January 7th Sensory Friendly Film: The Adventures of Tintin

Once a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – 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.

“It can be challenging enough to bring a child to a movie theater” says Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves “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”.

On January 7th at 10am local time, “The Adventures of Tintin” will be screened as part of the Autism Society “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 February 25th: The Secret World of Arrietty


Editor’s note: The Adventures of TinTin is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film s to determine if it is right for you and your child.

8 Ways to Help a Shy Child

Being a shy child isn’t easy – and for many parents, neither is raising one. You want your child to be happy and make friends, and when you see her hang back, your tendency is to push her into social situations. But pushing won’t give her the skills to control her shyness, according to Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D., director of The Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast.

“Adults think that being outgoing should be naturally occurring, but this is not something you grow out of,” says Dr. Carducci, who has also written The Shyness Breakthrough: A Stress-Free Plan to Help Your Shy Child Warm Up, Open Up, and Join the Fun.

Here are Dr. Carducci’s tips for teaching your child to overcome insecurity and succeed in social situations.

1. Love your child for who she is, not who you want her to be.

A child who undergoes social pressure doesn’t need the added stress of feeling like a disappointment. “You don’t want her to think that because she’s a little different you don’t like her,” says Dr. Carducci.

2. Show up early and give your child a chance to warm up.

Be one of the first ones at the party so your child can acclimate slowly as guests arrive. Allow her to just sit back and observe – even if it’s uncomfortable for you. While you’re waiting, prepare her for action by helping her think of ways to approach the other kids.

3. Help build your child’s confidence one step at a time.

Invite a school friend over to your home – a comfortable environment. Next time, take them to the park or invite a third child over. The key is to build on your child’s success by introducing new social elements one by one.

4. Remind your child of past strategies and successes.

Before your child enters a social situation, look for similarities to situations he’s faced before. Remind him how he handled things that time, and show him how this upcoming encounter is not an entirely new situation.

5. Use family time to discuss and practice social skills at home.

Over dinner, talk about what your child can expect from a certain social experience in advance. Do play-date post-mortems to remind your child of her strengths and problem-solving techniques. Be sure to include her in conversation and save adult-only discussions for later.

6. Give your child a diversity of social experience.

Bring him to different public places – the supermarket, library, post office – where he can engage with other people. Have him hand over the cash or the library card. Ask him to give the mail to the postal worker instead of dropping it in the box.

7. Be involved in the lives of others where sharing occurs.

Join a volunteer project and bring your shy child with you. That way she can see people with common goals and values working together. Help out an elderly neighbor together so your child participates in acts of kindness.

8. Be social too.

“Let your child see you be outgoing – talking to people, inviting people over,” says Dr. Carducci. Just like reading in front of children helps them become readers, socializing in front of a shy child helps her overcome her insecurities and learn the social skills she needs.

Daycare vs. Babysitter – Is There a Right Choice?

So I am about to do something I never ever thought that I would do…Hire a babysitter to watch # 3 in my house – Gasp! I am a big, big proponent of daycare and I am famous for standing on my soap box and telling anyone who will listen why to choose day care over a babysitter. And here I am seriously considering a sitter. So let me tell you why I’m torn. For my 1st child I absolutely was sending her to daycare. In a nutshell I prefer it. Let me say generally when I say day care I am referring to one that you have thoroughly researched and are sure it is licensed and has no violations against it and one that is NOT in someone’s house.

I can honestly go on and on about daycare but I don’t have the space here so I’ll put my top two reasons.

  1. Socializationthe socialization children receive in a daycare setting is priceless. Your child will learn how to share, play with other children and wait their turn and wash their hands and eat together at a table and …the learning is endless.
  2. Accountabilitychances are your child will never be alone with an adult in day care, it’s pretty difficulty, most daycares have open bathrooms for the little ones (no doors) so there’s no privacy. In all the years I have been a prosecutor in child abuse and sex crimes I have handled thousands of cases, I personally have never had a physical or sexual abuse case where the child was victimized at day care. My office has handled a handful of physical abuse case against a daycare worker but that is the exception not to rule. However, and this is huge, in most of my cases (when I say most I mean 100%)… where there is an allegation of sexual or physical abuse of a child the accused is a family member or a close friend. The accused is NOT a stranger. Unless you have a nanny cam there is no accountability for your sitter.

It is a huge step to trust someone with your child especially your first because chances are you have never seen the sitter take care of a child before. So you may ask why would I go against my own advice now and choose a sitter for #3? Convenience, that’s why. I am all ready to go back to work (not really but I must) and I have no child care lined up for #3. I was considering a few daycares and discussing this dilemma with my cleaning lady/ occasional babysitter/friend when she said “I’ll watch the baby!” WOO HOO really I thought? I love, love, LOVE this woman and so do my kids. I never even thought about having a babysitter until she suggested it. And you know what she said to me? “You can’t send #3 to daycare, you need someone here to clean up for you and to cook dinner for you!” REALLY? Yes I do actually. I really trust this woman and I have seen her with my kids. I have been to her house and know her family. Sometimes she even stops by unexpectedly on a Saturday and plays with my kids.

Returning to work with 3 kids will be a lot. And the less I have to do when I get home the easier my life is. My job is tremendously stressful and I don’t want to worry about all the extras when I get home from work. I want to come home and play with the kids and hear all that I missed while I was at work. All of my worries went out the window with a 3 minute conversation with a friend. I know my kids will be safe and happy with the sitter … still, that’s not to say there won’t be a camera in this house.

Helping Hands Bakery: Gluten Free Love for Special Needs Families

Hi folks! I’d like to introduce you to Bridget Lane, the founder of the Helping Hands Bakery and Bake Works. Please take a minute to get to know her and her bakery’s wonderful mission: Helping people with special needs work in a fully inclusive environment that helps to grow their self reliance & self-esteem while they earn honest pay.

Let’s start with a little background on Helping Hands Bakery… How long have you been in business?

We’ve been selling gluten free cookies and baked goods for over 4 years.

How did you come up with the idea?

After my oldest son was diagnosed with autism in 2006 (he was 3 years old) I decided to try and stop feeling sorry for myself and do something positive for my boys and the community. I kept hearing other parents talk about “what are we going to do when our kids are older? Will they be able to go to school dances? Will they have friends? Will they go to prom? Get married? All of this was a bit too much to take in.

I remember eating dinner with my husband and I said “I want to create a company where our child will have a job and I want to hire people with special needs”. At the time I thought any type of food company might be fun. I loved to cook and was a registered dietitian with food service experience. Soon after my oldest was diagnosed we started a gluten free casein free diet…and I started to create lots of homemade “messes” while trying to create an amazing gluten free cookie. It took about 6 months of experimenting with gluten free ingredients before I was happy with my creation.

In April 2007 my twin sons were also diagnosed with autism and I decided it was time to get rolling with my ideas. Originally, the plan was to sell gluten free cookies made by volunteers and donate the proceeds to agencies around Boulder and Denver that help people with special needs. But it wasn’t long until I began to see a real need in the community for more than that… for job mentorship/inclusion for people with special needs. So in 2008, we expanded to start offering vocational training for people with special needs.

In the end, everything came together to create this synergistic respite for me: getting out of the house 1-2 nights each week to bake cookies that would raise money for people with special needs was very therapeutic.

Are you exclusively Gluten Free? If so, why?

There is a big need for delicious gluten free baked goods (which lots of people need due to gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, special needs, or personal choice). It’s a bit of a challenge to create it too, which is why I’m so happy when people enjoy my cookies, tea cakes, and bars.

Did you ever find it difficult to be totally Gluten Free? i.e. I’m assuming this can sometimes be a difficult transition. Any words of advice for families new to this?

I think it can be daunting at first, but focusing on the “naturally gluten free foods” first will help you ease into the GF lifestyle. Allowed foods: fruits, vegetables, rice (all varieties), potatoes, meats (unprocessed).

  • Cut out the easier things first: gluten filled items: pasta, bread, cookies, etc.
  • My kids loved pretzels, so we substitute with popcorn
  • Instead of regular pasta, my kiddos love Thai Kitchen rice noodles.

Which Helping Hands products are your favorites?

GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars and Cookie Bites are my Favorite!! They are pretty close to tasting like Tollhouse!

I also love the Cranberry & Flax for morning snack with coffee. And Gramma Cheryl’s Snickerdoodle (named after my mom) are my other non-chocolate fav ….cinnamon –sugar YUM!

Note: As an editor here at Pediatric Safety AND a new customer of Helping Hands Bakery, may I also say YUMMM!!! I’m addicted to those ICB chocolate chip cookies (not great for my diet but honestly worth it)! My second favorite would have to be the Boulder Bars …although it’s a close race between that and those Monster bites. The Cranberry flax were good, but tasted a little too healthy for me. On the other hand, they were great for my “health conscious gluten-free-wannabe” guy (the reason I bought this to begin with). Now full disclosure folks – I ordered a GF-sampler as a holiday present for my guy after reading about Helping Hands Bakery on http://leslielovesveggies.net. Bridget and the wonderful folks from HHB asked if they could send me some additional goodies to review…I said yes…so they did. 🙂 That said, all opinions are my own and no other compensation was provided. Editorial Addendum – I might have to change my favorite from the ICB chocolate chip cookies to the Snickerdoodles. I just had one and I would never in a million years have thought it was gluten-free.

Where can people go to try your products?

Our Helping Hands Bakery Gluten free cookie bites, tea cakes, and bars are sold in Whole Foods Markets in CO, UT, KS, and NM. They can also be found at Green Acres markets in Wichita, KS, and Kansas City, MO. Happy Hearts Specialty Foods in North Platte, NE also carries many of our bars: GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, GF CF Pumpkin Tea Cakes, and GF Boulder Bar (almonds, cranberries, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds).

We also have an online bakery at www.helpinghandsbakery.com where we have a sale going on every day!

Finally, we’ve got something special for Pediatric Safety readers:

“Try Something New”

  • Order anything on our site before the January 31st and we’ll send you a free GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar AND a free GF Boulder Bar. Just enter the words “TRYSOMETHINGNEW” in the coupon code box when placing your order.
  • If you like what you try, please ask your grocer to consider carrying our products. Have them call us for a sample …and we’ll send you both something new to taste.

With your help we’ll be able to meet our goal of opening additional Helping Hands Bakery Training sites around the country.


Editor’s Note: A gluten-free diet may not always be the right choice for everyone. Please consult with your child’s pediatrician before making any changes to their diet.

Healthy Foods That Make Teeth Rot

Candy is bad for your teeth. Well, that’s a no-brainer! Even 3-year-olds know that. But my patients are always caught off guard when I tell them that certain healthy foods are just as unkind to your chompers and can cause your teeth to rot. So grab a toothbrush and hear me out.

Fruit Juice

The Trouble: OJ, grapefruit, pineapple and other fruit juices are packed with sugar. Even though it’s the natural kind that’s better for the rest of your body, the decay-causing bacteria in your mouth like it just as much as any other type of sugar. They gobble it up and multiply in droves. Plus, fruit juices contain a lot of acid, and acid from any kind of food or drink — even nutritious ones — erodes tooth enamel.

The Fix: Chances are you drink these juices mostly in the morning. Brush and floss after breakfast, rather than before, and problem solved. If you happen to have a glass later in the day and don’t have your toothbrush handy, swish water around in your mouth to neutralize the acid.

Dried Fruit

The Trouble: Sure, raisins, currants, and other dried fruit supply your body with cancer-fighting antioxidants. But the bacteria in your mouth see a sugar feast. One small 1 1/2-ounce box of raisins contains 25 grams of sugar — as much as a slice of pie topped with ice cream! Making matters worse, dried fruit is super-sticky, just like gummy bears and jelly beans, so it often gets caught in between your teeth.

The Fix: You don’t need to give up dried fruit since it’s healthy for the rest of you. But after you eat it, brush and floss your teeth.

Chips and Pretzels

The Trouble: The bacteria in your mouth that love sugar also adore starches like potatoes, pretzels, white bread and white rice. These foods turn into a gluey paste that clings to your teeth. Bacteria prefer these kinds of starches, because they’re broken down much faster than whole grains, like whole-wheat bread and brown rice.

The Fix: Switch to whole grains — they’re better for your body as well as your mouth. Try whole-grain crackers with cheese, or whole-grain pretzels with peanut butter. You can even start by pairing one slice of white bread and one slice of whole wheat on a sandwich to get used to the taste. In the meantime, brush your teeth after a starchy meal or snack.

Where Do Children Drown?

In the U.S., a disproportionate amount of press is given to children drowning in swimming pools, and while it’s true that children ages 1-5 are most likely to drown in swimming pools, it’s not the whole story, and I think it gives parents a false sense of security about water safety. It’s important to know the different dangers, and how to teach your children to navigate the dangers at any age.

So, let’s look at where children are most likely to drown at different ages and what you need to know:

Age: For infants, birth to one year, bathtubs pose the greatest danger. The statistics don’t break it down by months, but I’d guess it’s as soon as your baby can sit upright unsupported that you feel you can dash out of the bathroom to grab clean jammies, answer the phone, or stop a fight between your older kids. Or maybe you think they are safe in that bath seat with the suction cups on the bottom. Or you put the baby in with an older sibling who, you are sure, will raise the alarm if necessary.

Solution: Never, ever leave your child alone in the bathtub until they can swim the length of a 25m pool. Young children reach for toys and fall over. Those seats tip over – never trust them unless you are in the room, or don’t buy them in the first place. As for older siblings, well, they may feel a bit conflicted about your new bundle of joy and give a gentle push or not call if the baby falls over, but then know they did something wrong and not want to get in trouble. It takes one minute of submersion for brain damage to begin and two minutes to die.

Age: 1 to 5 – swimming pools.

Solution: Check out www.poolsafely.gov for great trips on keeping your pool safe. The best rule of all, tell your children to ALWAYS have an adult with them when they go near water. When I had a pool, the rule was no one could even go down the steps to where the fenced pool was without me. Period. This is one limit you need to set and stick to diligently. When your child is in the pool, you need to watch them, constantly. The lifeguard is not there to babysit and since I know you understand how hard it is to keep an eye on one child, imagine a lifeguard trying to watch 200 children. The most important strategy is to talk to your child regularly about how to act around water – no horseplay (dunking isn’t fun, it’s scary and dangerous), always have an adult nearby, and KNOW YOUR LIMITS!

Age: 6 to 12 – open water

Solution: Lifejackets in boats. Again, a non-negotiable rule. But beyond that, again, talk to your child, have them in regular swimming lessons, and help them to KNOW THEIR LIMITS. A tranquil pool is radically different from the wave pool at a water park or the surf off Santa Monica. For complete guidelines, Seattle Children’s Hospital is cutting edge. (insert link: http://www.seattlechildrens.org/classes-community/community-programs/drowning-prevention/open-water-guidelines/ )

Age: 13 to 18 – alcohol

Solution: It’s not just drinking and driving you need to be worried about, it’s drinking and drowning. Alcohol is the greatest contributing factor in drowning deaths for teenagers. By now, hopefully, you’ve been talking to your teenagers about the dangers of mixing alcohol and heavy machinery, you need to add in what happens when you mix with water. And again, teach them to KNOW THEIR LIMITS around water because teenage bravado, alcohol and water are an unforgiving combination.

All fairly dismal statistics, but as you know, I’m all about JOY! in the water. If you are teaching your child, from birth, to navigate water respectfully and safely, while they have fun, you have given them the greatest gift of all, you have taught them to navigate their environment independently and intelligently – and isn’t that what parenting is all about?