Ask the Experts

Because children are not born with an owner’s manual that tells us the best way to care for them, it is often a trial and error process. Ask the Experts is a collection of articles that cover topics of interest to parents and caregivers with children from infancy through adolescence.

Articles are organized by age in the categories below.
Early Years 0-6
Middle Years 6-12
Teen Years 13-19
All Ages

What can you do to get SSI for your child

Ask the Experts by Mark Aiello

Q: How does my special needs child qualify for supplemental security income (SSI) and what can I can do to get these benefits for my child?

A: If your child is under age 18 and has major health problems affecting his/her functioning, either physically, mentally or both, the first thing to determine is whether the family unit where the child lives meets the income threshold for benefits. If the parent’s monthly income plus existing assets are above the threshold set by law, it won’t matter how seriously disabled the child is. The claim will be denied. Typically, if the household is eligible for state assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid, the financial threshold is met.

Assuming the financial limits are met, just how seriously disabled must the child be to qualify for benefits? The child must be suffering from a condition that is both marked and severe lasting or expected to last one year or more. There are two ways to prove a condition is both marked and severe. First is through the Social Security Administration’s Listing of Impairments. This Listing sets forth exact proof that must be met for the specific disease or condition of the child. The second way is to show the child’s poor health is so severe it is functionally equal to the Listing.

Read more: What can you do to get SSI for your child

Holiday stress can result in physical pain

Ask the Experts by David Gilboe

Q: My body gets really sore during the holidays and I feel a lot of stress.  What do you suggest I do to help reduce the pain?

A: While there is definitely more bending, lifting, reaching and standing during the holidays (which can result in physical pain), many of us forget the toll that stress can place on our bodies and how this by itself creates or increases pain.

More times than not, we aren’t aware of the tension we are holding in our bodies. For example, when traffic is backed up or you are standing in a long line at the store, do you make time to notice your feelings?  If you are feeling frustrated or anxious this will often create tightness in your muscles and rigidity in your posture.  The first step towards easing the stress, begins with you making the decision to pay attention to what you are feeling in your muscles.

Read more: Holiday stress can result in physical pain

Long-term care vs. Medicaid

Ask the Experts by Dan Tripp

Q: I’ve been looking at getting long-term care insurance but I’m wary of the cost; won’t Medicaid take care of me if I don’t have insurance?

A: Yes, you can receive care under Medicaid, but remember that Medicaid is basically welfare coverage and is based on financial eligibility.  In other words, you must have limited income and assets.

Your income will most likely consist of Social Security payments, VA benefits, if any, pensions, any salaries or wages, interest from bank accounts and CDs and any dividends from investments.  Assets that are counted are checking and savings accounts, stocks and bonds, CDs, any real property aside from your primary residence, and any motor vehicles if you have more than one.  You can exclude your home, personal and household belongings, life insurance if the face value is under $1,500, up to $1,500 in burial expenses, and assets held in certain trusts (see your attorney for the details).

Read more: Long-term care vs. Medicaid

Security Awareness for the Savvy International Traveler

Ask the Experts by Aimee Fluitt

Q: When you talk about safety concerns, are you trying to dissuade people from traveling?

A: Absolutely not. In fact, that’s the last thing I want to do. International travel is an enriching, enlightening experience, and I believe everyone should explore the world as much as possible. My goal is simply to encourage everyone to be more knowledgeable of what’s going on around them and more able to plan for the unexpected. There are some things we will talk about in this presentation that are definitely pertinent to domestic travel, too.

Q: What’s the biggest issue American tourists face when traveling?
Read more: Security Awareness for the Savvy International Traveler

Helping your child succeed with everyday social situations

Ask the Experts by Amy McIntyre and Michelle Harr

Q: I’m a parent of two teens who couldn’t be more different. My daughter is my “social butterfly” and I can’t keep up with her social calendar, while my son seems to struggle interacting with peers, and doesn’t have one “real” friend. He has trouble with maintaining attention/focus. What can we do to help him succeed with everyday social situations?

A: Pragmatic language therapy in an individual therapy situation would be a great start for your son. After comprehension of the ins and outs of social interaction is solid, grouping your son with another peer(s) in a “social group” for practice would be the next step. From there, when the time is right, the group of peers then go out to practice being social together, in other environments. Peer social groups are an important component in the transferring of skills across environments.

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Teens and Vaping Dangers

Ask the Experts by

Sean Cassleman, M.D.

Q: I overheard my teen daughter and her friends talking about another girl at school vaping. I am concerned that my daughter will try vaping, should I discuss it with her? I know almost nothing about it, how can I approach her about my concerns?

A: Vaping is raising anxiety levels for parents of adolescents everywhere. There is reason to worry because vaping is a new delivery system for nicotine – an adversary that parents have struggled to keep their children away from for decades. Although e-cigarettes and tobacco products like cigarettes both contain nicotine, there are differences between the two. An appropriate response to the threat of vaping – and a quality discussion with your kids about it – is dependent on knowing the basics of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices powered by batteries that deliver a nicotine-containing vapor. E-cigarettes do not all look the same, nor do they all have the same components. But they have some common functional parts, including a mouth piece, microprocessor/sensor, liquid cartridge, battery and atomizer. Inhaling at the e-cigarette’s mouthpiece signals the microprocessor/sensor to activate the atomizer, which turns the liquid into a nicotine vapor which is inhaled by the user at the mouthpiece. Although there are no standard ingredients for the liquid or “juice”, they are usually made up of nicotine, propylene glycol/glycerol, flavoring and water. There have been similar nicotine products in the past, but the modern e-cigarette was invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2003. One of the most popular e-cigarettes is called the ‘Juul,’ which was released in 2015 and is extremely popular among teens. If no one told you, you might mistake the sleek design of the Juul for a usb flash drive.

Read more: Teens and Vaping Dangers

Teach Coping and Resilience as Your Child Leaves the Nest

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen

Q: My child just left to go away to college, and I am struggling with the adjustment to an empty nest. What would make this easier?

A: Parents put so much into the raising of children, and yet they are still surprised to find that once they are launched it can leave a big hole in their lives. But this transition is also a beautiful thing that allows children to spread their wings in the way they have been prepared to do. It also gives parents a new freedom they haven’t had for many years – but now with the wisdom of maturity to enjoy it more richly.

We all want our children to succeed, but some deliberate about the best way to help them do that, and in what time frame. Some believe in protecting children as much as possible and limiting their exposure to things that might harm them. Others (myself included) believe that we cannot (and should not) shelter children from everything. We must give them reasonable precautionary measures and life skills, and then teach coping and resilience so they still thrive even through the normal life challenges. Our goal is to raise confident children who are functional, adult members of society. Then let them fly! Realizing that you have completed your mission can make the transition easier.

Read more: Teach Coping and Resilience as Your Child Leaves the Nest

Suicide Prevention Month

Ask the Experts by The Family Center

Q: I heard September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. What can I do to learn more about suicide prevention and mental health?

A: September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month and is meant to unite community members with prevention organizations, survivors, and allies to promote suicide prevention awareness. In our community, there are a few different ways you can learn more about suicide prevention and mental health.

Mental Health First Aid Training is being offered for individuals working/interacting with youth, to learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help. The course is an eight-hour training, given in two four-hour sessions, on September 19 and 26, 5:30pm-9:30pm, at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church. The training is limited to 30 participants and you must attend both sessions to receive the 3-year certification.

Read more: Suicide Prevention Month

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sessions

Ask the Experts by Training & Treatment Innovations, Inc. (TTI)

Q: Can you tell me about the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sessions that will be offered through The Family Center this fall – who should attend and what can we expect if we do?

A: Just like First Aid and CPR training provide people with the skills to help someone experiencing a physical health crisis, Mental Health First Aid is a course, designed for lay people, to provide the skills needed to reach out to a person experiencing a mental health crisis. There are two primary formats for MHFA, Adults and Youth. The fall session we are hosting in September is focused on youth. The Youth Mental Health First Aid course is designed for adults who work with young people, ages 12-18 — teachers, coaches, leaders of faith communities, social workers, and other caring citizens. Anyone is welcome to attend.

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Transition Can be Difficult – Parents Can Help

Ask the Experts by Pete Pullen

Q: How do I prep my student who learns differently for the new school year?

A: For many students including those who learn differently, change and transition can be difficult. Every student will be starting a new grade, a new school, or both. Those are all significant changes that children of all ages experience each year. Students typically struggle in three areas when starting their new school year: 1) Organization 2) Anticipating what is coming next, and 3) Anxiety.

Read more: Transition Can be Difficult – Parents Can Help