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Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Why Your Child's Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

The idea of an autism diagnosis for your child frightens many parents. However, that diagnosis provides the first step in your child’s journey to grow and learn to function in a world full of neurotypical people. Receiving a diagnosis and information on the next steps can actually relieve a parent’s anxiety over autism. Your child’s pediatrician is the first step in getting an autism diagnosis.

Why Your Child’s Pediatrician is the First Step in Getting an Autism Diagnosis

Today, we have more information about autism than ever before. Children can receive a diagnosis at a very young age–between 18 and 24 months. But, where do you begin seeking answers if you suspect your child could have autism? The first step is visiting your child’s pediatrician. Pediatricians can perform an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) screening. A screening is not a diagnosis. It’s simply a way for medical providers to determine if a child shows certain signs of autism and should be examined further by an autism specialist. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism between the ages of 18 months and 24 months, regardless if they show signs of ASD. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers Revised with Follow-up or M-CHAT-RF is a 23-point questionnaire filled out by the parents. It is the most common screening tool used by pediatricians. Most families find the questionnaire relatively easy. 

If your child’s pediatrician determines they need further testing, they will refer you to a specialist near your area. They may refer you to a developmental pediatrician, a pediatric specialist in ASD, or they may refer you to a mental health professional who also specializes in autism spectrum disorder. Both specialists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorder. 

If your child is a patient of Mantachie Rural Health Care, we can help you take the first steps in getting a diagnosis. Call 662-282-4226 or click here to schedule their visit today. 

Childhood Nutrition Needs at Every Stage

According to healthychildren.org, one in three children in the United States are obese. In addition to a preference for screen time over physical activity, children’s diets are playing a major role in childhood obesity. Today, we’re taking a look at childhood nutrition needs at every stage. 

Filling your child’s tummy and preventing hunger isn’t the goal for your child’s diet. Their diet should also provide proper nutrition and healthy ingredients to help your child reach their milestones.

Infants and Toddlers

Got milk? Breastmilk or formula provides just about every nutrient an infant needs during their first year of life. However, breastmilk may not provide enough iron and zinc in infants ages six to nine months. At six months, infants are ready to start adding solid foods to their diet. Fortified cereals and meat can provide the iron and zine infants are missing from breastmilk. 

A key thing to know about toddlers and eating is that their appetites come and go in spurts, just as toddlers are growing in spurts at this age. It’s completely normal for a toddler to want to eat everything in sight one day and to eat like a bird the next day. It’s important to make each meal and snack count nutritionally at this stage. Two nutrients to provide are calcium and fiber. 

Preschool and Lower Elementary 

Calcium and fiber are two key nutrients your child needs at the preschool stage. At this age, kids become more defiant about what they will and won’t eat. They turn to foods like chicken nuggets and mac n cheese as their favorites while fruits and vegetables become less preferred. Despite this, feeding your preschoolers enough fruits and vegetables is vital to their health and developmental growth. Add a serving of fruits or veggies to each of your child’s meals and choose at least one healthy snack a day. Go for easy to eat, colorful veggies like carrots and fibrous, nutrient-dense fruits like apples and berries. 

Your healthy eating efforts with your children may stall when they become elementary school students. Cakes, candy and other less nutritious options are often available with school lunches and you won’t be there to swap their chocolate cake with a serving of mixed berries. One way to combat the school lunch is to pack your child’s lunch from home. This way, you still have control over what they are eating and can ensure they are getting a nutritious, healthy, well-rounded meal. If its necessary for your child to eat school lunches, be sure they are getting the nutrients they need in the meals you serve at home. 

As children interact with others, they’ll develop their own ideas of what a healthy diet looks like. Some of these ideas may last a day, others may last a lifetime. For instance, your child may go through a vegetarian phase when they learn the sad side of how we get meat. Protein is a key nutrient at all stages of life, and you may have concerns that a vegetarian diet won’t give your child everything they need. However, foods like lentils and peanut butter are full of protein! If your child wants to try a new diet, learn everything you can about it so you can help your child make good choices about their food. 

Preteens and Teens

Ah, the puberty stages. Also known as the stages every parent secretly fears. Our children’s bodies undergo major changes, and they need more calories during puberty to keep up. However, many preteens and teens, particularly girls, will start worrying about their weight and take steps to restrict their caloric intake. Boys often have the opposite thoughts and want to take in more calories to gain weight. Unfortunately, both boys and girls make unhealthy eating choices at these stages. 

One way to encourage your teens and preteens to eat healthily is to teach them facts about diets such as why their caloric intake is so important and how they can get those calories in a healthy way. Your teens and preteens may be tempted to fill up empty stomachs with junk food but you can discourage this by limiting the amount of junk food in your kitchen and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables and other healthier options like nuts.

Caloric intake isn’t the only important thing to consider with your preteen or teen’s diet. Other nutrients like calcium become even more vital at this stage because their bodies and bones are growing so quickly. Replacing certain nutrients also depends on your child’s gender. Girls, for instance, will need to replace the iron they lose during menstrual cycles to avoid becoming anemic. Boys need a bit more protein than girls to help them stay at a healthy weight and increase muscle mass. Keep these things in mind as you teach your kids about healthy eating. 

Are you concerned about your child’s diet? If they are struggling to meet physical milestones and always seem to be a bit underweight, it’s time to get help from a nutrition specialist. Our dietitian, Erica Witcher, RDN, CDCES can assess your child and help you develop a plan to get them on the right nutritional track. Click here to request an appointment.

How Your Child’s Dental Health Affects Their Education

Your child’s education is the key to a successful future. By now, thanks to the pandemic, most of us have seen the effects missed school days can have on education. But long before covid-19 came along, another disease wreaked havoc on the education of many children, particularly those in lower-income families. This disease is chronic but also preventable. We’re talking about dental cavities and how your child’s dental health affects their education.

How Your Child’s Dental Health Affects Their Education

Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States. According to the CDC, about 20 percent of children and 13 percent of adolescents aged five to eleven have at least one untreated cavity. Children ages five to nineteen in low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities compared to children from higher-income families. Another study from the American Journal of Public Health found that low-income children are three times more likely to miss school due to dental pain. 

On average, children miss about 2.1 school days each year due to dental problems. Dental problems don’t just lead to missed school days. They lead to lower grade point averages, as well. Children with poor oral health are four times more likely to have lower grades than children with no dental issues.

What You Can Do to Help Your Children Have Good Dental Health

Thankfully, dental cavities are a chronic condition that can be treated and prevented with good oral health practices. Teach your children good dental habits by starting when they are still infants. Use a soft, clean cloth to wipe your baby’s gums after each feeding and in the morning time. When your infant cuts their first tooth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently clean the tooth and gums. You should also schedule their first dental appointment around your baby’s first birthday.

Children should be taught to brush their teeth twice a day and floss daily. If your child is younger than age six, they still need monitoring and some help brushing their teeth. We recommend adding a kid-friendly mouthwash to their routine to help prevent cavities. Children over the age of two should use fluoridated toothpaste. 

In addition to teaching and following good dental hygiene practices at home, your children should visit the dentist at least once a year for a professional cleaning and checkup. Your child’s dentist can apply dental sealants to the chewing surfaces of your child’s back teeth. Dental sealants have been found to prevent around 80 percent of cavities in children.

There is no better time than today to begin teaching your children healthy dental hygiene practices. Be the example by following these practices yourself and by scheduling yearly dental visits for everyone in the family. To schedule an appointment with our dental clinic, visit www.mantachieclinic.org/dental-care

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

signs and symptoms of adhd

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is a very common yet highly misunderstood mental health disorder in both children and adults. One reason why ADHD is often misunderstood is that the symptoms mimic those of other health conditions such as depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and certain learning disabilities. Today, we’ll take a look at the signs and symptoms of ADHD.

How ADHD is Diagnosed

ADHD is diagnosed using the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition, more commonly known as the DSM-5. The main symptoms of ADHD are inattention and hyperactivity. Both symptoms are umbrellas for a series of various symptoms that fall under these categories. 

Symptoms of Inattention

Children are diagnosed with ADHD when they display six or more of the following symptoms, while adults and teens over 17 are diagnosed when five or more symptoms are present. Adults and children with ADHD:

  • Often fail to pay close attention to detail or make careless mistakes in schoolwork or on the job.
  • Often have trouble holding attention to tasks or activities.
  • Often fail to follow directions or finish schoolwork, chores, or other duties.
  • Often don’t listen when spoken to directly.
  • Have trouble organizing tasks or activities.
  • Often avoid, dislike, or are reluctant to perform tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (schoolwork, homework, work tasks, etc.)
  • Often lose things necessary for tasks.
  • Are often easily distracted or forgetful.

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

Much like with inattention symptoms, at least six signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity must be present in children and teens under age 16 while at least five symptoms must be displayed in adults. These symptoms should last six months or longer and cause disruption to the patient’s daily life. Children and adults with hyperactivity or impulsivity:

  • Often fidget with or tap their hands and feet and/or squirm in their seat.
  • Often leave their seat in situations where remaining seated is appropriate.
  • Often run about or climb excessively in situations where these behaviors are inappropriate.
  • Often are unable to play or take part in activities due to hyperactivity.
  • Often demonstrate “on the go” acting.
  • Often talk excessively or out of turn.
  • Often blurt out an answer before the question given is complete.
  • Often have trouble waiting their turn.
  • Often interrupt or intrude on others. 

In addition to these symptoms, children must also display several symptoms before reaching age twelve. The symptoms must display in at least two different settings such as school and home and the symptoms must interfere or reduce the quality of school, social, and work functions. Additionally, symptoms displayed should not be attributed to another mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia. 

If you are concerned that you or your child are suffering from ADHD, Mantachie Rural Health Care can help. Our behavioral health specialists can diagnose and treat ADHD and work right alongside you or your child’s medical provider to provide the best treatment. Click here to request an appointment now

The Truth About Childhood Obesity in Mississippi

Nearly one in five Mississippi children and teens are obese. On a nationwide scale, more than 14.4 million children and adults are severely overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to a number of serious or even deadly health conditions. We know eating healthy and staying active are the keys to a longer, healthier life, so why does obesity continue to affect so many?

Why Mississippi Children are Affected by Obesity

According to the Mississippi Department of Health, our children and teens are less active and eat less nutritious meals than in the past. In surveys conducted, nearly 10 percent of high school students went a week without eating vegetables. If that’s not frightening enough, nearly 80 percent of those students said they did not participate in at least one hour of physical activity a day. 

Other factors like the education level of children’s parents also impact obesity. Data by the Centers for Disease Control found that the prevalence of obesity was lower in households in which the head of household had higher education. 

The community environment plays a major role in the prevalence of obesity. The environmental factors include the availability of healthy food and physical activity options as well as the nutrition habits of schools, childcare centers, and the community in general. 

With all this in mind, however, genetics and behaviors are the greatest influences of obesity. Behaviors such as eating higher-calorie, low-nutrient foods and beverages, certain medications, and sleep routines all influence weight gain. Low physical activity and too much time spent on sedentary activities are also factors. 

Health Risks Associated with Childhood Obesity

High blood pressure and high cholesterol seem like adult problems but they can actually affect children who are overweight or obese, too. Both conditions are high risk factors for heart disease. Children and teens who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop impaired glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, or type 2 diabetes. Obese children and teens are also at a higher risk of breathing problems like asthma and sleep apnea. Joint and musculoskeletal discomfort, fatty liver disease, gallstone, and gastroesophageal reflux disorder(GERD)  are also more likely. 

What Parents Can Do to Help 

Parents have a greater impact on their children and obesity than you might think. The meals you serve at home and the physical activities you participate in yourself influence the food and activity choices your children will make. 

The best thing you can do as a parent is to learn how to improve nutrition for your entire family. Kids and teens need at least five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Screen time should be extremely limited and physical activity should be strongly encouraged.

If you are struggling with incorporating healthy habits and meals, a great place to look for help is right here at Mantachie Rural Health Care. Our dietitian Erica Witcher, RDE, CDE, can teach you how to create healthy meals and encourage more physical activity in your family. To learn more about how our dietitian can help you, dial 662-282-4226. 

How Vaccines Have Improved Over the Years

Vaccines have come a long way since the “father of vaccines” Edward Jenner first successfully developed a smallpox vaccine in 1796. It wasn’t until the mid to late 1940s that the smallpox vaccine and a vaccine to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis were mass-produced. By the late 1960s, vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, and rubella were also developed and distributed. Vaccines have improved over the years as new studies and developments revealed the need for changes.

As happy as people were to finally have protection against some of the world’s most devastating illnesses, many became concerned about the safety of vaccines.

Patients began to express concern about the possible adverse effects of vaccines and some claimed that they or someone they knew had become injured or ill after being inoculated. By the time the 1970s rolled around, demand for better regulation on vaccines surged. Citizens also wanted more understanding and transparency on vaccine safety.

The US’s Response to the Demand for Better Vaccine Safety

The demand for better vaccine safety resulted in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA). The NCVIA established several programs and regulations for physicians and government agencies to protect patients and provide education about vaccines and their safety. Programs and regulations established as a result of the NCVIA include:

  • The founding of the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPC). The NVPC coordinates all vaccine-related activities between Department of Human Services (DHS) agencies, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). 
  • The requirement of physicians and healthcare providers who administer vaccines to provide vaccine information statements with each and every vaccine. This requirement is included for multiple doses of vaccines, which means you should receive one of these statements every time you get an immunization, even if it’s a second or third required dose.
  • The requirement of providers and physicians to report any adverse events occurring in patients following inoculation. This is required even if the provider is unsure that the adverse event and the vaccine administration are related. 
  • The establishment of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which helps patients and their families after having an adverse reaction or event due to a vaccine. 
  • The formation of a committee within the Institute of Medicine that reviews the literature on vaccine reactions. 

Improvements of Vaccines Through the Years

All vaccines, even the oldest vaccines, continued to be studied for safety and efficacy. These continued studies have resulted in changes and improvements to vaccines over the years. The first major change occurred with the introduction of a new, more purified acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP). The DTaP vaccine replaced the original whole pertussis vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This new version of the vaccine was proven to be more effective in preventing illnesses and had fewer mild and severe side effects. 

Another big change that improved the safety of a vaccine was the changes in when the vaccine is scheduled to be administered. These changes resulted in fewer reported adverse events following inoculation. The first change established a schedule that included sequential administration of an inactivated vaccine and an oral polio vaccine. Later, it was found that the inactivated polio vaccine had better prevention results and fewer side effects. The inactivated polio vaccine is the only type of polio vaccine administered today. 

It’s important to know that all vaccines go through intense research and development phases that include multiple small and large study trials before they are considered for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Once vaccines are licensed by the FDA, the ACIP must review and establish recommendations on how to use the vaccine for disease control in the United States. 

Vaccines have saved many lives and prevented many severe illnesses since their inception centuries ago. As you can see, approved vaccines must go through a rigorous process before they are ever considered for the open market. Even vaccines against acute illnesses like the flu and covid-19 must go through this process. 

We hope today’s article helps you understand vaccines and the safety of vaccines better. Vaccines are developed for your protection and we want you to feel safe about getting inoculated yourself or having your children vaccinated. Your Mantachie Rural Healthcare provider is an excellent source of information regarding vaccines. To learn more about vaccines or to schedule yourself or your children for a vaccine, call us at 662-282-4226.

What You Need to Know About Children’s Mental Health

Children’s mental health affects all aspects of their lives including their physical health, school success, and success at work and in society. However, out of the estimated 15 million children who could be diagnosed with a mental disorder, only 7 percent will receive the professional services they need. One way to increase this number and get more children the appropriate care is through education about children’s mental health disorders. 

Factors Affecting Children’s Mental Health

Several risk factors can affect a child’s mental health. Some children are born with genetic and biological factors which increase their risks for mental health disorders. Environmental factors like a child’s home life and where they live can also put them at a greater risk. Relationships with family members, teachers, fellow classmates, and other important people in a child’s life affects their mental health as well. 

Most Common Types of Children’s Mental Health Disorders

Understanding the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders affecting children helps parents to get their child the help they need. The following conditions are the most common children’s mental health disorders diagnosed today. 

  • Anxiety
    • Signs of anxiety include being afraid when away from parents and extreme fear of specific situations.
    • Social anxiety in school and fear of the future or of bad things happening are also common symptoms. 
    • Children with anxiety may suffer from repeated panic disorder episodes with symptoms including but not limited to sudden, unexpected, extreme fear, trouble breathing, pounding heart, and/or dizziness, shakiness, or sweating. 
  • Depression
    • Symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable. Other signs are:
    • Changes in sleeping or eating habits.
    • Changes in energy, from being tired or sluggish to tense or restless.
    • Inability to focus or concentrate.
    • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty.
    • Infliction of self-injury or self-destruction.
  • ADHD
    • Signs of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) such as a lack of focus and forgetting things easily are also accompanied by other symptoms such as:
    • Being prone to daydreaming often.
    • Impulsiveness
    • Fidgeting and/or talking too much
    • Trouble getting along with others
    • Making careless mistakes
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
    • OCD consists of having unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses that occur over and over again causing stress or anxiety. 
    • Other obvious signs include having to think or do something over and over again or perform a ritual following certain rules to stop obsessive thoughts. 
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
    • Children who act out so seriously that their behavior causes problems at home, school, or with peers may be diagnosed with ODD.
    • Behaviors of ODD include often being angry or easily losing one’s temper, arguing with adults or refusing to comply with rules set by authority figures, and being resentful or spiteful.
    • Children with ODD may also be easily annoyed by others or attempt to annoy others themselves, and they may also blame others for their mistakes or misbehaviors. 
  • Conduct Disorder
    • Conduct disorder occurs when a child persistently shows a pattern of aggression towards others and violates rules and social norms at home, school, and among peers.
    • Children with conduct disorder may display behaviors such as running away from home, staying out past curfew, skipping school, lying, causing damage to other people’s property, and being aggressive toward others. 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Some children recover quickly from trauma while others suffer long-term effects with a condition known as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
    • Signs of PTSD include reliving the traumatic event over and over again, having nightmares or difficulty sleeping, and becoming upset over memories of the event.
    • Other symptoms may also occur such as intense, ongoing sadness, irritability, angry outbursts, and being easily startled. 
    • Children with PTSD may also become withdrawn or lack positive emotions. 

If you believe your child is suffering from a mental health disorder Mantachie Rural Healthcare can help. Dial 662-282-4226 to request an appointment with our behavior health specialist. 

The Difference Between a Sports Physical and Annual Physical and Why Your Child Needs Both

Each year in the spring, young Mississippi athletes all over the state head to their family medical provider’s office for their annual sports physical. Sometimes, the sports physical is the only exam a young athlete will undergo in a year, but children need more than a sports physical to determine the accurate state of their health. 

In addition to a sports physical, your young athletes also need an annual physical exam each and every year. The good news is that most providers will allow you to schedule these important exams at the same appointment. The providers at Mantachie Rural Healthcare can not only see your children at our clinic for their annual physical and sports physical, but we can also take care of these exams at our school-based clinic at Mantachie School which means parents don’t need to miss work for their child’s appointment. 

What to Expect at a Sports Physical

A sports physical focuses on your child’s current health status and medical history to ensure your child is healthy enough to take the field. Their provider will also review pre-existing injuries and assess your athlete’s current fitness level. Areas of focus during a sports physical include:

  • Height and weight
  • Vision and hearing 
  • Heart health
  • Blood pressure
  • Muscle and bone health 
  • Flexibility and strength

What Happens During a Pediatric Annual Physical

Annual physicals take a more in-depth look at your child’s overall health. In addition to their physical health, annual exams also focus on the developmental, emotional, and social aspects of your child’s health. Areas of focus in an annual physical for children include:

  • Health history
  • Immunizations
  • Lab work if needed
  • A behavioral and developmental screening if necessary
  • Nutrition and sleep habits
  • Preventative health
  • Adolescent issues

Their provider will take a look at your child’s overall health history as well as your family’s medical history. They may also discuss important factors in your child’s development such as puberty, healthy relationships, peer pressure, and drug and alcohol use. 

Need to schedule your child’s annual exam and sports physical? Dial or 662-282-4226 to schedule an appointment at our clinic, or if your child attends Mantachie schools, contact the school’s office to request a form to send your child to our school-based clinic. 

The Most Common Early Signs of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting a child’s social skills, communication, and development. One in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism. In many cases, signs of autism begin to show while children are still babies. 

Today we’re looking at the most common early signs of autism. These signs may not be obvious at first because most autistic babies still sit, crawl, and walk on time. Hitting these milestones makes it easy to overlook other delays in developmental milestones such as body gestures, pretend play, and developing a social language. Subtle differences in children with autism may present before their first birthday and typically become more obvious by 24 months of age. 

Before we share the common early signs of autism, it’s important for parents to know that symptoms vary by each child and your child could show some, all, or none of these signs and still be on the spectrum. Remember that if your gut, or parental instinct, is telling you something is off, it’s a good reason to contact your child’s medical provider and get an answer. 

Common Social Differences

Many babies with autism fail to keep or make very little eye contact, even with parents. They also don’t usually respond to a parent’s smile or facial expression. Other social differences you may observe include:

  • Not looking at objects or events the parents point to
  • Not pointing at objects to direct your attention to them
  • Not bringing objects of personal interest to show to parents
  • Not showing appropriate facial expressions such as a smile when given a toy
  • Not showing concern or empathy for others
  • Being unable to or uninterested in making friends

Communication Differences

In addition to not pointing to things, babies on the autism spectrum often don’t say single words by age 16 months. They may also repeat what others are saying without understanding the meaning of the words. Other communication differences to watch for include:

  • Not responding to their name being called but responds to other sounds like a cat’s meow or a loud horn. 
  • Referring to themselves as “you” and mixing up pronouns
  • Often seems to want to avoid communication
  • Cannot start or continue a conversation
  • Regression in language skills or other social milestones between ages 15 and 24 months

Behavioral Differences

These are some of the most obvious signs of autism. Stereotypical behavioral differences such as rocking back and forth, spinning, twirling fingers, flapping hands, and walking on toes are the most common differences in children with autism. Children with autism may also:

  • Like routines, orders, or rituals and have difficulty with changes or transitioning to a new activity
  • Be obsessed with a few or unusual activities they perform repeatedly
  • Play with parts of toys instead of the whole thing
  • Appear to not feel pain
  • Be or not be sensitive to certain smells, sounds, lights, textures, or touch. 
  • Have an unusual use of their vision or gaze

If you’re reading this, you may have concerns about your child and autism. Your family medical provider is the best place to start getting answers. Mantachie Rural Healthcare can help. Request an appointment today at 662-282-4226. 


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