Worried about my telemers

I had never heard about telemers until I watched “Stress: Portrait of a killer” on DVD.

Sure, I knew before that stress is not good for my physical health, after reading Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, by Joan Borysenko, but I had no idea that stress in a way damages our DNA (if I understand the process correctly). Yet that’s what Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel, two guest scientists on the show, were claiming.

Fascinated by their research, I looked for more information and what I found first freaked me out completely.

Apparently, chronic stress experienced by parents who have children with special needs or disabilities is very dangerous as it “may promote earlier onset of age-related diseases.” (Elissa S. Epel, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Jue Lin, Firdaus S. Dhabhar, Nancy E. Adler, Jason D. Morrow, Richard M. Cawthon (2004) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 101, No. 49 (Dec. 7, 2004), pp. 17312-17315.)

But when I dug some more, there seems to be a glimmer of hope –further research seems to suggest that “comprehensive lifestyle changes” which include “moderate aerobic exercise […]; stress management[…], and a 1-h group support session once per week” were “significantly associated with increases in cellular telomerase activity and telomere maintenance capacity in human immune system cells.” (Dean Ornish, Jue Lin, Jennifer Daubenmier, Gerdi Weidner, Elissa Epel, Colleen Kemp, Mark Jesus M Magbanua, Ruth Marlin, Loren Yglecias,Peter R Carroll, Elizabeth H Blackburn (2008) Lancet Oncol 2008; 9: 1048–57.)

If I get it right then, I’m on a fast lane to developing age-related diseases, unless I exercise, meditate, and create a good support network for myself. I better get cracking!

Organizing electronic files

Turns out naming electronic files “vision” and “concerns” doesn’t work very well if you have two kids on IEP and they have a new IEP each year, especially if you want to keep the old files intact. Now I’m naming the files as follows “name-year-vision” or “name-year-concerns.” (example: “John-2010-vision”, or “Jane-2010-vision”). That should make it easier to find quickly the file I need. And, of course, these documents are in a folder called “IEP.”

My other child

Looking at all the back posts I noticed I have not really mentioned my other child — my daughter, who is about five years younger than my son. I was hoping, hoping so hard, she would be typical. But she isn’t…

I should have known better. Yet, her challenges are different than those of my son. She does carry the same diagnosis as my son — PDD-NOS, but she “presents” (as the psychiatrists like to say) very differently. She’s far more social than he ever was, she has good memory for faces and names, and she recognizes social connections pretty fast (she learned pretty fast who is whose mommy or daddy at daycare). On the other hand, she stimms (she lays down flat on her belly and twitches), she has a tendency to line up things, she can get upset when plans are changed, and she gets upset when her clothes get wet or dirty and when her hands get wet or sticky.

She also has been diagnosed with apraxia of speech, a condition I was wholly unfamiliar with, because my son’s language, despite initial delay, was pretty well developed by the time he was three. My daughter talks very haltingly, cannot pronounce certain syllables, and has a hard time repeating words, especially words that are longer than two syllables. She tries, she tries very hard, but it just is not coming out right. Her pronunciation is very hard to understand.

Is she twice exceptional as my son? I don’t know yet. I seem to have been discounting her intelligence because her “output” is so poor, but the other day she was playing “point to a shape” game and I was floored that at three she knows what a hexagon is, and sees the difference between a square and a rectangle. She does seem to have pretty good visual memory, like my son. She’s very good at card memory games and seems to remember events that happened a long time ago. So she might be smart… Yet, I worry that just as I still sometimes do, others will also discount her intelligence because she.. well… she just doesn’t sound very smart.

BPA and dental sealants

I had no idea there’s BPA in dental sealants!

That’s what a WBUR program reporting on a proposed ban of BPA in Massachusetts says (see “State Wants BPA Ban in Some Children’s Products,” May 12, 2010). Today, while sorting files, I found a brochure about dental sealants I was given when my son’s dentist recommended dental sealants — Seal Out Tooth Decay: A Booklet for Parents.

The first sentence reads “Sealants are thin, plastic coatings painted on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.” So yes, dental sealants are plastic and apparently the kind of plastic that has BPA in it. But the brochure, of course, does not mention BPA.

www.bisphenol-a.org, a web site “sponsored by the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, which is organized regionally at the American Chemistry Council, PlasticsEurope, and the Japan Chemical Industry Association,” claims on a page “Resin Dental Sealants and Bisphenol A Oral Exposure” that “human exposure to BPA from dental resins is minimal and poses no known health risk.” But then the same web site also assures that “consumer products made with BPA are safe for their intended uses and pose no known risks to human health.”

Apparently, some sealants may be BPA free (according to www.non-toxickids.net post “BPA in Dental Sealants? Ask Your Dentist,” from January 1, 2009). But my son already has dental sealants on his teeth. Now I wonder whether it makes any sense (because, frankly, it is too late to do anything) to check whether his sealants have BPA in them.