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Courtesy Small Talk Childrens Assessment Center(LANSING, Mich.) -- Outside the Michigan courtroom where all told 144 victim impact statements will be read by a victim or on a victim’s behalf when the sentencing for former Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar is complete, there sits a comforting face.

Preston, a therapy dog, sits outside the Ingram County Circuit Court in Lansing and waits to be able to comfort the victims of Nassar's sexual abuse.

"Having Preston here has just been a joy," said Samantha Ursch, 29, who testified last week about abuse by Nassar in 2011 while she was a gymnast at Central Michigan University. "He really seeks out wanting to comfort people."

Ursch uprooted herself from her home in Florida to be in the courtroom each day of Nassar's sentencing hearing, which began Jan. 16.

"He is a comfort, especially for a lot of us that have pets at home," she said. "I'm away from my two dogs so having him here has been amazing and comforting."

Preston, a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, normally sits next to victims of child sexual abuse at the witness stand when they are called to testify in court.

The public interest in the sentencing of Nassar, accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women and girls, is so high that, due to the crowded courtroom and abundance of victims, Preston sits outside the courtroom.

The women speaking in front of Nassar have been at times angry, at times tearful and at times so passionate their remarks have drawn applause from those in the courtroom. Aly Raisman, one of the multiple Olympic gymnasts who say they were molested by Nassar, delivered searing remarks in court last week.

Nassar faces a sentence of 40 to 125 years when Judge Rosemarie Aquilina eventually rules on his punishment. Angela Povilaitis, the assistant attorney general of Michigan, told Aquilina at the start of court on Monday that 99 victims had already spoken or had their statements read.

Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual misconduct in Ingham County last year. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal child pornography charges. He also faces sentencing on three other counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County at the end of this month.

“Preston is providing a lot of unconditional love and comfort to some people who really need it right now,” said Alex Brace, executive director of Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center. “It’s very much about healing and providing hope to survivors of sexual assault and physical abuse.”

Preston began his career as a therapy dog in September 2016 at Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center in Lansing.

Small Talk is a children’s advocacy center where children go for a forensic interview -- to being the process of an investigation -- if there has been a report of child abuse or sexual abuse.

The children can then return to Small Talk, a nonprofit organization, for free counseling sessions.

The organization said it has seen more children return for counseling since it introduced Preston. The dog sits with children before and after the forensic interview and is also a familiar face if they are called to court.

“Having Preston here is a really unique opportunity to help people heal from something that is really difficult,” said Brace. “He helps them feel comfortable and calm when they’re coming in to talk about subject matter that is difficult for anyone to talk about, let alone a child.”

Ashley Vance, Preston’s handler, signals to him that it is time to step into his role as a therapy dog when she puts his signature blue bandana around his neck each morning.

“As soon as we get to work in the morning I sit him down and put his bandana on and he’s ready to get work,” said Vance, who will substitute Preston’s bandana for a tie when he appears in court.

Preston has authority to go in any courtroom in Ingham County, with the request for his presence being made by the family or prosecutors, according to Vance. In the case of the Nassar sentencing hearing, Vance said the state's attorney general’s office reached out to Small Talk to bring Preston to the courtroom.

“This is the first time we’ve taken the approach of being in the hallway,” Vance said of the high-profile Nassar case. “It’s a really nice break for people to come out and have that comfort and support.”

She added, "I’ve seen people just kind of swarming him. [He offers] silent, nonjudgmental support and it’s just calming."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.



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Wale Ariztos(LAUREL, Md.) -- One mother celebrated the upcoming anniversary of being diagnosed with alopecia with a heartwarming photo shoot that has since gone viral.

Courtni Guevara was diagnosed with the autoimmune skin disease on Feb. 8, 2017.

The Laurel, Maryland, physician’s assistant told ABC News that when her sister was curling her hair, she noticed several bald patches that made her worry.

"She was like, 'Sister, are you going bald?' And I was like, 'Excuse me?'" she recalled, laughing. "I got really nervous and scheduled an appointment with the doctors."

After one doctor initially didn't take her concern seriously, she found another doctor "with much better bedside manners," she said, who ultimately diagnosed her and talked treatment options.

"But there wasn't much he could do since I was pregnant," Guevara, 31, recalled.

She slowly watched her hair continue to fall out until she was completely bald a month later.

"I’ve never been like a vain person ... but at the same time I am a girl, so it’s just expected of me to have hair," Guevara said. "There was an emotional attachment to it. You just don’t realize until you lose it."

Thankfully, Guevara said the support from her family and friends made all the difference. Her best girlfriends even all wore head wraps to her baby shower.

When her daughter, Zuri, was born healthy with a head full of hair on July 21, it helped put everything into perspective.

"I wish I knew how easy it would be having a bald head while having a newborn," she said. "I can literally put my clothes on and leave the house and not worry about my hair. It’s hard enough leaving the house in the first place ... it’s been a huge blessing."

Guevara decided to mark the anniversary of her diagnosis with a photo shoot -- now going viral on social media -- with her now-6-month-old daughter.

She told ABC News what she wish she knew a year ago.

"I wish I knew how supportive everybody would be and really how easy it would be, and how much people wouldn't care," she said.

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Allen Kee / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski absorbed a crushing tackle in Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars -– a blow that led to him being immediately removed from the game and taken to the locker room for medical evaluation.

The diagnosis: Concussion.

Here are a few things you need to know about concussions and why they keep making headlines.

Let’s get to the important point: Will Gronkowski be able to play in the “Big Game?"

The National Football League has not established a time frame for players returning after sustaining a concussion, especially since each concussion is unique. The decision requires approval from several physicians and the Independent Neurological Consultant (INC).

Gronkowski essentially has less than two weeks to recover before the Super Bowl on February 4. Doctors say he is making his way through the concussion protocol. Depending on the severity of a concussion, symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Given this -– and the fact that limited information has been made public regarding the severity of Gronkowski’s concussion –- it is possible, though not certain, that all of Gronkowski’s symptoms will have cleared up in time for the Super Bowl.

The presence of any symptoms of concussions is generally seen as a reason not to allow a player to take the field. But we are already seeing some reports that are optimistic regarding his ability to play in the Super Bowl.

What exactly is a concussion?

A concussion is an injury to the brain caused by physical trauma –- similar to injuries suffered from motor vehicle accidents or contact sports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the symptoms of a concussion include difficulty thinking or concentrating, sluggishness, or trouble processing new information.

What are the most concerning symptoms after a concussion?

According to the CDC, you should contact your health care professional or emergency department right away if you experience these danger signs after a bump, blow, or jolt to your head or body:

-- A headache that gets worse and does not go away -- Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination -- Repeated vomiting or nausea -- Slurred speech

Also, if you witness the following symptoms in anyone you suspect of having had a concussion, take them to an emergency department right away:

-- Look very drowsy or cannot wake up -- Have one pupil (the black part in the middle of the eye) larger than the other -- Have convulsions or seizures -- Cannot recognize people or places -- Becoming more and more confused, restless or agitated -- Have unusual behavior -- Lose consciousness

What’s all this talk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?

CTE can occur years after the brain has experienced trauma. Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, mood changes or even suicidal thoughts. According to the Boston University CTE Center, there may be some similarities between Alzheimer’s disease and CTE.

A recent study from the same group found that repetitive hits, even those that do not result in a concussion, might still lead to the development of CTE.

There is quite a bit of research into CTE, like looking into prevention, diagnosis and treatment options.

So what does the NFL do when players suffer a concussion?

The NFL has five steps in place before players can return to the field after a concussion.

1) Rest and recovery until the neurologic exam returns to baseline level 2) Light aerobic exercise under supervision of medical staff 3) Strength training and cardiovascular exercise with supervision from medical staff 4) Continued training and participation in non-contact football activities 5) Full football activity can resume AFTER clearance by a team physician and a neurologist

Where can I go for more information on football and head injuries?

Check out the NFL-sponsored website https://www.playsmartplaysafe.com/ for more information on player safety and protection.

This article was written by Sarang Koushik MD for ABC News.

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Front Street Animal Shelter - City of Sacramento/Storyful(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Courtney Gessford has been battling brain cancer for the last three years.

For over a year, it was Gessford’s dream to be showered with puppies.

So when the 28-year-old’s friends and family reached out to the Front Street Animal Shelter in Sacramento, California, the shelter was “thrilled” to make her dream come true.

Gessford had no idea what was in store when she arrived at the shelter on Jan 10. Needless to say, she was thrilled with the surprise.

“This is like the best day, the best moment, of my life,” Gessford said in a video that was recorded by the shelter staff and posted on Facebook.

“We hope that the healing power of puppies has brought her one step closer to recovery,” the shelter wrote on Facebook.

The video has been shared nearly 21,000 times on Facebook.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The deadly flu epidemic sweeping the nation has closed schools in states from Alabama to Texas and killed at least 30 children since its official start on Oct. 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Every state except Hawaii is now reporting widespread flu activity, the CDC said.

The outbreak has left parents wondering what they can do to protect their families against the flu and what to do once their child is diagnosed.

ABC News spoke to pediatricians across the country to find out what they want parents to know about the flu epidemic. We also had the doctors answer questions from ABC News’ viewers about the flu.

Here is the information pediatricians want parents to know about this flu season.

1.The flu shot really works.

Each doctor ABC News spoke with said getting your child a flu shot is the number one way to make sure your child is safe from the flu.

This year's influenza vaccine is not as effective as officials would like for influenza H3N2, the most common strain in this cycle, but doctors say it will still ease your child's symptoms if not prevent them entirely.

"If you’re talking about protection and issues about how you try to keep your loved ones as healthy as possible, the number one is still getting the flu vaccine," said Dr. Randy Bergen, a pediatrician and the clinical lead of Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Flu Vaccine Program. "Some protection is better than no protection."

It's also not too late to get a flu shot for your child if they have not yet received one, experts say.

"The flu shot cannot make a child sick," said Dr. Don Shaeffer, managing partner of Pediatrics of Greater Houston. "There’s no reason to not give it and give your child every advantage they can."

2. You know your child better than anyone else.

Dr. Joshua Schaffzin, pediatric infectious diseases physician and director of infection, prevention and control at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said parents should listen to their gut instincts if their child becomes ill.

"Classic flu feels like you’ve been hit by a truck because it's abrupt onset, high fever, cough, sore throat and all over body aches," he said. "It’s very striking for parents because their kid is running around and all of a sudden they don’t want to get out of bed."

He added, "If a child comes home with a fever and isn’t feeling well, it’s not necessarily a time to panic. You do what you normally do. Parents take great care of their kids and [pediatricians] trust in that ability and knowledge and your keen sense of what’s normal and not. If parents have a gut sense that something is not quite right, it is perfectly reasonable to call your doctor. If the parents feel comfortable managing it at home, then that’s great."

3. Your child's illness may not be the flu.


The flu season overlaps with seasons for other illnesses -- from RSV to the common cold -- that could also infect children, the doctors said.

"In pediatrics there tends to be a little bit of a difference in that very young children are more frequently affected by another respiratory virus called RSV," Bergen said. "We’re seeing the flu peak right now –- cough, cold, high fevers, body aches and pains and children tend to have more stomach-related issues with influenza -- but we haven’t seen quite the peak of RSV season."

Doctors advised parents to stay alert and treat their child as needed, but not to panic that the first sign of illness means their child has the flu.

4.It's important to take care of yourself.

"If you’re a parent you still have to care for your child," said Bergen, who advises parents to be proactive about washing their hands and staying away from sick people to avoid getting sick themselves.

Good hygiene -- using soap and water, cleaning toys, using hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes on grocery carts and gym machines -- was also recommended for parents by Schaffzin.

If a parent does become sick, the best approach is to stay home and quarantine yourself as much as possible from family members.

"The earlier you are in the illness, the more contagious you are in general," said Bergen. "The critical thing is the fever. Most doctors will say if you’ve been without a fever for 24 hours you’re safe to return [to work or school]."

5. Your pediatrician is ready to make a plan.

Schaffzin recommends making a plan with your child's pediatrician now, and again before the start of flu season next year, for what to do if your child becomes ill. This is critically important, according to Schaffzin, for parents of children who are higher risk for complications due to flu, including kids younger than two, or with congenital heart issues or lung issues.

"Treatment is most effective when started early," he said. "So it's good to have a conversation beforehand, 'If the child becomes ill, what should our plan be?'"

For instance, if your child has a pre-existing medical condition, such as asthma, a pediatrician would likely want to administer Tamiflu, an antiviral medication, right away. Medication could help prevent other complications, like pneumonia, from occurring and could help shorten the duration of the flu.

"It works best if you start it as early as possible, at the first sign of symptoms," Schaffzin said.

Not everyone, though, needs Tamiflu to recover. In some kids, Tamiflu can cause vomiting and dehydration so knowing ahead of time what your doctor advises for your individual child can help.

6. The emergency room is just for emergencies.


"I don’t like anyone to go to an emergency room unless it’s an emergency," Shaeffer said. "If you’re having trouble breathing or persistent vomiting, you need to go the emergency room. If you just have a fever, you can come in the next morning."

Schaffzin pointed out specific behaviors parents should look for in their child when deciding whether to go to the emergency room or to a doctor's office.

"If your kid is not getting better and getting dehydrated, not peeing much, feeling listless, then it's reasonable to go to the ER," he said. "If your child is having difficulty breathing or their lips are turning blue, it's an indication of not getting enough oxygen so that would be a trip."

He added, "Also check their hands and feet and see how pink they are. If the hands and feet feel cold, then you would consider going to the emergency room because it could be a sign the heart is not getting oxygen efficiently everywhere."

For the "vast majority" of kids, according to Schaffzin, flu symptoms can be controlled with fluids, rest and controlling the fever and body aches with over-the-counter medications.

7. Stories of flu deaths are tragic, but not common.

This month alone, news reports have spotlighted a 10-year-old Connecticut boy who died after being treated for flu symptoms while he was at a hockey tournament and a third-grade Alabama girl who died after her parents took her to the hospital with flu symptoms and fever.

Schaffzin called the stories "terrifying" but not a reason for parents to be overcome with concern.

"What they are is they’re extremely uncommon but that doesn’t make them any less tragic," he said. "Every year, a number of children die of the flu and that’s why it’s a potentially very serious infection and something to have a conversation with your doctor about."

Schaffzin added, "For the most part, knowing what you know about your kid, keeping your eye open for things that don’t seem right and having a conversation with your pediatrician will keep you ready if something happens."

Doctors answer viewers' questions.

Sepsis is a potentially life threatening response that your body mounts in the face of a threat, most commonly to an infection such as pneumonia, according to Dr. Catherine Spaulding, a pediatrician and resident in ABC News' medical unit.

"Depending on your child’s age, sepsis will likely present with several different signs including high fever, poor appetite, fewer wet diapers, pale hands and feet, rapid and shallow breathing or listlessness," Spaulding said. "Since sepsis can be life-threatening, you should make an appointment to see your doctor or go to the ER if your child has any of these findings."

She added, "It is very rare for the flu to lead to sepsis. However, should it occur, your doctor will recognize the symptoms and ensure your child is correctly treated. Treatment for sepsis depends on the underlying cause, but is primarily focused on administration of large amounts of intravenous fluids and antibiotics."

"Usually within 48 hours you should see the kid is either not getting any worse or starting to get better," said Schaffzin. "Symptoms past 48 hours doesn’t mean that there are strong concerns but that it's a time to think, 'Should I reach out? Do I need something else?'"

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.



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Julian Gavino(ORLANDO, Fla) -- Atlas, a service dog with a stuffed Pluto toy at home, experienced a little magic during one his weekly trips to Disney World.

The golden retriever was visiting the amusement park with his owner Julian Gavino and met a giant-sized version of his favorite character at Magic Kingdom.

Atlas likes nothing better than chomping on his little stuffed yellow Pluto, Gavino told ABC News, a toy that Atlas "loves so much."

That's until he came snout-to-snout with an oversized Pluto at the park.

The long-overdue encounter finally came to pass when Atlas and Gavino, 22, who is in a wheelchair, visited the Japan Pavilion at Epcot Center Friday night. The two connected when Gavino, who has a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome type 3, brought him home from New Horizons Service Dogs in Orange City, Florida.

But when Atlas noticed Pluto, his tail wagged wildly, and he sniffed noses with Pluto. The character squatted to receive the dog, who licked an eyelid as one of Gavino's friends captured the precious moment on video.

“Atlas was more than excited to meet his best pal look alike,” Gavino commented on his video, which since he posted it has gone viral.



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ABCNews.com(TULSA, Okla.) -- Four years after Nikita Nash was forced to part with her dying baby, she remarkably heard his heartbeat again in the body of another child.

Nash lost her son Lucas in 2014 when he was only 6 months old.

Incredibly, after the anguish and heartbreak, Nash flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and heard a sound she remembered: Lucas's heartbeat.

His heart had been transplanted into a 3-month-old boy named Kolton Carter, who had been diagnosed with a slew of heart defects.

When Nash heard the beats, it was sublime.

"That is an indescribable feeling," she said. "It sounded like it did when I was pregnant with Lucas."

The heart transplant united two mothers with a special kind of bond.

Kolton's mother, Jenney Carter, expressed to Nash how grateful she was now that her son can live on.

Nash said of Carter: "She wrote, 'From the bottom of your sweet angel's heart that beats inside my son's chest, we thank you.'"

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Adolescence now spans the ages of 10 to 24, scientists say.

A new report suggests an earlier onset of puberty and better “understanding of continued growth” well into early adulthood should prompt scientists to up the age of adolescence from 19.

Some of the factors in creating an expanded definition of adolescence include biological growth and the delayed timing of major social role transitions, according to the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

The report argues the “transition period from childhood to adulthood now occupies a greater portion of life” because young adults are completing education, marriage and parenthood much later than past decades.

Changing the definition of adolescence is essential for “appropriate framing of laws, social policies and service systems,” the report says.

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ABC News(LEVITTOWN, New York) -- After one New York mother gave birth to her first and only child, she was devastated to learn just four months later that he had a rare genetic disorder that would leave him blind.

But, fortunately for Tracey Dones, her then-newborn son, Anthony, was able to undergo a transplant -- thanks to the anonymous donation of another New York newborn's umbilical cord blood.

Dones, 43, would often think of that anonymous donation.

"For 15 years, I’ve thought of this woman and how she saved my son’s life," she said.

After her entire family took Ancestry DNA tests -- an activity Dones chose to do to celebrate her birthday -- she was one step closer to meeting the woman who saved her son's life 15 years ago.

"It was cool to compare the breakdown with me and my twin brothers," Dones told ABC News. "I'm 38 percent Eastern European; mine was spot on."

"But when I got Anthony's results back, I was confused," she said. "It said he was 48 percent Eastern European. I couldn’t understand. If Anthony’s dad is Puerto Rican, how did Anthony have a higher percentage of Eastern European?"

After consulting Ancestry DNA, the Levittown, New York, mother concluded that the test was picking up on the DNA from her son's donor. Since the genetic test also matches you with those who might be related to you, Dones noticed that Anthony Dones, now 15, was matched with a woman named Patti Bosques in Lindberg, New York.

She decided to reach out via the genetic company's website.

A lifesaving transplant

Anthony Dones was born on July 11, 2002. Soon, his mother knew something was wrong.

"He was not thriving. He just looked off to me. He was small," Tracey Dones said. "He wasn’t taking as much food. He woke up vomiting one day."

It would take doctors four months to diagnose Anthony Dones with malignant infantile osteoporosis, a rare genetic disorder that makes bones prone to fractures. It can also cause blindness -- as it did in his case -- as well as developmental abnormalities.

Tracey Dones said that when she got the diagnosis on Nov. 7, 2002, with her then-husband, it felt like "total devastation."

"Oh my god, it was like my whole world was falling apart completely," she added.

Doctors told her that if her son didn't find a donor, he'd likely die. After searching through the National Marrow Donor Program, they had no luck. But then doctors searched for a donor through the New York Blood Center, and Tracey Dones said she was "thrilled" to learn that doctors found a match.

All she knew about the donor was that it was from a newborn baby born in North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, in 2001.

What she'd figure out some 15 years later, after taking her Ancestry DNA test, was that the donor was Sam Bosques. He's the youngest child of Patti and Jose Bosques.

Patti Bosques told ABC News she doesn't remember much about her son's birth. In fact, she doesn't even remember donating his umbilical cord's blood.

"I remembered doing it for my daughter [Olivia, now 18] and then my son was born two-and-a-half years later, but I don’t really remember anything," she said with a laugh. "But Anthony was proof that I did."

A chance meeting

After Tracey Dones reached out via Ancestry DNA to Patti Bosques, the woman who saved her son's life, she didn't hear anything. So she reached out via Facebook.

Patti Bosques had just come home from a lengthy vacation. Being that it was days before Thanksgiving, she decided to put it off until after the holiday.

But Tracey Dones was undeterred, needing to thank the woman for what she had done more than a decade ago.

"It turns out Anthony’s dad played softball with her nephew. So my ex-husband contacted the nephew and he told her our story," Tracey Dones said.

For her part, Patti Bosques said, "I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I crawled out of bed, went downstairs and I [messaged] her on Facebook, and I heard back from her immediately."

The two decided to meet for the first time last weekend at the Bosques' home. The two families shared their experiences, photos and a meal.

"It was beautiful," Tracey Dones said. "They’re a beautiful family. And my son is just so loving. He was giving hugs and kisses to everybody."

At one point during the meeting, Anthony Dones and Sam Bosques went off and played video games together -- a bonding moment all their own.

"I’m overwhelmed. It’s very overwhelming," Patti Bosques said through tears. "When I donated the cord blood, I thought it was going to be used more for research. I certainly didn’t think it would have such an individual impact on one person."

The two mothers both said they hope the families can continue a relationship beyond last weekend.

"He’s a part of us. He really is a part of us," Patti Bosques said. "I now have a genetic son."

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Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be a better parent in 2018, you’re not alone.

From screen time to alone time, here are a few easy ways to make the whole family happier in 2018:

Problem: Too much screen time.

It’s time for a digital detox, and that goes for both parents and kids. Resolve to put phones/screens away at a certain time. Or, if you find yourself relying on them at a particular time of day, like breakfast -- figure out a replacement behavior instead. So, for example, some parents put phones away from 6-9 p.m. and the focus is on dinner, homework, family and bedtime routines. Instead of the crutch of the iPad in the morning to keep things calm, turn on the music and make the kids be active participants in the morning routine.

Problem: Taking care of everyone else, all the time.

The general idea is you can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself. What this looks like in reality is different for everyone. Maybe it’s getting a sitter more often to spend time alone or with your spouse. Maybe it’s yoga or meditation before the kids get up for school. But the overall trend is that women are finally giving themselves and others the permission to take care of themselves.

Problem: Not enough time for each child.

It's all about quality time with each kid, as opposed to quantity of time with all the kids. Quality one-on-one time isn’t going to be possible each day if you have more than one child, but a conscious effort to spend alone time with each of your children is the key to building a stronger emotional connection and increasing their trust and self-esteem. Think about your kids: Chances are there’s one that’s way more demanding than the other(s). That’s OK, but the child who demands less should never be made to feel less-than because they cooperate and are more self-sufficient.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A deadly flu epidemic spreading across the nation has now claimed the lives of at least 30 children, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The CDC's latest influenza-associated pediatric mortality report released Friday shows that at least 10 children died between Jan. 6 and Jan. 13, and the others have died the since the flu season started in October.

The report also shows that 8,990 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported across the nation between Oct. 1, 2017 and Jan. 13, 2018.

A total of 110 died during the 2016-17 flu season, but CDC officials said this years flu hasn't even hit its peak.

Among the latest casualties Zainab Momin, a third-grader from Pike Road, Alabama, whose death has yet to be counted in the CDC report.

The girl died Tuesday night after her parents took her to the hospital with flu symptoms and fever, Pike Road Schools Superintendent Dr. Chuck Ledbetter told ABC affiliate WBMA in Birmingham, Alabama.

Ledbetter he's been urging parents to "do the little things that seem inconsequential," such as washing hands, getting the flu vaccine, and making sure sick students stay at home.

"We're working very hard to protect our children," Ledbetter said.

The CDC has identified a particular strain of influenza A, H3N2, as the culprit affecting thousands from coast to coast. Agency officials said 49 of 50 states have reported widespread flu activity at the same time.

In Swampscott, Massachusetts, Phyllis Gotlib, a beloved 68-year-old music teacher at the Clark, Hadley and Stanley elementary school died from flu complications. Schools in the district were closed Friday, so students and staff could attend her funeral.

“Phyllis was a wonderful person loved by everyone. She brought music into the lives of so many children in Swampscott and Marblehead," her family said in statement. "We are shocked and saddened and can’t express how much we will miss her."

In Texas, the influenza outbreak is so severe that the Bonham Independent School District, which has about 2,000 students, canceled classes through Tuesday.

At Loma Linda Medical Center in San Bernardino County, California, the medical staff has erected a triage tent outside the emergency room to handle the influx of flu patients.

"This seems to be the worst flu season we've had here in the last 10 to 15 years," Dr. Adrian Cotton, chief of medical operations at the Southern California hospital, told ABC's "Good Morning America." "We're seeing a lot more patients for the flu and the patients we're seeing are a lot sicker than usual."

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Orlando Health(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Sarai Arce loves to dance. The 6-year-old loves the poses. Dancing, she said, makes her "happy."

When Sarai was born, her mother, Wanda Arce of Orlando, Florida, said, she was diagnosed with brittle bone disease. Doctors said she may never walk.

Sarai started walking when she was 3 years old, yet she could not participate in any physical activities because of the risk to her body. Arce said her daughter was lacking muscle tone and balance.

Then, Arce came across Come Dance With Us, a program launched at Nemours Children's Health System and the Orlando Health System by Anne-Marie Wurzel.

Wurzel's daughter Reagan had lost motor skills due to metabolic shock and was a patient.

The program, started in October 2016, brings together dancers from the Orlando Ballet and children with special needs, ages 3-6.

During the workshop, the children participate in two daylong sessions and afterward are treated to a performance by the Orlando Ballet. First, it was "Beauty and the Beast," and last year, children got to see "The Nutcracker."

Arce said Sarai, who participated in the workshops last year, has gained strength in her muscles.

"She's like dancing all over the place and trying to do the dances that she was taught and saw in 'The Nutcracker.' ... She's very active or tries to be very active, so that kind of motivated her a little bit more to say 'Hey, I could do this. I could be a dancer. I could be a ballerina,'" Arce said.

Dierdre Miles Burger, director of the Orlando Ballet, said children's personalities and willingness to dance during the workshops blossomed within the first hour.

"They go from being completely withdrawn," she said, "to outgoing and having a wonderful time."

Arce, herself a lover of dance, said Sarai's doctors have now given her permission to take part in more dance classes. Arce said she expected Sarai to be registered in a class soon.

Burger said she just hopes the two-day workshops help the children and their parents create memories they'll treasure forever.

"Most of all, I hope the children have a good time," she said.

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alpaksoy/iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Houston firefighters came to the rescue of a man who lost consciousness on a cargo ship after apparently succumbing to the gases released from fermenting molasses, authorities said.

The worker was 75 feet deep in the docked ship's cargo hold Thursday when a shipment of molasses in the same compartment started to ferment, the Port of Houston Fire Department told ABC News.

When molasses ferments, yeast will consume the sugar, creating not only an alcoholic byproduct but gases as well. Typically, one of those gases is carbon dioxide.

Authorities said they believe the increased carbon dioxide in the enclosed area could have caused a hazardous environment, leading to his loss of consciousness.

The docked ship was where a man was left unconscious after fermented molasses caused a hazardous environment in a cargo hold.

Rescuers had to enter the compartment's extremely narrow entrance wearing protective suits to rescue the man, according to the Port of Houston Fire Department.

"In this particular case, the cover to the hatch the gentleman was down was probably about the size of a manhole cover,” Capt. Marcus Woodring, Port of Houston chief officer of health, safety, security and emergency management, told ABC Houston station KTRK-TV.

“So very, very tight, and you have to have very specialized gear to get down there.”

The unconscious man was rescued by firefighters and later regained consciousness.

Authorities described the entire procedure as "very sticky."

"It was extremely difficult with the molasses product in there,” Port of Houston Fire Chief William Buck told KTRK. “Very sticky. And crews had to be decontaminated after we removed him. The patient had to be decontaminated."

Some of the equipment used in the rescue may have to be professionally cleaned or even discarded, Buck said.

The food-grade-level molasses most likely started to ferment because it was sitting in or was exposed to freezing temperatures, authorities said.

The victim regained consciousness and was taken to a hospital, the station reported. Authorities did not release his name.

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penkanya/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Thursday that Bed Bath & Beyond has voluntarily recalled about 175,000 UGG comforters due to the risk of mold exposure.

The recalled Hudson comforters by UGG were sold at the retailer between August 2017 and October 2017, both in-store and online. The recall notice says that mold could be present, “posing a risk of respiratory or other infections in individuals with compromised immune systems, damaged lungs or an allergy to mold.

The Hudson comforters by UGG were priced between $70 and $110, and available in twin, full/queen and king bed sizes, according to the notice posted by CPSC. The polyester comforters were sold in garnet, navy, gray and oatmeal.

The recall includes about 175,000 comforters in the U.S. and about an additional 20 in Canada.

Consumers are advised to immediately stop using these comforters and return them to Bed Bath & Beyond for a full refund.

No injuries have been reported.

ABC News has reached out to UGG for comment.

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Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While fewer Americans are smoking cigarettes, according to the newest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly 38 million smoked "every day" or "some days" in 2016.

The data was released by the CDC on Thursday and comes from the National Health Interview Survey. According to the CDC, those figures indicate that among adults who have ever used cigarettes, the percentage that quit has increased from 50.8 percent in 2005 to 59 percent in 2016.

"The good news is that these data are consistent wit declines in adult cigarette smoking that we've seen for several decades," Corinne Graffunder, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health said. "These findings also show that more people are quitting, and those who continue to smoke are smoking less."

Among daily smokers, the CDC says that the average number of cigarettes smoked per day has dropped in the last 11 years -- from 17 cigarettes to 14. In that same timespan, the proportion of smokers who smoked 20 to 29 cigarettes each day decreased, while those who smoked fewer than ten cigarettes per day increased.

The CDC also found notable disparities across population groups. Smoking remains more common among males, those between the ages of 25 and 64, people with less education, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, those who suffer from psychological distress, Americans who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and those who live in the Midwest or South.

"The bad news is that cigarette smoking is not declining at the same rate among all population groups," said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "Addressing these disparities...is critical to continue the progress we've made in reducing the overall smoking rate."

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