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150729NewProvidersWhen we see a need for new providers,  I personally seek out the best-qualified professionals. But it's not enough for providers to be great at what they do—their hearts have to be fully committed to our mission in caring for kids and families. It's a fundamental quality that caregivers must possess to join us at Eugene Pediatric Associates and Thrive Behavioral Health.

I asked our new speech-language pathologist, Erica Meter, to send me a paragraph explaining why her job is important to the well-being of kids. I am writing a grant proposal to support the expansion of Thrive and I was looking for information to include.

This is what Erica wrote:

“I am fortunate to be able to say I love what I do. Being a speech therapist is not just a job, it's an opportunity to change lives in a positive way and have my life changed, too. The little blessings that walk through my door every day are just that—blessings. I am reminded of this constantly. I want to share the story of twin girls who touched my heart in a very special way.

Born at 28 weeks gestation, they fought every day to survive.  While they were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I supported them by teaching their parents successful feeding techniques. When the twins were able to leave the NICU, I thought it was the end of our journey together. Fast forward three years later and I was blessed again to see these two miracles and their parents sitting before me. One of the girls had recently been diagnosed with moderate to severe autism and speech/language delays, the other with speech/language delays, as well as sensory processing disorder. That day marked the beginning of our second journey together.

Their mother shared how desperately she wanted her autistic daughter to acknowledge her, interact and communicate with her. At the start of therapy, the only world that existed for the little girl was her own. Instead of wanting to play, she would rather dance and hum in front of the mirror. Instead of playing with her sisters, she preferred lining up books and placing letters in alphabetical order. She was in her own world, and that worked for her. But her mother wanted to be part of that world, and the day I started seeing her, was the first day we began to discover more about the world her daughter lived in.

With patience and suggested interactions to try at home, the little girl began opening doors to let us in. Now, 18 months later, she is speaking two and three word phrases. She calls her family members by name to get their attention. She performs for what we call "social attention" and waits for you to look at her. She makes requests using words and pictures for support when she needs them. But most of all, she is learning to be part of her family's world and starting to enjoy being there.

Her twin sister, who is also making tremendous progress, is now just slightly below the developmental expectations for her age, and she loves that her sister wants to play with her. The twin’s older sister is a wonderful teacher and loves that she gets to play, too. Their parents worked every day to learn how to fit into their daughter's world instead of forcing her to be part of theirs. This is only one of the many stories that remind me why I do what I do. Because behind every smile, laugh, or tear, there is a child waiting to be embraced, loved and discovered. I'm so lucky to be a part of that!”

By the time I finished reading Erica’s words, the tears had already begun to flow.

Erica is amazing, just like every one of our providers at Eugene Pediatrics and Thrive Behavioral Health. They were handpicked for their positions because of their commitment to families and for recognizing what an amazing opportunity it is to care for children in ways that are, for many families, life-changing.

Posted by on in News

140701 EPABlogImageThrive1A traditional pediatric practice helps lots of kids, but I am convinced it barely scratches the surface of what many children need. The physical health of a child is only a portion of wellness. The other key aspect is mental and behavioral/developmental health.

Eugene-Springfield has many wonderful mental and behavioral health caregivers and agencies for kids, but coordinating care with pediatricians is always a challenge. After nearly 15 years in practice here, I became frustrated with the limitations in my traditional practice to meet the needs of the children we serve.

So, one sunny autumn afternoon last year, I asked my favorite child psychologist, Dr. Jenny Mauro, to have coffee and talk about the exciting possibilities of pediatricians working side by side with child psychologists, developmental pediatricians and child psychiatrists.

If that happened, I could step out of my exam room and grab a specialist in child mental health and development to get a “curbside consult.” My families could meet a behavioral health care provider for a momentary “hello” and know whom they would meet during an upcoming visit. And scheduling the behavioral health visit at the same location would be a breeze.

Coordination of care would be so easy and even fun. Brown bag lunches with my doctors sitting around the same table with psychologists and other behavioral specialists would make it easy to discuss children in need of our team approach.

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Posted by on in News

131022EPAautismgameboysIn the July issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, a study of boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared use of technology, or video games, with use by ADHD boys and the general pediatric male population. Participants ranged in age from 8 to 18.

The results showed that boys with autism and ADHD spend significantly more time on technology devices, including addictive video games. In particular, inattention was strongly associated with problematic video game use for both groups. The conclusion of this study is that more research needs to be done, over a longer period of time, to understand the impact this use of technology has on these kids.

Watching lots of kids with their technology in my office, I have observed children with autism often find technology soothing, and many parents of these kids use it to teach their children novel ways to communicate and adapt to the real world around them.

Kids with ADHD also are drawn to technology, although it appears to me to be for a different reason — the rapid-fire graphics and action fit their brain's frenetic pattern of activity. For parents of these kids, technology can be the rare activity that keeps them still and holds their attention for any length of time.

I will look forward to future research on ways in which technology can help, or hinder, kids with all types of abilities.