ENDS Update

In 2018, Illinois PTA Convention delegates passed a resolution on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). The resolution followed years of tracking the data and science surrounding ENDS use by youth, and Illinois PTA continues to keep its members informed about new developments. Once again, e-cigarettes are in the news, with reports of pulmonary illnesses and even deaths, including one here in Illinois.

The investigations into the causes of the illnesses and deaths are ongoing, with THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) vaping juice and vitamin E acetate found in many of those THC cartridges sampled being one early area of focus. However, a recent study in the journal Radiologyindicates that vaping itself can damage lungs.

The study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania performed MRI exams on 31 healthy, non-smoking adults between 18 and 35 before and after taking 16 three-second puffs on an e-cigarette containing only “vaping juice,” a mixture of water, glycerol, and propylene glycol, the latter two being used in vaping cartridges to keep additional chemicals such as nicotine or flavorings dissolved in the cartridge.

The results of the study showed that even in non-smoking, first-time vapers with no nicotine in the cartridge, the use of an e-cigarette resulted in poorer circulation, stiffer arteries, and less oxygen in the blood. As the study’s principal investigator, Felix Wehrli, put it, “The results of our study defeat the notion that e-cigarette vaping is harmless.” Although both chemicals used in the study, glycerol and ethylene glycol, are considered safe to eat, they may not be safe to inhale.

Photo © 2016 by Mylesclark96 under Creative Commons license.

News from National Convention—The Opioid Epidemic

One of the workshops at the 2019 National PTA Convention focused on the Opioid Epidemic. Misuse of prescription pain medication is one of the fastest growing health issues in the United States today, and the problem is on the rise at an alarming rate not just among the general population but among youth as well. National PTA has partnered with the AMA Allianceto provide resources for state and local PTAs to spread awareness of this issue among parents.

Every year, there are approximately 50 million surgeries in the United States, 2.5 million of which result in the prescribing of opiate pain medications. In many cases, these prescriptions are for 30 days, even though patients may only need the opiate pain medication for the first few days. The result is a significant number of unused opiates available in homes across the country. 53% of those who abuse prescription opioids get their supply from a family member, and approximately 440,000 people become addicted to opioids each year.

National PTA’s partnership with the AMA Alliance is creating a toolkit of resources for state and local PTAs on the issue. Currently, the toolkit consists of a 12-minute recorded webinarand a co-branded fact sheet. Coming soon to the toolkit on National PTA’s websiteare:

  • Door hangers for an awareness campaign
  • A presentation packet that will include both the recorded webinar mentioned above and the slideshow itself so PTAs can deliver the presentation instead of the recording if they wish to do so
  • Handouts to go along with the presentation/webinar
  • A 5-question survey for presenters to fill out on how a presentation went so National PTA and the AMA Alliance can track how the toolkit is being used

Additional resources on the topic can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)website.

KIDS Can Help You Support Your Kindergartener

Every year, about 150,000 Illinois five-year-olds have their first day of kindergarten. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has recently begun measuring kindergarten readiness as a way to improve this critical first year of school. The measure, known as Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), uses teacher observation of daily classroom activities like playing, working, and lining up during the first few weeks of school. ISBE has also created a family toolkit to help new kindergarten parents better support their child and build a solid foundation for their education.

KIDS is not a pull-out test, but simply kindergarten teachers observing their students throughout the day during the beginning weeks of school, looking at four key components for education success:

  • Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Language and Literacy Development
  • Cognition: Math

By understanding their students’ strengths, challenges, and dispositions, kindergarten teachers will be able to better support and build on what those students already know and can do.

Because family engagement is a critical part of student success, ISBE has created a family toolkit to help families understand the KIDS measure and to provide at-home activities to support their child’s education. The toolkit includes:

  • An overview of the KIDS measure in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Tagalog, and Urdu
  • An introduction video in English and Spanish
  • 14 at-home activity sheets in the four domains in both English and Spanish

Sending your child off to kindergarten is often a big event for families. Your PTA can help make the transition a little smoother for those new kindergarten parents in your school by sharing the KIDS family toolkit with them. Doing so is also a great opportunity to invite them to join your PTA and support the work you are doing for student success at your school.

Helping Your Incoming Middle Schooler Prepare

Moving from elementary school to middle school can be a scary time. Whether it’s worrying about being a 20-year-old sixth-grader still trying to figure out how to open the lock on their locker, concerns about moving from class to class on their own, or how to deal with walking down the eighth-grade hall, middle school provides a lot of new experiences. Getting Smart has a great conversation starter for you and your incoming middle schooler to discuss their concerns about this transition with seven things your soon-to-be middle schooler should know.

The article focuses on seven things a teacher would like to talk to her children about doing in middle school. They are:

  1. Get uncomfortable
  2. Make a friend
  3. Find something you are great at
  4. Respect the things you struggle with
  5. Make a mistake
  6. Choose kindness
  7. Apologize

In addition to these growth-oriented topics, the article also covers some of the logistical questions to discuss with your child about how to find their way from class to class, how the rules may be different from elementary school, when and where to eat lunch, and other practicalities. Check out the full articleto help you prepare to support your child in this big transition.