Children's, Health and Safety

Safe Sleep Practices & Tips for Babies

Statistics reveal that 3,400 sleep-related deaths occur each year among infants under 12 months. Alabama has one of the highest rates of sleep-related deaths across the nation — more than one hundred babies die each year due to unsafe sleep environments.

Dr. Erinn Schmit, a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s of Alabama and assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), says soft bedding and babies co-sleeping with a parent or sibling are two of the most common causes of sleep-related deaths. The highest risk for sleep-related deaths in infants is between 1 and 4 months old, but Dr. Schmit recommends parents keep exercising safe sleep practices for up to 12 months.

ABCs for Safe Sleep Practices

Dr. Schmit suggests using the “ABCs” of safe sleep to remember these practices. This stands for Alone, Back and Crib.

Alone: Babies should be in their own sleep environment every single time. This means using an approved consumer product safety-rated device, like a crib, Pack ‘n Play or bassinet.

Back: Babies should sleep on their backs every single time.

Crib: The crib should be empty except for a crib mattress rated for infants (a firm mattress with just a fitted sheet). There should be no loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillows or bumpers as they pose a suffocation risk.

Safe Sleep Environments

“We know that co-sleeping greatly increases their risk for suffocation. We also see some deaths from suffocation due to soft bedding, such as pillows, blankets, sleeping on an adult mattress, or sleeping in a chair or couch. These environments are not meant for babies to sleep in,” Schmit said. “Babies should be sleeping on a firm sleep surface that doesn’t allow for any air pockets where their faces can get stuck.”

For every sleep session, babies should be placed on their back until they can roll over by themselves. Swaddling is helpful for newborns who have a startle reflex that wakes them up; however, parents should swaddle their baby only until they are about 3 to 4 months old, when they begin showing signs of rolling over.

“When they’re showing signs of rolling over, you could either go cold turkey — stop swaddling them altogether—or swaddle just one arm in at a time. But we do know that swaddling while babies are trying to roll can actually increase that risk of suffocation,” adds Dr. Schmit.

Dr. Schmit also cautions against nearby cords from a baby monitor or windows with blinds near the crib. Ensure the crib or Pack n’ Play is away from the window so babies can’t pull on strings connected to the blinds. In addition, make sure baby monitors are mounted on a wall or placed on a bookcase nearby, but not directly by the edge of a crib. “Unfortunately, every year we see strangulation deaths when babies get strings stuck around their necks,” Schmit said.

Sleep sacks are well known among parents with babies and are recommended.  These wearable blankets have a hole for the neck and arms and either zip or snap in place. Due to the design, sleep sacks don’t have loose material that can get in a baby’s face. 

Sleep sacks for younger babies swaddle with Velcro and sleep sacks for older babies have arm holes and no swaddle. Around three to four months, parents should stop swaddling and switch to a sleep sack without a swaddle.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents share a room, not a bed, with their baby for up to 12 months. Sharing a room can help parents hear noises and be alert to their baby’s needs which can reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths.

Tummy Time and Acid Reflux in Babies

Tummy time is when babies lay on their stomachs for a brief period while they are awake and supervised. The AAP recommends supervised tummy time for babies each day to help with head and neck strength, which further improves motor development. For more information on how long babies of different ages should practice tummy time, refer to this resource from KidsHealth. While babies should practice tummy time, they should not while they are sleeping. Once they can roll themselves onto their tummy, it’s okay to let them roll into that position. Nevertheless, parents should still put them to sleep on their backs.

One misconception is that placing babies on their backs may aggravate acid reflux or interfere with proper digestion. This has been scientifically disproven – when babies are lying on their tummies, the food pipe is above the windpipe.

According to the AAP and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (NASPGHAN), sleeping on the back is safest for all babies, even those with reflux. The only situations when babies should sleep on their tummy are if they have an unrepaired surgical airway or some other serious issues—in which the doctor may recommend otherwise.

Safe Baby Devices

Parents may try to calm their fussy baby by driving around the neighborhood. Dr. Schmit said this practice is fine, but once the baby is back in the home they should be placed in the crib—not left in the car seat to continue sleeping. Dr. Schmit also urged any parent using a device such as the “Rock ‘n Play” to stop doing so immediately.

“The Rock ‘n Plays—an inclined sleeper that rocks—were recalled a couple of years ago due to being linked to multiple infant deaths around the country. Primarily, this was in situations where babies were strapped in and then rolling over and suffocating. It led to us recommending against all inclined sleepers because of that risk.”

For a list of approved baby devices, Dr. Schmit recommends parents discuss options with their pediatrician or visit websites such as or


Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

We’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to honor the histories, cultures and contributions of our employees from Central and South America, Mexico and Spain. At Children’s of Alabama, we are united in our mission and dedication in providing the finest pediatric healthcare to all children. Each of the employees featured here contribute to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of inspiration and impact.

Melissa Aragon
Special Lab Service Technical Aide

What led you to a career in healthcare?

I always felt I had a calling into medicine. As a little girl, I never saw someone who looked like me represented in the healthcare field. This absence of representation ignited a passion, a desire to become the person I wished I had seen when I was younger. Furthering my desire to pave the way for others like me. This sense of purpose became even more tangible when I was offered the opportunity to intern at Children’s of Alabama. The thought of being able to work in a healthcare environment, even as an intern, was exciting. It allowed me to bridge the gap between my education and my aspirations, making my experience so much better.

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

My greatest source of inspiration has been and will always be my parents. From a young age, I witnessed their determination and willingness to leave behind everything they knew in pursuit of a better future for themselves and our big family. Their journey was not without challenges, but it instilled in me the core values of hard work, resilience, and sacrifice. I can never express my gratitude for their sacrifices to provide us with opportunities they never had. They instilled in us a deep love for our culture and language, which has become an asset in my journey. Thanks to them, I have the ability to provide services in two languages, while also becoming a liaison in making people feel more comfortable and understood.

While my parents are my ultimate inspiration, l am consistently inspired by the many Latino and Latina healthcare pioneers who paved the way for many of us. It is amazing to see their achievements and contributions to healthcare.  Only fueling my desire to become one of them.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?

My goal is to have a lasting impact on my community by creating opportunities and breaking down barriers for first-generation students like me. Representation has so much value, and it’s important to continue having it in healthcare. I want to convey that their dreams are never too big to achieve regardless of background or origin. I hope to contribute to a more inclusive and aspirational future for all through mentorship, advocacy, and storytelling.

Sam Rodriguez
Dental Assistant

What led you to a career in healthcare?
Since people began asking me about my future career, I have consistently expressed my interest in pursuing a healthcare profession. I have always been passionate about helping others, and I believe having Latino representation in the healthcare field is crucial, no matter what job type. Additionally, growing up, I have seen how the presence of Latino healthcare professionals makes Latino patients feel more at ease and supported.

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

My parents are my inspiration! They moved from El Salvador to the United States 27 years ago. For 26 of those years, they worked tirelessly in physically demanding construction jobs. Seeing them come home every day exhausted and witnessing their dedication to prioritizing their children before themselves has motivated me to become a worker like them, always prioritizing others over myself. My parents have overcome numerous challenges to reach their current position and serve as remarkable role models of hard work, kindness and compassion. 

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to impact other Latinos by showing that there are many jobs in healthcare, and they should seek them! For example, I’m a dental assistant, and before working here, I didn’t know Children’s of Alabama had a dental clinic and did dental surgeries. I want people to know that there are many opportunities in healthcare and that they should pursue them.

Liz Pallotta
Social Worker

What led you to a career in healthcare?

As a social worker, there are many different routes you can take whether that’s in the school system, hospice, child welfare and more. However, medical social work stood out to me because of the opportunity I have to build relationships with families and truly make an impact for those who have a child with special healthcare needs. Advocating and empowering families to be the best for their children is the most rewarding thing I can do for someone. 

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

My mother has been my biggest inspiration in all avenues of my life. When we moved from Panama to the United States, my mom was newly married, had three small children, left her family and everything she ever knew behind, and moved to a country without knowing the dominant language. It was impressive to see the life she built for herself and our family, and that has been the motivation that led me to be where I am today.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?

I want to be seen as a role model amongst my peers and an ally among communities. I hope to inspire others to want the best for themselves, to want the best for others and to do it all with kindness and love.  

Johanna Robbins
Inpatient Occupational Therapist

What led you to a career in healthcare?
I felt a career as a healthcare professional would provide me with the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Coming from a culture and family that wants to help and serve the community in different ways led me to choose this field. I had always wanted to work with kids, and after discovering that I could help individuals in different areas throughout their lives as an occupational therapist, I found my passion. I feel fortunate every day to have the opportunity to do a job that I love, and that can improve a child’s quality of life.

Who are some Latinos or Latinas that have inspired you?

Many Latin women have inspired me in my life. The women in my family, every single one of them is talented, hardworking, passionate, kind, caring, loving and strong-spirited. My main inspirations are my mom, who taught me so many values and life skills to become the person I am today, and my aunt, a surgeon who inspired me to do my job with kindness, empathy and passion.

Another person who inspired me in my career was a professor who helped me go beyond expectations to achieve my goals: Adriana Rios. She is an occupational therapist from Colombia who is currently an assistant professor and researcher on the faculty of rehab medicine at the University of Alberta.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to make a difference in the lives of each individual and family I work with every day. I want to give them the proper tools to help them overcome obstacles or difficult situations that will aid them through vulnerable times, regardless of their disability, culture or language. I want to help them find their own way to succeed and improve their quality of life. I also want to inspire new generations to achieve their goals by sharing my personal and professional experiences, my culture and all the varied talents that we Hispanics have. We are a strong community full of values and talents, and I hope my professional work ethic and efforts positively represent that.

Check back this weekend to hear Melissa’s story of impact and inspiration.

Children's, Health and Safety

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can resemble a common cold. For children, though, especially those younger than 2 years old, it can be more serious.

RSV is an infection of the lungs and airways – it is a major cause of respiratory illness in children. In the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States, RSV occurs most frequently between November and April.

Keep reading to learn more about RSV, including symptoms, treatments and when you should call the doctor.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of RSV?

Kids with RSV might have cold symptoms, such as:

Sometimes, an RSV infection can lead to:

Is RSV Contagious?

RSV is highly contagious. It spreads through droplets containing the virus when someone coughs or sneezes. It also can live on surfaces (like counters or doorknobs) and on hands and clothing. So people can get it if they touch something that’s contaminated.

Because it can spread easily by touching infected people or surfaces, washing hands well and often can help stop it. Wash your hands after being around someone who has cold symptoms.

RSV can spread quickly through schools and childcare centers. Babies often get it when older kids carry the virus home from school and pass it to them. School-age kids who have a cold should keep away from younger siblings — especially babies — until their symptoms clear up.

How Is RSV Treated?

Most cases of RSV are mild and don’t need medical treatment. However, the infection can be more serious in babies and toddlers. Some might need treatment in a hospital where they can be watched closely and get supportive treatment for any breathing problems or dehydration.

Home Care

At home:

  • Make your child as comfortable as possible.
  • Allow time for recovery.
  • Provide plenty of fluids. Babies may not feel like drinking, so offer fluids in small amounts often.

If your child is too young to blow their own nose, use saline (saltwater) nose spray or drops and a nasal aspirator (or bulb syringe) to remove sticky nasal fluids. Clearing a baby’s nose before offering fluids can make it easier for them to drink.

Treat discomfort from a fever using a non-aspirin fever medicine like acetaminophen or, if your child is older than 6 months, ibuprofen

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call your child’s pediatrician if your infant or child:

  • develops a fever after having a cold or has a high fever
  • has a cough or other symptoms that get worse
  • is wheezing
  • has labored or rapid breathing
  • shows signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet diapers than usual
  • refused to breastfeed or bottle-feed

Get medical help right away if your child:

  • is struggling to catch their breath
  • is very drowsy
  • has lips or fingernails that look blue

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Children's, Health and Safety

Flu FAQs

Q: What is influenza or flu?

A: Influenza (also known as the flu) is an infection of the respiratory tract. It is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person.  It spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.

Q: Is flu contagious?

A: The flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about one week for adults, but it can be longer for young children.

Q: How will I know if my child has flu and not just a cold?

A: The fall and winter months are cold and flu season. Both the cold and the flu can present similar symptoms, including cough, congestion and runny nose. In general, the flu hits a lot harder and quicker than a cold. When people have the flu, they usually feel worse than they do with a cold. Most people start to feel sick about two days after they come in contact with the flu virus.

Q: What are some symptoms of flu?

A: Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish with chills, though not all people with the flu will have a fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children

Q: When should we get this season’s flu vaccine?

A: Flu season in the United States is from October to May. Vaccines are provided at most pediatricians’ offices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old.

Q: What is the treatment for flu?

A: Most children with flu get better at home. In the event a child does get sick, you can help mitigate symptoms. Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. You can give appropriate doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches, and make sure they are getting plenty of rest.

Q: When should I seek medical treatment for my child if I suspect flu?

A: Bring your child to the doctor if you’re concerned about severe symptoms. Most of the time parents can care for their children with plenty of rest, fluids and extra comfort. Some children are more likely to have problems when they get the flu, including:

  • children up to the age of 5, especially babies
  • children and teens whose immune system is weakened from medicines or illnesses
  • children and teens with chronic (long-term) medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes

Q: In addition to the flu vaccine, how else can we stay healthy during cold and flu season?

A:  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old. Here are some other tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season:

  • Cover your cough and sneeze
  • Wash your hands
  • Clean living and working areas
  • Avoid crowds
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

Q: How can we prevent the spread of germs in our house if my child is sick?

A: The flu virus spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.

Teaching children the importance of hand washing is the best way to stop germs from causing sickness. It’s especially important after coughing or nose blowing, after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.

There’s a right way to wash hands, too. Use warm water and plenty of soap, then rub your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds (away from the water). Children can sing a short song — try “Happy Birthday” — during the process to make sure they spend enough time washing. Rinse your hands and finish by drying them well on a clean towel. Hand sanitizer can be a good way for children to kill germs on their hands when soap and water aren’t available.

Cleaning household surfaces well is also important. Wipe down frequently handled objects around the house, such as toys, doorknobs, light switches, sink fixtures, and flushing handles on the toilets.

Soap and water are perfectly fine for cleaning. If you want something stronger, you can try an antibacterial cleanser. It may not kill all the germs that can lead to sickness, but it can reduce the amount of bacteria on an object.

It’s generally safe to use any cleaning agent that’s sold in stores but try to avoid using multiple cleaning agents or chemical sprays on a single object because the mix of chemicals can irritate skin and eyes.

Q: If my child has had flu, when can he return to school, child care, etc.?

A: Children with the flu should stay home from school and childcare until they feel better. They should only go back when they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some children need to stay home longer. Ask the doctor what’s best for your child.

Q: How do I know if my child’s symptoms are flu or COVID-19?

A: The symptoms between these two viral illnesses can be similar, making it difficult to distinguish between the two based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with the flu or COVID-19. A phone call to the child’s pediatrician or primary care provider will help determine next steps regarding testing for flu and/or COVID-19.

Q: Do COVID-19 symptoms develop like flu symptoms?

A: If a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to develop symptoms than if they had flu. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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Health and Safety

Fireworks Safety Tips for Parents

Fourth of July: a holiday for celebration, fun and, of course, fireworks. However, for too many families, this day becomes something other than a celebration. When not careful or properly supervised, kids of all ages are at risk of serious injuries from fireworks, which reach temperatures of 1,800 degrees. It’s important to stay aware and informed to ensure a fun and accident-free night for your kids.

Lighting fireworks at home is common, but it’s always best to leave this task to professionals. However, if you choose to do a fireworks show of your own, the first step is to be cognizant of the fireworks you buy and never try to make fireworks at home.

Other fireworks safety tips:

  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children.
  • When handling fireworks, keep them pointed away from people, and don’t put them in your pockets.
  • Leave the handling and lighting to adults while kids watch from a safe distance.
  • To prevent fires, aim fireworks away from trees, houses and people, and wear eye protection.
  • It might be tempting to light up the sky with multiple fireworks at once, but while beautiful, this is also very dangerous. Light one firework at a time, and do not relight a dud.
  • In case of an accident, keep a bucket of water close by, and soak used fireworks in water before throwing them away. 
  • Lastly, keep children away from fireworks even after they are lit, don’t let them pick up loose pieces, as they can still be ignited.  


Sparklers may appear to be harmless, yet they have the potential to be even more dangerous.

  • Remain extra aware and cautious with sparklers around children.
  • Ensure sparklers are out of reach of a child’s hair and clothes.
  • Wear proper eye protection.

Firework-related injuries:

Despite precautions, injuries may still occur, the most common being eye injuries or burns. If this happens, remain calm and act quickly by calling your doctor or going to the nearest emergency department. Dr. Alicia Webb, pediatric emergency medicine, says, “Fireworks can cause serious burns when the sparks or flame touch a child’s skin or eyes, but many fireworks also have an explosive component which can cause even more severe injuries. Glow sticks can be a great alternative for your child to light up the night sky while keeping them injury free!”

Remember, safety always comes first. Though fun and colorful, fireworks are explosives that can cause serious harm, especially to children. Injuries happen more often than they should. Keep these tips in mind and have a safe Fourth of July.

Health and Safety

Heat Illness

Summer in Alabama can bring high temperatures and an oppressive heat index. Kids are at risk for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke if they play outside or have athletic practices in this hot, humid weather. It’s important for parents and coaches to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness.

Signs and Symptoms

Of heat exhaustion:

  • increased thirst
  • weakness and extreme tiredness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • irritability
  • headache
  • increased sweating
  • cool, clammy skin
  • body temperature rises, but to less than 105°F (40.5°C)

Of heat stroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • fast breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • seizures
  • little or no sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • body temperature rises to 105°F (40.5°C) or higher

What to Do

If your child has symptoms of heat stroke, get emergency medical care immediately.

For cases of heat exhaustion or while awaiting help for a child with possible heat stroke:

  • Bring the child indoors or into the shade immediately.
  • Undress the child.
  • Have the child lie down; raise the feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in a lukewarm bath or spray with lukewarm water.
  • If the child is alert and coherent, give frequent sips of cool, clear fluids.
  • If the child is vomiting, turn onto his or her side to prevent choking.

To help protect kids from heat illness

  • Kids should take breaks while out in direct sun every 20 minutes for shade and hydration on days with a high heat index, with the goal of 4-8oz of fluid intake per break. 
  • Teach kids to always drink plenty of liquids before and during activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they’re not thirsty.
  • Kids should wear light-colored, loose clothing on hot days and use sunscreen when outdoors.
  • On hot or humid days, limit outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Teach kids to come indoors, rest and hydrate right away whenever they feel overheated

Mental Health: Fact or Fiction?

Childhood and adolescence can be challenging, especially when children are feeling down, have a hard time paying attention or face difficulties at home or school. If these things are not talked about or treated, children can develop low self-esteem, perform poorly at school, have trouble with relationships or struggle to reach their potential.

For Mental Health Awareness Month, Children’s of Alabama counselors and psychologists came together to share facts and dispel myths about children’s mental health, so parents feel more equipped when talking about these topics.

Keep reading to learn if popular statements about mental health are fact or fiction.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • OCD is just being a neat freak – Fiction
    • OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. These thoughts and behaviors get in the way of performing typical and necessary day-to-day activities.

  • Everyone has a little bit of OCD – Fiction
    • While many people have quirks or preferences for how things should be done, OCD involves distressing and time-consuming obsessions and compulsions. Typically, there is a sense of dread or unrealistic beliefs that go along with the behaviors.

  • People with OCD can just stop doing their compulsions – Fiction
    • OCD is often a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment and management. Consult with a physician, psychologist, or therapist for help getting started.


  • A depressed mood is required for a diagnosis of depression – Fiction
    • While many people with a diagnosis of depression have a depressed mood, it is not required. Instead, some individuals lose interest or pleasure in things they typically enjoy. Often, children will be more irritable rather than sad or depressed.

  • Physical symptoms like headaches, weight change, aches and pains can be a sign of depression – Fact
    • Depression may not only include problems with mood and thinking, but also physical symptoms. Changes in sleep or appetite are quite common. Problems with digestion, muscle aches and back pain may also occur.

  • All teenagers become depressed at some point – Fiction
    • While it’s true that adolescence can be a difficult time, most teenagers will only experience short episodes of sadness that resolve with support from family and friends. When an adult notices a significant change in a teen’s mood, behavior or habits, it’s important to talk with them and their pediatrician about the changes and if professional help is needed.

  •  Depression can appear to happen “out of the blue,” without something bad happening – Fact
    • Difficult life events can cause depression. However, there are other factors that can contribute to depression as well such as genetic, environmental and psychological factors like family history, serious illness like heart disease, side effects of medications or the result of drug or alcohol abuse.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

  • ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder seen in childhood – Fact
    • A neurodevelopmental disorder is a disorder that affects behavior, memory, motor skills or the ability to learn. An estimated 5% of children are affected by ADHD.

  • Kids with ADHD can’t pay attention for long – Fiction
    • Kids with ADHD can pay attention, but they have difficulty directing attention to activities that do not hold great interest such as things that are boring or unmotivating. However, they can pay attention to activities that are rewarding, engaging and interesting to them.

  • I have told my child with ADHD not to do something, so when they keep doing it, it is because they are being defiant – Fiction
    • Children with ADHD have difficulty stopping and thinking about things before they act.  Frequently, behaviors in children with ADHD that look like they are “purposeful” really are not, and in fact, are related to their ADHD.

  •  ADHD can’t be cured – Fact
    • ADHD can’t be cured, but it is a highly treatable. About two out of five children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms as teens. While there is not an absolute cure for ADHD, most individuals can manage symptoms with a combination of behavioral and environmental and sometimes medication support. Sometimes the symptoms can become milder with age. An adult can “grow into” the disorder, choosing employment and social interactions that are complimented by the childhood challenges associated with ADHD.

Contributed by Nashedra Barry, Ph.D, Kathryn Phillips, Ph.D. Paul Tierney, LPC-S, Wayne Fleisig, Ph.D, Kristen Smith, and Debra Patterson, Ph.D.


Together, We Are the Patient Experience

April 23-28 is Patient Experience Week, a time to celebrate all Children’s of Alabama staff impacting patient experience every day. Children’s joins the Beryl Institute in defining the patient experience as “the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Every employee, physician and volunteer at Children’s impacts the patient and family experience. From Child Life to Information Technology to Guest Services and beyond, together, we are the patient experience.

Throughout the week, we will share stories from employees across the hospital who make the patient experience great. Each of the employees featured here contributes to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of impact and inspiration.

André Green, Lead Coordinator Web Applications, 15 Years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Fortuitous circumstances. I actually had my first experience working at Children’s as a freelancer assisting with the annual service awards event with an outside contractor. Those professional connections I made during that time led me to the organization when a position became available as a web designer/developer within the corporate communications and marketing department.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you? How do you impact the patient experience?

I’ve been inspired by the Children’s of Alabama patients in both expected and unexpected ways over my time here. The trials and tribulations that I have witnessed and those miraculous stories of overcoming are what you come to expect of a hospital that cares for children. However, it’s the resiliency and strength that is the unexpected part; the smiles, the light, and in some cases, the sadness that may accompany medical and personal situations. We go from tears to cheers on a daily basis, from the big wins to the small wins and everything in between. And for me, witnessing this in my career at Children’s has been all inspiring.

For my little part in the grand scheme of things, I believe having the responsibility of managing our website(s) and making them the best that we can impacts the patient experience. The website, in many cases, serves as the very first connection point that a patient or patient family may have with our organization. It is the digital face of Children’s of Alabama. Whether our visitors are looking for immediate care, physician references, education or something as simple as directions to an appointment; the website plays a part in that patient experience and thus I have a part to play as well.

Deanna Miller, Quality Improvement Manager, 23 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

A desire for professional growth led me to Children’s of Alabama. I was working in a reference laboratory as a microbiologist and I wanted to gain more experience in other types of laboratories and other disciplines of the clinical laboratory. Children’s of Alabama offered me that opportunity as a generalist medical technologist, where I gained experience in hematology, chemistry, immunohematology, and microbiology.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you?

Children’s patients inspire me every day because I know our patients’ satisfaction is the key to overcoming or effectively managing any adversity affecting their health. Positive patient experiences that provide meaningful engagement empowers patients and patient families in health care decisions and, ultimately, set the patient on the right path to achieve better outcomes.

Jill Smith, Director of Hearing and Speech, 23 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

When I was in college, I watched the building of Children’s South. I had no idea what services would be offered at Children’s South or the nature of work that would be done there. I just KNEW I wanted to work there and at Children’s. I was drawn to a career path that worked with people and children, and I fell into audiology during my last quarter at Auburn University. Fortunately, I completed my graduate internship at Children’s, and a job as an audiologist opened. I’ve had several roles at Children’s for the past 23 years and wouldn’t trade it for anything!

How do you impact the patient experience?

As a director, I rarely participate in direct patient care. However, I do get to see families in the clinic halls and talk to them (or when people need directions around the organization). I LOVE when kids “accidentally” come into my office, mistaking me for the exit! Having interactions with families is a highlight of my day. In my role, I have the opportunity to highlight families to the foundation, media, and community resources, and connect families to one another. Knowing that I continue to serve patients indirectly fills my drive to help, treat, and care for them. Also, hearing the stories from staff on their journey with patients gives me great satisfaction knowing advocating for purchasing equipment, materials, supplies, extra iPads and more, has touched and changed lives for good!

William Weaver, Instructional Systems Technologist II, 3 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

The COVID-19 pandemic was a big reason I came to Children’s. I had applied to work here before the pandemic started, but the opportunity presented itself after a few months into the pandemic. Things fell into place, and I was put in a position where it was the right place and the right time. A few years later, I am so happy to be here.

What do you want each patient to know and feel when they come through the doors at Children’s of Alabama?

I know hospitals can be a scary place, for both adults and children, but especially children. I would like each patient to know that we will do our best to take the “scariness” out of their hospital visit. We do this by providing happiness and joy through events like the Children’s of Alabama Thanksgiving Day “parade” and Tele-Santa. Also, we help keep their minds busy before surgery and other procedures with interactive games utilizing projectors, cameras and fish and bubble “walls.” My hope is that even though it could be the worst day of their life, we can do something to brighten their day. At the end of the day, it is all about helping the children. That is why we are here and why we do what we do.

Irsia “Sissi” Castrejon, Language Services Coordinator, 7 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

I moved to Birmingham and was looking for a fulfilling job in healthcare. I found a position available here in the language services department and I thought it was a perfect place to further my career while being able to help my community at the same time.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I work diligently on a daily basis to facilitate effective communication between our limited English-proficient patients and families and Children’s staff by coordinating language needs with available interpreting resources.

Laura Lee Baldwin, Guest Services, 10 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

I spent a lot of time here when I was younger. I had a few surgeries at Children’s related to my cerebral palsy. I came to a lot of clinic appointments as well as physical and occupational therapy appointments. I was also a volunteer; I have always loved interacting with and helping people.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I interact with patients when I’m working at the information desk. At the desk, I mainly assist patient families and friends getting checked in and make sure it is the smoothest experience possible for them, so they can focus on their child. Sometimes, I help guide people around the hospital by taking them to their appointments and it helps them feel less stressed. Lastly, I have the opportunity to deliver packages, gifts and mail to patients and it is a joy to see the smile on their faces.

Val Slater, Nurse Clinician, Clinic 8, 32 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Since I was 7 years old, I always wanted to be a nurse, and that desired dream never changed. I just had a love for caring for people. What led me to a career at Children’s in 1990 was after my pediatric ­­­rotation on 4West. The nurses there were so loving and passionate toward the kids, and I have such a big heart for children. Prior to my rotation, I had put in applications at Children’s but never got a call back. On my last day of my rotation, I mentioned to Mrs. Johnson (one of the nurses) that I had put in applications but never got a response, and I really want to work at Children’s. She took my name and phone number and told me that she would give it to her director (Bonnie Barnett). The next day, I received a call from Mrs. Barnett, had my interview, and was hired the very next day. That is God putting the right people in my space, and I knew then this is where the Lord wanted me to be and still going strong 32 years later.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I try to make each patient feel as comfortable as possible. Being in the hospital can make anyone feel uneasy, especially children. I try to focus their mind on other things that are pleasant or comforting. I find out what they are interested in, and I listen to them. I will even sing, dance, play games or walk around with them if it helps get their mind off their hospital stay. Because I have built a relationship with them, it makes me feel really good inside when they see me, give me a hug and a smile. This is how I know that I have made a good impact on them.

Sarah Schaeffer, Child life specialist, 6 Years of Service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

For most of my life, I have been drawn towards working with children in some capacity. I was torn between a career in medicine or education and found my perfect middle ground in the field of child life. I moved to Birmingham after finishing my master’s degree in child life in New York and began volunteering at Children’s shortly after relocating. I recognized what a special and unique place Children’s is and was able to solidify a child life specialist position when the time was right.

How do you impact the patient experience?

I currently work in outpatient radiology, which, like most places in the hospital, can be overwhelming and frightening at times. As a child life specialist, I have the pleasure of helping patients and families navigate the stressors of diagnostic imaging. I always tell my patients, “No one likes surprises at the doctor or the hospital, and I want to make sure you, as the patient, understand what to expect.” I work to decrease the fear and anxiety patients experience by providing developmentally appropriate education and preparation, positive coping techniques, support, and distraction. I work closely with the medical team, which allows me to advocate for my patients and families while also acting as a two-way bridge of communication, which is crucial. I strive to help patients and families master their hospital experience to give them a sense of control and empowerment. I feel honored and fortunate to have such an impactful role in so many patients’ and families’ healthcare journeys at Children’s of Alabama.

Clinton Maddox, Security Officer, 4 years of service

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?

Former Security Director, Michael McCall, led me to Children’s. Shortly after his arrival here, Mr. McCall asked me to come work for him. He would always tell me how much he loved Children’s and enjoyed working here every day. Finally, after a few years, I joined him in 2019 and have loved it ever since.

How do patients at Children’s of Alabama inspire you?

Seeing all the smiling faces of patients, no matter the situation they’re going through reminds me to be grateful and inspires me to embrace every day that I have. The bravery patients face their situations with is unmatched. They may be little, but they are some of the strongest people.


Child Abuse Prevention Month: What You Need to Know

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) staff works year-round to facilitate healing from physical, mental and emotional abuse and to provide prevention education.

Parents and caregivers should look for signs of abusive situations. The child who has endured abuse the longest typically has the longest healing process. The quicker an abusive situation is reported, the faster a child can be provided with medical care, therapy and counseling to heal. “Abuse is not the child’s whole story,” Debra Schneider, director of the CHIPS Center at Children’s of Alabama said. “There is hope when intervention occurs.”

Children who are being abused might:

• Have new onset fears
• Have a vocabulary too advanced regarding sexual activity
• Be withdrawn from friends and family
• Have nightmares
• Experience a drop in their grades
• Change in appearance (wearing clothes that don’t align with the weather)
• Not want to go home
• Start using drugs
• Bully others
• Be sad or depressed
• Have stories to explain injuries that don’t make sense or keep changing
• Not want to be with the abuser
• Act out at school

Signs to watch out for in abusers:

Abusers usually walk the victim through a grooming process. Schneider said it is important to remember that the child is usually not abused 24/7. The relationship often consists of a more positive bond. The abuser knows what the child likes, is curious about and afraid of, and they use it to their advantage. Some sort of ‘relationship’ is formed, and a trust is established between them. That way, when harm enters the picture, the child is less likely to question their character and actions. Other signs include spending more time with the child than is appropriate, giving extraordinary gifts to the child more than what’s normal, using excuses to be alone with the child and implementing gaslighting techniques.

Most children think abuse comes from a stranger, but abusers are usually someone a child knows. Schneider suggests teaching about “stranger danger;” however, build off that concept to make them aware that abusers can be someone they know. Schneider states most children are taught about stranger danger, but children need to be taught that most sexual abuse happens with someone a child knows.

What adults, parents or caregivers can do:

Children in an abusive situation need a trusted adult to confide in – parents, grandparents, a teacher, friend’s parent/caregiver or guidance counselor. School prevention education programs encourage a child to tell three adults: two inside and one outside their family. That trusted adult can clearly communicate to the child, “I am here for you if anything is going on. I am not here to judge.”

Adults who suspect abuse should approach the child gently. If the adult asks too many questions, the child may feel in trouble. Adults should never make promises to not tell anyone, since that is a key action to be taken when stopping abusive situations. Remind the child that abuse is NEVER their fault.

Since conversations about abuse can be very difficult to bring up, Schneider suggests bringing up an incident from the news as a segue into a conversation about the abusive situation. In addition, having these conversations in the car creates a more relaxed, noninvasive environment.

If you suspect an abusive situation, report it immediately. Anyone can provide a report of suspected abuse to the local department of human resources or a child protective services agency. All it takes is a suspicion of abuse; the caller doesn’t have to have specific evidence. You can also contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You don’t have to give your name. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.

The CHIPS Center at Children’s of Alabama:

CHIPS staff is a team of specially trained counselors, doctors, social workers and pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners (PSANE). The staff works with law enforcement, the Department of Human Resources and child advocacy center representatives to provide the best possible care for children and families affected by child maltreatment. Services provided include forensic medical evaluations, social work assessments, play therapy, counseling, care coordination, prevention education, court support, expert court testimony and specialized support for victims of human trafficking. In 2022, the Sunrise Clinic held within the CHIPS Center received the inaugural “Outstanding Victim Protection in Countering Human Trafficking” award from the Center for Countering Human Trafficking within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

For more information on the CHIPS Center, call 205-638-2751 or visit

Children's, News

Talking to Your Kids about the News

Children hear about what’s going on in the world through social media, friends, or adults’ conversations. Sometimes the news is uplifting — like kids their age taking a stand on social or environmental issues. Other times, children may worry about current events like the recent school shooting in Nashville and need an adult to help make sense of what’s happening.

Help your child understand the news and feel more in control by taking these steps: 

Find Out What Your Child Already Knows

  • Ask your kids questions to see if they know about a current event. For school-age kids and teens, you can ask what they have heard at school or on social media. 
  • Consider your child’s age and development. Younger kids may not grasp the difference between fact and fantasy. Most kids realize the news is real by the time they are 7 or 8 years old.
  • Follow your child’s lead. If your child doesn’t seem interested in an event or doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment, don’t push. 

Answer Questions Honestly and Briefly

  • Tell the truth, but share only as much as your child needs to know. Try to calm any fears and help kids feel safe. Don’t offer more details than your child is interested in.
  • Listen carefully. When kids hear about an upsetting event like a school shooting, they may worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?” Older kids may have lots of questions. Focus on what your kids ask so you can help them cope with their fears. An adult’s willingness to listen sends a powerful message.
  • It’s OK to say you don’t know the answer. If your child asks a question that stumps you, say you’ll find out. Or use age-appropriate websites to spend time together looking for an answer.
  • Limit how much kids watch online, on TV, and social media about the events. The strong images may be upsetting for kids and teens. 

Help Kids Feel in Control

  • Encourage your child to talk. If your child is afraid about what’s going on, ask about it. Even when kids can’t control an event — like a school shooting or natural disaster — it can help them to share their fears with you.
  • Urge teens to look beyond a news story. Ask why they think an outlet featured a frightening or disturbing story. Was it to boost ratings and clicks or because the story was truly newsworthy? In this way, a scary story can be turned into a discussion about the role and mission of the news.
  • Teach your children to be prepared, not panicked. For example, if the news is about a school shooting, talk about the ways schools are keeping kids safe. If it’s about a natural disaster, make a family plan for what you might do. If an illness is spreading, talk about ways to protect yourself and others.
  • Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, finding ways to help can give kids a sense of control. Look for news stories that highlight what other people are doing. Articles such as School Violence: What Students Can Do may be helpful for older kids and teens. 
  • Put news stories in context. Broaden the discussion from a specific news item about a difficult event to a larger conversation. Use it as a way to talk about helping, cooperation, and the ways that people cope with hardship.

Limit Exposure to the News

  • Decide what and how much news is appropriate for your child. Think about how old your kids are and how mature they are. Encourage them to take breaks from following the news, especially when the topics are difficult.
  • Keep tabs on the amount of difficult news your child hears. Notice how often you discuss the news in front of your kids. Turn off the TV so the news is not playing in the background all day.
  • Set limits. It’s OK to tell your kids that you don’t want them to have constant exposure and to set ground rules on device and social media use. 
  • Watch the news with your child and talk about it. Turn off a story if you think it’s not appropriate for your child. 

Keep the Conversation Going

  • Talk about current events with your child often. Help kids think through stories they hear – good and bad. Ask questions like: “What do you think about these events?” or “How do you think these things happen?” With these types of questions, you can encourage conversation about non-news topics.
  • Watch for stress. If your child shows changes in behavior (such as not sleeping or eating, not wanting to be around people, or worrying all the time), call your child’s doctor or a behavioral health care provider. They can help your child manage anxiety and feel better able to cope.

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