It’s Autism Awareness Month: Get the facts

A girl with autism smiles for the camera.April is Autism Awareness Month and you may have noticed there’s a lot in the news about autism. Several TV shows now feature lead characters with autism (Atypical, The Good Doctor and Big Bang Theory, among others). Even Sesame Street has a character, Julia, who has autism. More and more children — up to one out of 68 — are being diagnosed with autism. But what exactly is this condition, how does it affect children and what can you do to help?

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‘There’s always something that can be done’: Finding hope for Caden

lead image Caden Grimm Thriving

“I want the best quality of life for my son — what any parent would want for their child,” says Michelle, mom to 12-year old Caden.

Caden has spent almost half his life struggling to keep up with his peers after a lawnmower accident badly injured his leg at the age of six. The injury disrupted his growth plate, and was having a significant effect on his growing limb, leading him to have knock-kneed alignment in his right leg. The condition was keeping him from fully experiencing the activities a boy his age normally enjoys; from playing baseball and basketball to walking the amusement park with his family.

A growth plate is the area of growing tissue at each end of the long bones in children (such as the femur, tibia and humerus). These plates are where the bone gets longer as one grows.

“It bothered his dad and I, to see him unable to keep up — and it really bothered him,” Michelle, recalls. “One day, Caden came to me and said, ‘Mom, can you help me?’ and I told him, ‘I will do everything in my power to help you.’”

That’s when Michelle began doing research, spending over a month trying to find the best orthopedic surgeon in the country to help correct Caden’s growing leg.

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Persevering after the unimaginable: Jacob’s journey with short bowel syndrome

little boy after treatment for short bowel syndrome

Yankees or Red Sox? Giants or Patriots? Rangers or Bruins? Seven-year-old Jacob Hersko and his physician, Dr. Christopher Duggan, may playfully debate whose hometown is better, but in one area, it’s clear that Boston comes out on top: “Jacob loves coming to Boston Children’s Hospital,” says his mother, Rachel. “He says it’s like going to Disney World.”

When she was pregnant with Jacob, Rachel and her husband, Geoff, never anticipated that they would be traveling to Boston every few months. The little boy was born at full-term, with no apparent complications. But when he was just a week old, the unimaginable happened: He was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious intestinal illness in babies that results in the death of intestinal tissues.

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Boston Children’s Collaboration for Community Health helps families thrive

shari nethersole, md
Dr. Shari Nethersole speaks at a community meeting.

Justin’s mom grabs him a fast food dinner because the nearest supermarket is two bus rides away. Mia is afraid to play outside because there was a recent shooting in her neighborhood. Janelle’s parents have trouble covering all their expenses each month and are worried the family will be evicted from their apartment. These scenarios are stressful for families in the short term, but they can also have lasting effects on health and well-being. Without access to affordable, fresh foods, stable housing and other supportive resources, families may struggle to provide the environment that both parents and kids need to thrive in the long term. “Good health depends on much more than access to healthcare,” explains Dr. Shari Nethersole, Executive Director for Community Health at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Housing, education, safety, access to food and physical activity all have a major influence on health and longevity.”

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