Archives for May 2017

Could Your Child Have Learning Disability? 5 Signs to Look For

You’ve heard these words and feared them: dyslexia, dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). They are all examples of common learning disabilities that interfere with basic skills such as reading, writing, and math. Those who are diagnosed can find it hard to make judgments or be in a social setting, or they have problems with planning and organization, and the concept of time.

Early intervention is crucial to help a child with a learning disability. Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed because many parents refuse to acknowledge that their children suffer from a learning disability. Many are even embarrassed to seek a professional opinion.

“People dismiss learning disabilities as a culture thing,” explains Cynthia Tinsay-Gonzalez, owner and administrator of Reach International School, an inclusive academic institution that caters to regular students and students with learning disabilities and special needs. “[Some] parents tend to make excuses for the child — ‘bata pa ‘yan’ or ‘lalaki kasi ‘yan kaya late.'”


But how can a parent know if a professional evaluation is needed? Tinsay-Gonzalez has five questions to ask yourself:

1. How are his emotional and behavioral responses at home and school?
Kids with learning disabilities may behave differently or inappropriately when faced with a problem or task, compared to you or a kid his age. He can be easily frustrated, finds it difficult to get along with his peers, or show poor social judgment. If the consistency in his behavior is the same and present at home and school — it doesn’t feel like he’s just going through a stage — then it may be time to consult a developmental pediatrician.

2. Does he prefer playing with kids who are younger than him?
There is nothing wrong with younger playmates, but take notice of his development and level of maturity. As Tinsay-Gonzalez puts it, does it feel like he is “emotionally two or three years behind?” Missing subtle social cues, overfocusing on minor details, having difficulty transitioning — these can be red flags.


3. Does he continue to struggle in school despite support?
If your school-age child shows consistent inability to do the expected school work of his age level, even with tutoring, then you may need to have him assessed. Tinsay-Gonzalez adds, “[Kung] sobra na ‘yung push ninyo for them to learn, but then the child is still not getting [his lessons], he may be at risk [learning disability].”

4. Does he have difficulty in organizing and integrating thoughts?
Many children with learning disabilities have an above average IQ. From Grades 1 to 4, Tinsay-Gonzalez says, their memory skills are good, and they pass their tests. It’s when they hit Grade 5 to 6 when problems arise. At these grade levels, children are asked to analyze and synthesize information — write essays, for example. “You’re expected to process information — hindi na lang pwedeng puro memorize,” she says.


5. Does he have a poor memory?
Say you’ve reviewed your kid for a big test the day before, and his performance was exceptional. But when he takes the actual test the next day, he fails. Persistent short-term memory is another red flag when it comes to children with learning disabilities. “The child can understand, but he does not have the ability to process and retain chunks of information –necessary tools in middle school,” Tinsay-Gonzalez says.

It is important to note that only developmental pediatricians can diagnose a child with a learning disability. Reach International School does have an assessment tool (available to those who are not enrolled in the school as well) to evaluate how to help a child who is struggling academically; it can create an educational program tailor-fit to his needs.

Having a child with a learning disability is not the end of his future. In fact, many famous and successful people have learning disabilities. Daniel Radcliffe has dyspraxia, which means he struggles with balance and posture. Steven Spielberg, Keira Knightley, and Tom Cruise had dyslexia, a reading disorder. With early intervention and your support, your child can grow up to be a smart and successful grown-up.


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20 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas to Show Moms Deserve to Be Spoiled

When you’re a mom, you do things for your husband / partner and children and expect nothing in return, because motherhood is in itself a reward. But, on Mother’s Day, allow yourself to be spoiled by your loved ones with gifts that express what they could not verbalize — tokens of appreciation that tell you, “We’re so grateful to have you in our lives.”

Husbands, children, find the perfect gift from the gallery below!


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Measuring Deadliness | Toxinology 101

Scientists refer to the study of biological toxins as toxinology. From bacterial toxins like anthrax to the deadliest snake venoms, toxinology examines the chemical warfare between animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. In my Toxinology 101 series, I explain and explore the fundamentals of toxin science to reveal the unusual, often unfamiliar, and unnerving world created by our planet’s most notorious biochemists.

One of the most frequent questions I receive as a venom scientist (so much so …read more    

‘I Said Goodbye to the Job I Love to Breastfeed My Baby’

I was a 26-year-old newlywed when I found out I was pregnant. I was also working full-time as a writer, book editor, and managing editor for a hugely popular magazine under the same publishing company I joined a scant two months after graduation. I met some of my best friends at my job, and I even married one of them. To say my job was my life would be pretty accurate. But, all of a sudden, there was a little life growing inside of me.

I worked until I hit 38 weeks of pregnancy, riding out deadlines, photo shoots, and proofreading throughout the trimesters. And as my belly grew, so did my certainty that I would breastfeed my child. I was not a sancti-mommy — I’ve never judged formula moms. But I felt compelled to pursue breastfeeding for my baby, in whatever form it would work for us.

In April 2016, I gave birth via an emergency C-section, and I asked for the nurse’s help to get my newborn daughter latched straight away. I almost throttled her when she answered, “Ay, ngayon na ba?” My wild-eyed glare must have scared her because she quickly shoved our damp and gooey daughter onto my chest and backed away. And at that moment, our breastfeeding journey began. My milk was already coming in while I was still in the recovery room. I’ve never had issues with latching, supply, or engorgement. Don’t hate me, but I am one of the lucky ones who can eat an oatmeal cookie and feel my boobs fill up an hour later.

All I’m saying is moms know they have hard choices to make, day after day, and this one was mine.

The real struggle started when we introduced the bottle to our daughter at 6 weeks old. To say that there were tears would be a gross understatement. She took the bottle like a personal insult. And thus started the intense Googling and asking for advice on forums and Facebook groups. My husband and I quickly assembled a motley crew of random bottles and nipples, from Mimijumi and Avent to the cheapest silicone nipples at the grocery. They all ended up collecting dust in our cupboard. You’d think we were making our daughter drink sulfuric acid the way she cried and vomited each time we offered a bottle. Her acid reflux didn’t help matters, either.

Yes, I would tiredly answer anyone who tried to help, we tried warm milk and cold milk, thawed milk and freshly-pumped milk. We tried cups, syringes, spoons. I went outside the room, the condo, even walked to the Starbucks across the street just so she couldn’t smell me. The only thing we never did was to starve her into desperation so she would take the bottle. (You gasp at the mere idea, but this was actually a suggestion by many well-meaning titas.) Lots of other moms I knew reported success with this nipple, or that bottle, or yaya wearing mom’s two-week old T-shirt (true story), but absolutely nothing worked for us.

I was tired. Bottle-feeding her consumed me. My husband just sighed every time I came home clutching a new bottle that was “guaranteed” effective. I stared jealously at little babies peacefully sucking on their Dr. Browns/Pigeons/Tommy Tippees while their moms blithely pushed them around in their strollers. I got disheartened pumping and storing milk because I was starting to give up hope that she would ever drink any of it (I ended up donating a freezer full of milk). I wished I could turn back the clock and introduce the bottle earlier, nipple confusion be damned.


As the end of my maternity leave loomed near, the frustration became panic. Slowly, I had to face the fact that maybe I wasn’t going to be that working mom toting a breast pump and a cooler to the office. And for the first time since I gave birth, I cried. I couldn’t not work. What about our finances? The job I left behind, the people I loved working with? What about me? I went from being a magazine editor to a walking mammary gland — my friends loved the joke, but the post-partum identity crisis was no laughing matter.

There was only one certainty among all the questions: I could not give up breastfeeding my daughter. I couldn’t bear to leave this tiny, red-faced creature squalling for the boob while I sat at a desk, miles away. She was mine — and the responsibility to nourish her was on me.

I don’t judge moms who came back from their maternity leaves with babies bottle-trained or not. In fact, you are probably made of sterner stuff than I am. All I’m saying is moms know they have hard choices to make, day after day, and this one was mine.

So I said good-bye to my job and feverishly worked out our finances, our new routine, our new normal, and until today, it’s a work in progress. I also said good-bye to that conveniently mobile lifestyle many of my age enjoy. There was no getting back into the swing of things. While my friends were figuring out how far they could go to watch Coldplay live, I had to figure out how far I could go until her next feed (Answer: one therapeutic grocery trip, a pedicure, and a pit stop at Potato Corner, all in the mall beside our house).

It’s made me confront how much I like myself, or if I even like myself at all.

It’s gotten easier over the months especially when our baby started solids and learned to drink water from a cup. She latches mostly for comfort now, but will only fall asleep if on the boob (that’s another story). She’s the loudest, most hyper 1-year-old I have ever met, whose first instinct is to wave enthusiastically at anything (inanimate objects included). I live for the moments her big eyes find mine while she nurses, and she touches my nose ever so gently.

I sometimes miss my …read more