PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN

Summertime is a great time for children. School is out, days are longer and fun activities abound. While planning events for your children, ensure that they have fun and are safe having that fun. This issue is devoted to protecting our children by providing safe places for them to enjoy themselves. Have a great summer and be safe.

Water Safety Tips for Children Tips to help keep your kids safe in and around the water.

Swim Across the Sound Jeremy Virgil’s swimathon to aid families and friends of those with cancer.

Playground Injuries Things to look out for to avoid injuries to your child at a playground.

Children in Car Accidents The varying needs of children when considering seatbelts and booster seats.

Children with Brain Injuries Dealing with brain injuries in children and where to look for help.

 


Water Safety Tips for Children

Now that summer is in full swing, children enjoy swimming and playing in water. Being around water with children requires the adults who are supervising the activity to be extra careful in preventing children from drowning or otherwise seriously injuring themselves. The following safety tips are simple to follow and easy to implement to ensure fun for all.

  • Never allow children to swim unsupervised. Fence in pools and use childproof locks to prevent unsupervised swimming.
  • The adult supervising the activity should know how to swim, perform CPR and how to get emergency help if needed.
  • Be prepared for emergencies by having a long pole or shepherd’s hook, ring buoy with throwing line [back board] and a first aid kit near the pool.
  • Be vigilant in watching children playing near any water whether in a pool, beach, pond or other body of water.
  • Do not let very young children, or those that cannot swim use, inflatable toys or mattresses to stay afloat in water above their waist.They may deflate or tip over unexpectedly.
  • Only use unbreakable containers in the pool area.
  • Teach your child to swim as soon as he/she is ready.
  • Teach children safety rules and enforce them.
    • Never swim alone.
    • Never dive into water unless permitted, supervised by an adult and at least 9 feet deep.
    • Always use a life jacket when on a boat, canoe, kayak or other floating device in open water.

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Swim Across The Sound

One of our own, Jeremy Virgil, is contributing to an effort to benefit children and adults alike following his record setting solo swim across the sound last year. This is a 25km/16mi swim from Port Jefferson, NY to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport. He is diving in again on August 4th in a relay to raise money for Swim Across the Sound.

The swim funds 34 cancer screening, education and support programs. These 34 programs assist the afflicted, their family and their friends. Free screening leads to earlier detection and improves the chances of a healthy recovery. Education aids identification and mitigation of risks factors and gives understanding to friends and loved ones. Counseling, social outings and assistance with ordinary household chores helps the afflicted with their daily struggles.Cancer impacts everyone. We all know someone who has or whose family member has been afflicted with cancer. You can donate to his swim by going to www.active.com/donate/sas2007/VirgilJ or bysending a check made payable to “Swim Across the Sound” to Jeremy Virgil at Casper & deToledo, LLC, 1458 Bedford Street, Stamford CT 06905.

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Playground Injury

Play environments are fundamental to the healthy development of children. They provide children opportunities to develop motor, cognitive, perceptual and social skills. Unfortunately, parks and playgrounds are often sites of preventable injuries. Municipalities, educators and land owners who build and maintain playground areas are responsible for creating and maintaining safe play environments. This is true whether the playgrounds are for public or private use. Playgrounds should be fun, challenging and safe.

Although falls generally account for the majority of playground injuries, injury also frequently results from limbs or clothing getting caught in equipment. Children are also injured by protrusions, pinch points, sharp edges, hot surfaces and playground debris. Playground hazards which typically result in injury often involve :

  • faulty or defective playground equipment;
  • improperly maintained playground equipment;
  • inadequate surfacing beneath playground equipment;
  • inappropriate height of playground equipment;
  • inadequate supervision of children during school hours;
  • failure to utilize age-appropriate playground equipment; and/or,
  • failure to post signs warning of potential safety hazards.

Utilizing age-appropriate equipment, following a regular maintenance schedule, limiting equipment height and maintaining adequate surfacing, combined with appropriate adult supervision, greatly reduces the incidence and severity of playground injuries.

In an effort to prevent playground injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have adopted standards to regulate play sites and equipment. These standards are frequently updated and wereextensively revised in 2005. For a public playground safety checklist see here. For a home playground safety checklist see http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/pg1.pdf.

The Today Show did a segment on “Hidden Playground Dangers” this morning. To view the segment now click this link:
http://video.msn.com/v/us/msnbc.htm?g=24f8da9d-80cc-49f7-921e-fd76f8244e5f&f=00&fg=

To learn more about playground safety you can contact the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). NPPS is the premier playground safety non-profit organization in the U.S. NPPS serves as a national resource for the latest educational and research information on playground safety. Visit NPPS at http://www.uni.edu/playground/ .

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Injuries to Children in Car Accidents

Special Safety Concerns Involving Heavier Children

Unfortunately, many young children are too heavy for standard car safety seats, which are designed to fit one to three–year–olds weighing up to 40 pounds. The recent John Hopkins study found that more than a quarter of a million U.S. children ages one to six exceed the weight limit for standard-sized car seats.

The law (as of October 2005) requires that children under the age of seven years old and under the weight of 60 pounds must ride in a car or booster seat. Make sure you know the current regulations: click on this link for information on the CT Safe Kids organization’s website.

According to researchers, car seats which are not appropriately sized for heavier, younger children could place them at increased risk for injury in a car accident. Wendy Shields noted that many of these children are not mature enough or tall enough for booster safety seats, which are typcially used for children ages four and up. Typically such heavier, younger children use the car’s safety belts for restraints, she said. But the use of adult seatbelts with young children can be fatal, even in minor accidents, warned Shields, because they “arrest the very young in the wrong spots.”

Government data indicates that more than 23 percent of U.S. children aged two to five were overweight and more than 10 percent of those children were obese in 2001–02. According to Morgan Downey, head of the Washington–based American Obesity Association, which is funded by Abbott Laboratories and Weight Watchers International Inc., “the number of overweight toddlers will probably keep rising. The medical researchers we work with see nothing happening to reverse this trend.”

In response to this upward trend, Britax and Dorel Juvenile Group, maker of Cosco brand car seats, both introduced harness seats last year for children who weigh up to 65 pounds. Unfortunately, oversized child–safety seats cost as much as three times the price of a standard–sized seat. It is not surprising that the John Hopkins study shows that children from poor families are among those most at risk from unsafe seats.

Special Safety Concerns Involving Booster Seats and Adult Seatbelts

Children confined to booster seats may not be fully protected. When a booster seat is used, a child is still exposed to danger on the outboard side of the vehicle. The child using a booster seat should be placed in the center position of the back seat of the automobile, but not unless the middle bench position is equipped with a three–point harness restraint.

Children who no longer use a booster seat (typically those over age seven) must be secured in a properly fitting three–point harness, at least until four–point harnesses become available. If a three–point harness is poorly fitted and the vehicle is involved in an angular crash, the child may roll out of the restraint and can receive a spinal cord injury that could result in paralysis. Another possibility is that the poorly fitting three–point harness could be converted into an old-fashioned two–point seat belt that can cause internal abdominal injuries if the shoulder harness slides down or is placed behind a child who complains of discomfort because the harness presses against the neck or head.

Another danger to children riding in the rear seat comes from rear seat backs that fold down. In a rear end collision, the contents of the trunk can be propelled forward, collapsing the seat back and causing injuries to the rear occupant. If a seat back is loose, it should be repaired. However, should a child be injured because of a collapsing seat back that operates in the fashion in which it was designed, then such an injury may warrant investigation for a potential product liability lawsuit.

Finally, the front seats can collapse in a car accident, as well. If the front seat collapses in a rear end collision, the seat can strike the child sitting in the rear. That intrusion into the rear seat can cause a traumatic brain injury to the child sitting on the bench and can cause fatal chest injuries to the child sitting in the booster seat.

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Children with Traumatic Brain Injuries

So many events can compromise the health and well-being of our children. One such event is when a child sustains a traumatic brain injury as the result of birth trauma or post-natal trauma including playground accidentscar and truck accidentssports injuries or other trauma.

Interplay of Complexities in Brain Injury and Child Development

Brain injury in very young children can present very difficult hurdles in performing development assessment. The brain develops in five stages, with the largest percentage of development occurring in the early years (ages 1-2). If the brain is injured during peak development, the consequences of the brain injury may not be truly reflected until ages 11-13, when the frontal lobes are growing and developing rapidly. That is the best time to measure damage effectively by comparing the injured child from a developmental standpoint to his or her chronological peers.

Confronting the Consequences of Overwhelming Stress

There are the challenges that confront the family unit not only with regard to care for the child but also as the liaison between caregivers and teachers as family members are relied upon to communicate issues and problems. The family often also comes under incredible stress that should be addressed, often with professional assistance.

Brain Injury and Special Education Needs

Another challenge to dealing with the aftermath of a pediatric traumatic brain injury is in the educational arena. Some children with brain injuries require residential treatment, but the vast majority of children with traumatic brain injury return to the community and their previous educational environment. However, such a transition may not be smooth depending upon the nature and severity of the traumatic brain injury. Even a brain injury categorized as a mild traumatic brain injury can have devastating consequences to a child’s school performance as various cognitive functions may be impaired. These include but are not limited to memory, concentration, and processing and behavioral skills.

The Need for Communication among All who Guide Children with Brain Injuries

It is imperative that there be adequate communication among health care providers, parents, and school officials to identify, treat, and cope with such problems. Special academic programs may be required and the child may be entitled to an Individual Education Plan (“IE”) as a matter of federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as the “IDEA”). The injured child may require special programs and services such as physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy; he or she may also need individualized classroom attention including an aide; teaching practices may need to be adapted; curriculum may need to be altered and the child may be entitled to extra time to accomplish assignments and tests including standard tests such as the SATs.

Turn to Health Care Providers for Guidance

A family in need can turn to many resources. A natural beginning point is the child’s health care provider(s). Also, there are state and national brain injury associations, academic advisors, lawyers who specialize in educational needs (not necessarily the same as lawyers who might handle an accident claim). For a more expansive discussion of the subject we recommend for your reading a very informative article entitled Pediatric traumatic brain injury: a review of pertinent issues written by Ronald C. Savage et al and published in the journal Pediatric Rehabilitation, April 2005: 8(2): 92-103. This article may be available through the medical library of your local hospital or medical school. You could also find it by going online or by contacting a lawyer who handles traumatic brain injury/ contacting the publisher.

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Have a great summer and be safe.

© 2007 by Casper & de Toledo. All rights reserved. Disclaimer