very low.
  • If your child is no longer a student is there an option to extend coverage (i.e. after graduation?)
  • What are the deadlines?
  • Who is the health insurance carrier?

Check back again soon for Part II where we’ll pick up our “Best of” Back to School – Health and Safety Tips 2009 with suggestions for what to do once they head out the door. Until next time keep them healthy, keep them safe…and remember we’ll keep doing our best to help you do both, because one ouch is definitely too many


Sending out thanks and recognition to some very smart folks for some really great advice:

  1. Prep for pre-school physicals: (School-age physicals: What to know before you go by Drs. Michelle Meeks and Tonja Austin, Aug 4, 2009)
  2. Conduct a backpack check: (Backpack Safety Tips – Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta by Dr David Marshall Aug 5, 2009)
  3. Deciding when they’re too sick for school: (Is Your Child Too Sick for School by Childrens Healthcare of Atlanta Aug 5, 2009)

Juggling Home, Family and Me – Life in a Special Needs Family

I am mom, wife, homemaker, and me. That’s how I look at it. As a mom, I put my children first. I worry about them all the time. As a wife, I put my husband second. He works so hard to provide for our family and to make sure we are taken care of. As a homemaker, my house comes third and then, well, there’s me. I come last.

Lessick - JugglingSometimes I think my life is like a juggling act. Sooner or later, priority has to come to my home and me. Cleaning my house is my responsibility. My children pick up their things, and my daughter tries to clean, but she is only six and I have to follow up after her. My husband takes care of the outside of the house, but will wash dishes once in a while. My son will pick up in his bedroom, but I have to stand there with him and constantly prompt him and keep him on task.

When you are raising a child with a special need and a child that is “typically developed,” you are constantly challenged everyday. In my juggling act, priority is given to my children, and my son usually gets the highest priority. Is this right? My daughter doesn’t think so, but I don’t see as I have a choice. If you have read my previous articles, then you know that my son is ten and autistic. My daughter is six. She loves her brother, but there are times when she just doesn’t understand why there seems to be two sets of rules in our house.

My daughter has always accepted her brother for who he is. To her, he is her brother and “normal.” I have noticed, lately, a change in her thinking. She is beginning to question things like: Why didn’t we teach her brother to talk like we taught her? Why are there things that he can’t do that she can? Why won’t he play with her like other children do?

For my son, we are beginning to get into a new stage. It looks like puberty may be coming early. At the very least, an awareness of body parts that he is just discovering he has. Every time I think I am starting to get a handle on “juggling“, something new begins that puts “me” back on the shelf. Parents of autistic children deal with a high level of stress every day. Moms, especially. I have never seemed to learn how to deal with this stress completely. I have the type of personality that is 100%+ until I reach a breaking point, and then it is 0%.

Luckily, when I reach my breaking point, I can stop and turn things over to my husband. It’s not easy. I feel so guilty when I have to take a couple hours for my self and leave everything to my husband. I am supposed to be able to do everything. I feel guilty when I can’t. I also feel guilty when I do, because I am always thinking that I am not doing enough. My son has a lot of developmental delays and it takes a lot of time and one on one instruction for him to learn how to do things.

I am also always worried about the future. It may seem like he still has a lot of time before he is an adult, but I see a boy that is growing fast and has a lot to learn. I worry about what kind of life he will have. I worry about my daughter and how she is doing. Is she feeling neglected? How is she going to feel about her brother when she gets older? How is she going to feel about her father and me?

In the end, I don’t have any easy answers to this juggling act that I call life. I try to keep all the balls in play, but more often than naught, the ones for cleaning my house and me are left on the shelf. I know I am not alone in this. There are many other moms out there that are dealing with the same situation. But, to be honest, there is no comfort in knowing that. The comfort comes from hearing stories from moms that have moved on to the other side of the situation. The stories of how they went through the same thing and survived. If you have been at the point that I am at and have made it through, I would love to hear your story.


When our son was two years old and had the flu, he got severely dehydrated!

pediaorganic bottle picHis doctor recommended the usual oral electrolyte drinks. We bought them but he refused them!

I sent my husband to the drugstore again and he brought back a few more of the brands and some sports drinks. The boy pushed them all away, calling them Yuck! I read the ingredients: artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives. We landed in the ER and our poor son was put on IV. He was crying hysterically, in lots of pain from the needles, and completely miserable! My heart broke for my little boy! When his doctors told me we were not alone and many kids refuse the national brands and land in the ER; I told my husband that there should be an organic hydrating drink for kids that tasted good so that when they are sick they will actually “want” to drink it! So right there in the ER, the idea for PediaOrganic® was born!

I began by mixing juices, adding vitamins and even called on organic recipe developers to help me make an organic oral electrolyte drink for kids of all ages. For years, I worked all day and well into the night to develop the recipe for PediaOrganic®. But we had some pretty strict requirements. It needed to:

  • Be Made with all Organic Ingredients
  • Be Made without Genetically Modified Ingredients
  • Have No Artificial Colors or Flavors
  • Be Gluten and Dairy Free
  • Have No Preservatives or Alcohol

When I finally got down to a few recipes I asked neighborhood kids, nieces, nephews, and even kids and moms from a nearby preschool to taste test it. The results were amazing, everyone loved PediaOrganic®! (Moms and dads liked the flavor and were drinking it too!) And I knew we had found the solution we had been searching for…

We didn’t just stop our research though once we found the right recipe for PediaOrganic®. Because in addition to wanting an organic product that would help keep our son hydrated when he was sick, we needed to make sure the plastic bottles produced for PediaOrganic® were health conscious as well. After checking a number of bottlers we decided on Ball Plastic Packaging since none of the resins used to produce Ball’s plastic bottles contained BPA.

So we started off looking for something that would help keep a little boy with the stomach flu from becoming dehydrated, and in the end it became so much more… Moms have used it after a long day in the sun, at the park or after a visit at the amusement park. Some people drink it after a workout. There are moms that freeze it into popsicles too!

I believe that all things are possible and making things organic and healthier for our children is my life’s goal! May you forever find health and happiness without artificial ingredients!


  • Symptoms of Dehydration
    • extreme thirst, more than normal or unable to drink
    • dry, warm skin
    • cannot pass urine or reduced amounts, dark, yellow
    • weakness
    • crying with few or no tears
    • sleepy or irritable
    • headaches
    • dry mouth, dry tongue; with thick saliva
  • Treating Dehydration
    • First and foremost – when your kids are sick, consult your pediatrician or health care practitioner
    • But always keep a bottle of an oral electrolyte in the fridge at all times, because stomach flu’s or other ailments usually strike in the middle of the night when most drugstores are closed. (Note: most oral electrolytes including PediaOrganic are used for mild dehydration. They replace fluids and electrolytes lost during diarrhea and vomiting to help prevent dehydration from becoming more severe)
    • Never use an oral electrolyte in an IV
    • If there is vomiting or fever, or if diarrhea continues beyond 24 hours, consult your doctor and/or seek additional medical attention.

Higher Penalties For Unrestrained Children…Says an 8th Grader

It took an eighth-grader researching a civics project to get the attention of the public regarding a serious child safety issue. Alexa Sepulveda was so moved by what she learned, she wrote a letter to the editor and it was published by Shore News Today on April 28,-2009 Her letter was so incredibly insightful that I wanted to share it with you here in its entirety:

To the editor:

Hello, my name is Alexa Sepulveda and I am an eighth-grade student at the Galloway Township Middle School. I am currently doing a civics project and my topic is increasing the penalty for driving with an unrestrained child in the car.

This has become an issue which, in my opinion, isn’t addressed enough. I believe that the penalty should be increased because it would deter parents from not putting their children in a car seat or booster seat. Restraining a child in a car will make everyone safer while driving.

safety seatsFor my project I have done some research, and the facts are frightening. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October 2002 showed that 42 percent of all unintentional childhood deaths were due to automobile crashes.

According to NHTSA, every day in the United States during 2006, an average of five children ages 14 and younger were killed due to crashes. During 2006, 6,983 car passengers age 14 and younger were involved in fatal crashes. For those children, 25 percent were unrestrained; among those who were fatally injured, 45 percent were unrestrained.

Most people think that they will never get into an accident, but it happens every day and you have to be prepared for when it does.

Many parents install car seats wrong, say they can’t pay for a seat or misuse it once it is installed. This is understandable for new parents or guardians whose financial situation isn’t good. For these reasons, many car dealerships, baby supply stores and police stations have places and times where you can take your car seat and they will install it in your car properly for you. If you are unable to buy a child restraint, there are many organizations that are more than willing to assist you in getting one.

As you can see, this is an ongoing issue all around us. In doing this topic as my project, I am hoping to make children safer, and to educate people about the need to restrain children to keep everyone safer.

Alexa reminds us of some important things: accidents can happen…we must make sure we are prepared so our children are safe if they do…and we are not alone, there are others who can help us get there.

Schnee - National child passenger safety week notice

Coincidentally, National Child Passenger Safety Week is coming on September 12th through 18th. It is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). I’m hoping that all of you travelling in cars with young children take advantage of this opportunity to check that they are safely restrained. And a great big hug to Alexa Sepulveda for caring.