Won’t You Take the Safety Pledge?

You may or may not be aware but last week was Child Passenger Safety Week- a program to remind us all of the importance of properly installed and sized car seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also partnered with the creators of Chuggington to further spread the message of safety for children in and around cars.

The Chuggington website, designed for kids aged 2 to 7, has many interactive features including cartoon like characters, videos, pages to color and other activities to help teach kids about this critical safety topic. Remember that motor vehicle collisions continue to be the leading cause of death in children. Anything that helps to increase safety and awareness will ultimately benefit us all.

Among the various activities, participants may take the safety pledge’ to remind them they are committed to their own safety. And now that I have taken the pledge, I can proudly display my downloaded safety badge and certificate.

One last thought…it’s never too late to check the installation and sizing of your child’s car seat. For more information and resources please visit NHTSA’s car seat information site

Good Dental Habits Today Create a Lifetime of Healthy Teeth

Habits are behavioral patterns that we repeat over and over again. Unfortunately, we’re often not aware of the specific behavior we are repeating. This goes for our kids as well. Four of the most common habits children develop are the following:

  1. nail biting
  2. thumb sucking
  3. hair twirling
  4. nose picking

As a parent, it is your responsibility to help teach your children good habits that are healthy when they are young. This helps them turn good choices into a way of life. We all remember the old adage “do what I say, not what I do”. Well, we all know that doesn’t work with kids. They need to see that you are doing what you are asking them to do. Be sure you are demonstrating good dental habits to your kids first and foremost.

Let’s talk about good dental hygiene habits for kids. Now that school is back in session and summer has come to an end, children are getting back into more structured daily routines. This is a great time to get your child started on a daily schedule of brushing and flossing their teeth. If their routine has been relaxed over the summer, it’s time for more consistency. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day is very important for healthy teeth. Encourage your kids to be responsible when it comes to brushing and flossing the older they get.

Another important habit to form is to get them on a routine cleaning schedule at your dentist every six months as recommended. This will help them understand the importance of caring for their teeth at a young age.

There are so many things to do at the end of the day but don’t let brushing and flossing your kid’s teeth fall through the cracks!

When Mom Goes Back to School

I took a leave of absence from work at the beginning of this year to spend more time with my son, then 8 years old. Work had been very stressful for a long time, with long hours and lots of overseas travel and the associated jet lag – which made me as mentally absent upon my return home as I had been physically absent during my trip.

One evening, when I was thinking about applying for leave, I asked my son about the idea during our bedtime cuddles. “So, sweetie, what would you think if, maybe, mommy didn’t work for a while….would you like that?” I said. His response, after a moment of consideration, surprised me. “No, I wouldn’t like that,” he said. Hmmph! What gratitude! Why was I even thinking of this??…But then, with a sly grin, he burst out with, “I would LOVE THAT!!!!!” That response – including his cute, sneaky delivery – made a real impact on me.

Despite my desire to be with him, I also wanted to use the time off for other purposes – and knew I would need other stimulation. Through my work over the previous few years implementing diabetes education programs, I had developed an interest in helping to improve the health of communities and was seriously considering going back to school to do a Masters degree in Public Health. During the spring I sought input from various colleagues and friends and talked it over with my husband – and I decided to apply.

During summer break I took my son to Chicago for a week of fun, sightseeing and mother-son bonding. But it was also a chance for me to connect with some colleagues located there, who I worked with on the diabetes program – one of whom acted as a reference for my graduate school application. Over dinner at the Rainforest Café (have to keep the kids engaged!), we talked about my potential renewed academic career, especially as my friend was an experienced healthcare professional. Well, what is the saying about little ears???

I found out on the drive back to our hotel that in all my planning for school, I had neglected to mention anything of the idea to my son. I hadn’t realized. How could that have been the case? Why didn’t it occur to me to involve him…at least to confer with him as I had when deciding whether to apply for leave from work? Well, I suppose I didn’t think he’d really care, or really “get” it. Much of the academic work would take place during the day while he was at school, and the program offered the option to go part-time, which I was strongly considering. At any rate, I realized I hadn’t told him – and I paid for that…

In the absence of a prepared and controlled delivery of the information, his imagination had taken control. His reaction in the car essentially went like this (imagine the panicked/frenetic tone of an eight-year-old boy):

“You’re going back to school??? Why? Who said? I don’t want you to go back to school. Have you talked to Dad about this? Isn’t this something the family should decide? What if Nelson and Fiona don’t want you to go? [Note: Nelson and Fiona are our DOGS!]

“No you can’t go back to school. You’ll never be around. You’ll be gone all the time. I’ll never see you. I’ll be stuck with Dad! [Sorry honey!] You took time off from work to spend with ME!”

Nothing I said had any impact. He was inconsolable. And he was determined. It was a short drive back to the hotel, and when we arrived he was off like a shot, the card-key to our room in his hand (it had become a little family ritual that when we stayed in hotels, Elliott got to carry one of the room keys and be the one to open the door). When I got to our room and knocked on the door, he wouldn’t let me in directly. He had the door on the security latch so it opened only a little and, before he would let me in, he insisted that I had to pinkie-swear that I wouldn’t go back to school! Well I started to lay down the law, but he was quite upset, even a little hysterical, so in the end I did pinkie-swear…oh boy!

When we got back home a couple of days later, we sat down as a family and talked about the situation. I told him I was going to school – I had received my acceptance by then – but that spending time with him was still a top priority, so I would do what I could to manage my schedule, and we would see how it went. He was eventually fine with the situation, especially once he knew more about what my going back to school meant (i.e. I wouldn’t be moving to a dorm like our college-babysitter!). But it was a good lesson for me. Kids are people all their own. It’s not possible to know what’s going on in their heads and how they might view new developments in the family….so it’s important to communicate with them early when changes might be happening. It also gave me some insight into how much he had been affected by my frequent and protracted business trips. It gave me additional reassurance that taking time off to be with him was the right thing to do, despite whatever issues it might create down the road for my career.

So, fast forward a couple of months and I’m now in classes – writing research papers and studying for tests – and things are generally working out fine at home. Plus I’m getting lots of material for future posts on health and safety! But more on that later…

October Sensory Friendly Movie Screening: Dolphin Tale

For those of you not familiar with ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

To quote our Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves: “It can be challenging enough to bring a child to a movie theater – they are dark, the sound is very loud, there are tempting stairs and rails and they are expected to sit still and stay quiet. When a child has special needs all these elements and many others can prove too daunting to even attempt such an outing. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children – and their caregivers, too”.

On October 1st at 10am local time, “Dolphin Tale” will be screened as part of the “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program.

Coming November 5th: Puss in Boots


Editor’s note: Dolphin Tale is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. Please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of Dolphin Tale to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Closer Parent-Bond Benefits Child Mental Health

Fun vacations and special occasions make great family memories, but they’re not what create a sense of closeness between parents and kids. Tight bonds come from being involved and interested in your kid’s daily life – from schoolwork, to hobbies, to friends and more.

Why is it important to get closer to your kids? A 2010 Binghamton University study found that it greatly boosts child mental health. And if you start early, the bonds will be long-lasting too: According to an MTV/Associated Press survey, teens and young adults said that the greatest source of happiness is spending time with family.

Here are seven easy ways to get closer to your kids.

1. Share a hobby

Whether it’s drawing cartoons or doing jigsaw puzzles, a quiet activity you can do together will bring you closer. Playing sports or video games is fun, but it doesn’t give you the same opportunity to talk or just work side by side. It doesn’t matter if you do it every night, once a week or once a month – as long as you make time (and a commitment) to enjoy it together regularly.

2. Set aside time to talk

When your child comes to tell you something, give him your full attention. That means putting down the phone, turning off the laptop, or even turning off the stove so you can face him and really listen to what he’s saying. Set aside a few minutes every day to ask what he learned at school, how his playdate went, etc. And try not to interrupt. This is his time to talk, not yours!

3. Review homework

Sitting down five nights a week to go over schoolwork shows how much you value your child’s education – and the effort she puts into it. Offer help if she needs it and give praise when she earns it. Most important, ask her to explain what she knows. She’ll feel great teaching you a thing or two.

4. Be open

Communication is a two-way street, and your child benefits from hearing your thoughts as much as you do from hearing his. Keep an open dialogue on everything from politics to personal beliefs, being honest but age-appropriate in what you say.

5. Create rituals

They can be serious or silly, but having reliable routines gives your child a sense of security and family identity. Whether it’s eating pancakes for dinner every Sunday or having pizza-and-movie night every other Friday, creating rituals shows how much you value spending time together. Later, you may hear your child saying to others, “Here’s what we do in my family.”

6. Play make-believe

Playing is so crucial to a child’s emotional and intellectual development that the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights deemed it a right of every child. Sit down for a teddy-bear tea party or have a make-believe pirate sword fight in the living room. Taking part in your kids’ pretend play gives you a window into their feelings, fantasies and fears – and shows them you want to be part of their special world. Check out this make-believe playing guide for more on how to play pretend with your kids.

7. Read together

Studies show that children who grow up watching their parents read are better readers themselves. But reading to a young child – or reading the same book as your older one and then discussing it – is a way to explore the world and share ideas every day.


Hi, my name is Jon Fischer. I have always had an interest in technology and was the Massachusetts Middle School Robotics Champion 3 years in a row. I wanted to enter the Massachusetts State Science Fair in 2006 (my Junior year of high school), but wasn’t sure what I could do for an original technology project.

Then one of my older friends crashed his car speeding on a back road, severely injuring him and 2 others. After his recovery, the driver told me he knew he was driving much too fast for that road but never thought he would actually crash. I had seen similar stories in the local papers and continued to learn more about the issue in drivers ed. I noticed a recurring theme with teen driver accidents: they almost always seemed to happen on back roads. I decided to do some research and proved my theory, speeding on non-highway roads (local or back roads and secondary roads) is statistically much more dangerous than on highways. I realized that this was a big problem and set out to solve it for my science fair project.

My first step in the project was to research what products already existed for teen safe driving. I found a few products out there, but they were all “constant tracking solutions” to continuously track your teen, which have a number of issues. First, parents would have to dig through mountains of data to find if their teen was ever speeding. Second, this approach is just too invasive for teens. I knew I could build a better solution for both parents and teens!

By the end of the science fair, I had developed a hardware prototype running my own custom software that allowed monitoring of speeding by road class. Although very rudimentary and by no means a useable product, my prototype worked. It was able to be mounted into a car and detect the type of road being driven on with GPS, and then determine if the car was traveling at an appropriate speed for the road. If the car was speeding, the prototype would save the location and speed data which could be viewed on a computer. But if the driver was being safe on the road, the prototype wouldn’t log any kind of data about the driver.

I got an honorable mention in the science fair and was happy with the prototype I had made. Following the science fair presentation, my dad (who was running a small business he had started several years earlier) suggested trying to commercialize my prototype into a real product. I then wrote a business plan over the summer and entered the Mount Wachusett Community College Business Plan Competition in the fall. To my surprise, I won! And took home almost $20,000 to start my business.

I used some of this money to file a patent on “the ability to monitor speed by road class” and used the rest to incorporate the business. Because of this business plan competition win, I was also able to get several entrepreneurial scholarships for college and attended Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. I chose Champlain because of their BYOBiz (Bring Your Own Business) program. BYOBiz is an extracurricular program at Champlain that provides student entrepreneurs with resources to build their business; primarily mentorship and a shared office space on campus.

It took another 2 years, and a partnership with a hardware manufacturer before release of my first version of the product, Speed-Demon, a commercialized version of the hardware I developed in the science fair. Unfortunately I was only able to sell 52 in a year’s time. Every parent that bought one said they loved the product and saw a vast improvement in their teen’s driving while using the product. However, I received a lot of feedback from parents who could not afford the $250 dollar upfront cost of the box, plus a $15 dollar a month subscription to the service.

I could not bring the cost of the hardware down any further and now, for the first time, thought the business might not make it. One night while playing with my friend’s new Android phone, I realized that times had changed; I no longer needed to sell hardware! Smart phones now had all the technology I needed to provide the same teen safe driving service but without selling my own hardware!

I immediately started researching platforms and found Android OS to be the best for the first version of Speedbump – The Teen Driving Safety App.

The app launched on Android phones at the beginning of summer 2011 (just as I graduated from college) and the iPhone version of Speedbump will be available in early 2012. Speedbump now has more users than Speed-Demon ever did, in less than a quarter of the time! Parents have continued to tell me how much they love Speedbump for its ability to make their teens safer drivers. As an added bonus, they also mention that their teens have become safer passengers, often telling their friends to slow down because of Speedbump reporting. Speedbump is bringing parents and teens together to encourage driving safety and I couldn’t be happier. I’d like to offer any readers of this article a Free 1 Month Trial by using the promo code “PSafety” to sign up at www.SpeedbumpGPS.com. In addition, it would be great to hear any comments or suggestions you may have for me! Please reach out to me on Twitter @SpeedbumpGPS or on Facebook: Speedbump.


  1. Safe driving is green driving. By following the posted speed limits, you can save a lot at the pump!
  2. Help your teen drive safely:
    • Know the facts/risks – and talk to your child EARLY. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the United States – more than cancer, homicide and suicide combined. And risk begins to increase as young as age 12 – because young teens are also at risk as passengers of cars driven by older teen drivers (AAA gives a good overview).
    • Use a parent-teen driving contract (click here for example).
    • Always remind your teens to wear their seatbelts.
  3. Set a good example for your teens with your own driving! According to AAA, good driving habits include:
    • Always wear your safety belt.
    • Obey traffic laws.
    • Do not use a cell phone while driving.
    • Watch your speed.
    • Don’t tailgate.
    • Use your turn signals.
    • Don’t drive when angry or tired.