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Overprotectiveness should be avoided.

In the children's classic Heidi, Klara Sessemann, confined to a wheelchair and overprotected by her father, was virtually helpless until a visit to her friend in the Alps, during which she was encouraged to care for herself. in two weeks, she learned to walk. This might be fiction, but it nonetheless demonstrates what can happen when parents ease up on overprotecting a chronically ill offspring, indicates James Wenzl, professor of pediatrics, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Overprotectiveness occurs quite often and "is a great disadvantage for the child, because it keeps the child from learning to maximize his or her abilities. The chronically ill child should be encouraged to be as active as possible, within the bounds of health. This applies to school, social activities, and sports."

The latter, in particular, can be tailored around the specific limitations of youngsters. Almost every kid can be involved in some type of athletic activity. Participating in sports serves the same purpose for chronically ill children as it does for healthy ones, providing a source of physical fitness, personal challenge, and self-worth, as well as a way to learn the basics of teamwork.

Most will try to achieve as much as possible, especially if they receive parental encouragememt. "Mental attitude is important here," Wenzl notes. "For example, I tel parents to think of their child as a healthy person with a kidney problem, rather than a kidney patient."

Those whose offspring often are ill may be tempted to care for the youngster at home. Unless it is medically necessary, this should be avoided. "Many physicians and parents keep the the child homebound simply because it is convenient. But this decreases the amount of schooling the child gets and dramatically reduces the child's social interaction, which hinders a vital part of his or her development."

Learning to cope with a disability outside the home also can provide skills that become useful later in life. "If a child learns to cope with school and outside activities and develops interests, he or she is more likely to strive for a job and to be self-sufficient. The stresses can be turned into an advantage, in that these children often have learned patience and coping skills which can help them in the workplace."

Parents who want help in understanding and dealing with their child's disease actively should seek it from doctors and support groups. "One of the responsibilities of the physician is to anticipate questions and not wait for the patient to bring them up, The doctor should be able to offer options. For example, the parents of a child who has hemophilia may feel he shouldn't participate in sports, but there is no reason that child couldn't become a world class swimmer. We all need to be encouraged to live up to our potential."
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Title Annotation:care of chronically ill children
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:Exercise helps put off the inevitable.
Next Article:Computer makes "house calls." (patient monitoring system)

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