Halloween, Kids and Pets …Ensure a Fun Holiday For All: Part II

dog_with_halloween_candy_bucketLast year at exactly this same time, I wrote an article on this site about some of the potential dangers of Halloween for your kids and pets and gave some advice on how to avoid some of those dangers. Most of that advice was focused on avoiding situations that could put your pets (and the children that are with them) in harm’s way.

However, I am also quite aware that any advice, no matter how well intended, may at times be impossible for some people to follow based on their own personal experiences and situations. For example, you may have a service dog that must accompany you trick-or-treating and perform certain tasks that would enable you to accompany your child from door to door. Or maybe you have a service dog that is trained for your child as a diabetic alert dog or seizure alert dog or to pull a wheelchair or help your child with mobility issues…. So ‘leaving the dog at home’ may not only NOT be possible, but potentially dangerous for you and/or your child.

And then there are some people who live in a not-so-great area and do not want to deny their child(ren) the fun opportunity to trick and trick, and would feel much more comfortable and safer having a nice large breed dog standing steadfastly by their side.

Another issue we discussed was not having ‘Rover’ join you every time you go to answer the door… but here again, if you do have Rover joining you…. Not because you think it is cute, but because it allows you to feel safer, then here are some tips that can allow you to both bring your dog to the door, or along with you when you trick or treat, and still keep everyone safe.

I. Trick-or-Treating

The first thing I will mention is outdoor safety equipment:

  • One of the most important safety precautions you can take is having some sort of flashlight or flashing light attached to your dog’s collar. This will enable others to be aware that you do have a dog with you… which can keep your dog safe from being walked into, stepped on, or worse….hit by a car as it grows darker out, and will enable others to see your dog and know to not get too close. (A little bonus – it will provide a little extra visibility for you and your family members).
  • Leashes: If you are prone to using a Flexi leash (retractable lead) tonight is NOT the night to use it!!! You want guaranteed control on this night, not something that may or may not be good, strong and reliable. You need something short (I would not recommend using a lead any longer than 6 feet, and would actually prefer 4 foot or less) and it must be in good solid condition, free of any fraying, rips, tears, or chew marks.
  • Collars: As far as collars, you want something that is tight enough so that your dog can not easily ‘back out of it’ should they suddenly get scared or spooked. I recommend you use something you are very used to – you do not want to be trying out a different type of collar on the very night you need it. And the same rule applies as the leashes…. Make sure it is strong and free of any rips or frays prior to this night. If you do end up needing to purchase a new one, one of the collars that is a good fail-safe collar to use if you are used to a regular flat collar, martingale-collarbut not 100% sure your dog could not get out of it is called a Martingale. It is available at most pet stores including Petsmart (see picture on right). It is a good alternative option to the regular flat collar, with the added benefit of a ‘choker’ type chain at the end which will tighten only if your dog pulls or tries to get away…. reducing the risk of them slipping out of it.
  • Service Dog Vest: If your dog is an actual service dog, although it is NOT required by law to have a vest identifying the dog as a service dog, I would suggest on this particular night, having something marking your dog as a service dog, as well as a sign that says “DO NOT PET”. This might make your experience a bit better as hopefully, fewer people will try to stop you to pet your cute dog who they think is only your personal pet out trick or treating with you.

If your dog is a service dog for you, try asking a third person to come trick or treating with you. This way, you can stand back at a safe distance with your service dog, and the friend or family member can take the child up to the door to ring the bell. This will keep you out of harm’s way, and avoid spooking your dog with doorbells and doormats rigged to scream when you push or step on them and keep them further away from flashing lights, which can disorient and hurt your dogs’ sensitive eyes.

If the Service Dog belongs to your child, my suggestion would still be to have another person go with you and either one of you stays back with the dog and child, and the other one goes up to the door, rings the bell and gets the candy and brings it back to your child. Or, if the child wants to go to the door, have one of you go to the door with the child, and the other person stays back with the child’s dog until the child returns. I also feel it is very important to remember though that although Service Dogs are very highly trained animals, I want to encourage you not to forget that they are not robots, and will still react to unexpected scenarios…. So be on your guard and be vigilant at all times. If they are starting to act differently than they normally do, be smart and make the choice to head home early. Better safe than sorry

II. Answering the Door with You

As far as something you can do for the dog that is staying home, that will allow you to have him or her with you if you are nervous about answering the door, here is a precautionary alternative thing you can try….. You can pick up an exercise pen relatively cheap at many of your local pet food and supply stores, and make a “U” shape out of it in front of the door (see example here). By doing this, you can easily get to the door and open it for kids who are trick or treating, allowing you to give candy or other goodies to the kids, all the while ensuring the kid is safe from your dog, and the dog cannot run out, but also gives you the peace of mind of knowing if you open the door to someone that you deem unsafe, you can pull the side of the exercise pen open very easily to allow your dog to protect you. This very much differs from a standard gate because it is ‘free-standing.’ Meaning it is not attached to a wall, or held in place by a pressure release system.

III. Costumes

thundershirtAs far as a costume for Fido, there is only one I would potentially recommend….. That would be a ThunderShirt. Not familiar with this product? The ThunderShirt, (aka… Canine Anti-Anxiety Shirt) is a snug fitting shirt that utilizes a similar concept as swaddling your infant. It is a holistic alternative to anti-anxiety medications and uses natural pressure points on the dog to help calm them in different situations. If you want to dress it up for Halloween, get creative and cut out and sew on a few bones or a skeleton. Just be sure you are not painting or gluing the items on, as that can cause some potentially harmful toxins to seep into your dog’s body.

So in conclusion, while I still personally believe that the best and safest option for your dog on Halloween is to stay home away from the front door, there are a myriad of ways that you CAN safely include your canine buddy if the need arises.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful and that you and your entire family enjoy a safe and Happy Halloween!!!

Guided Play Means a Chance to Return to Your Childhood

Autism and Child Motor Skills DevelopmentParents out there you know how it goes: you play the same game over and over again with your toddler or you help them put together a puzzle. This is the daily “stuff” of parenting and you may feel it doesn’t make a difference. Well, turns out, it does make a difference! A recent study from the University of Montreal and the University of Minnesota shows that how parents interact with young children helps them develop crucial cognitive skills. Here’s a brief overview of the study: – researchers studied 80 pairs of moms and their one-year-old children – the study focused on how moms interacted with their children in tasks such as playing games or putting together puzzles – the researchers examined how these interactions predicted children’s “advanced cognitive functions”–those are things like controlling impulses, remembering things and having mental flexibility It turns out that how moms interact with their children in these tasks help the child develop these important cognitive skills. Children whose moms who interacted in the following ways had better cognitive skills at 18-26 months: – provided guidance and scaffolding in tasks that were difficult for the child but did not take over the do the task for him/her – followed the child’s lead and pace in completing the task or playing the game – used a warm and sensitive tone when interacting with the child One of the most important findings of the study was that these types of interactions helped support the child’s autonomous behavior–that is, the child learns to do activities on their own.

This is a great skill for kids to learn, but it does take some practice and help from parents to start. This is really the essence of the idea of “guided” play. Play really is the “work” of childhood and research has shown repeatedly how play-based learning fits better with young children’s developmental capabilities than rote learning. Play-based learning, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that kids should be left to their own devices all the time; some adult guidance is useful in helping kids structure their play and learn new concepts. This doesn’t mean you have to instruct your child how to play, but offering some ideas or a starting point is often helpful.

I have found in playing with my son (age 2.5) that he will often come up with an idea of something he wants to create or imitate based on something he saw in a book or video, but he doesn’t quite know how to implement it. Once he mentions an idea, I will then help him come up with the tools (usually whatever toys are lying around) to create his vision. For example, he recently read about a combine in a farm book so he wanted to play with one. Since we didn’t have a toy combine, I showed him how to create one out of Legos. Luckily, kids have great imaginations and almost any combination of Legos can turn into the desired object. Once he had his creation in hand, he was off and playing with very little intervention from me.

I think one of the main messages of the study is this idea of guided play. Playing with toys in itself is not magical, it’s the guidance and vocabulary offered by adults that really seems to make the difference in children’s learning. “Guided play” may sound like a daunting task, but it’s really just a return to your childhood and in the process helping your child discover his or her world.


Pediatrics Academy Issues Updated Infant Safe Sleep Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) held their annual conference this week in San Francisco, and has used this event as a platform for announcing new or updated policy guidelines in a number of areas. One we reported on earlier this week was about New Guidelines on Children’s Exposure to Digital Media.

We report here on another set of updated guidelines – this time focused on safe sleep environments for infants.

The Problem

Baby sleeping safetyMore than 3500 infants die each year in the US from sleep-related deaths. This number includes cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), plus other sleep-related deaths like accidental strangulation in bed. The rate of infant sleep-related deaths had been dropping up to the 1990s – but little change has been seen in recent years. The issues behind these deaths can all be addressed by similar improvements to enhance the safety of a baby’s sleep environment.

Overview of the Guidelines

Several of the elements outlined in the updated policy are not new, though nonetheless very important. The AAP has long been recommending that babies be put to sleep on their backs (supine position) – and that soft bedding be avoided. They also emphasize the importance of breastfeeding and avoiding smoking and drug use while pregnant – and exposure to smoke/drug use after birth. While most people are likely aware of the risks to babies from exposure to these toxins, not all may know that smoking and drug-use environments are associated with increased infant sleep-death risk, including SIDS. Details of all the guidelines are listed in the box at the end of this article.

What is particularly new and notable in these guidelines is the recommendation for babies to sleep in their parents’ room for up to the first year after birth – especially for the first 6 months when 90% of SIDS cases occur. Research suggests that infant sleep-related deaths could be reduced by 50% through “room-sharing” – as long as the baby is sleeping in their own safety-approved crib or bassinet and not in the parental bed.

“Couches and armchairs are extremely dangerous places for infants.” – AAP Guidelines

The authors of the new guidelines note that “bed-sharing” greatly increases risk for SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths – and are “especially dangerous” in the following cases:

  • When one or both parents are smokers, even if they are not smoking in bed
  • When the mother smoked during pregnancy
  • When the infant is younger than 4 months of age
  • When the infant is born preterm and/or with low birth weight
  • When the infant is bed-sharing on excessively soft or small surfaces, such as waterbeds, sofas, and armchairs
  • When soft bedding accessories such as pillows or blankets are used
  • When there are multiple bed-sharers
  • When the parent has consumed alcohol and/or illicit or sedating drugs
  • When the infant is bed-sharing with someone who is not a parent

“Skin-to-skin care is recommended for all mothers and newborns immediately following birth” – AAP Guidelines

The updated guidelines FOR PARENTS from the AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS on safe sleep environments for infants are:

  • Back to sleep for every sleep. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs on a surface that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commision (CPSC) should be used. These include cribs, bassinets, portable cribs or play yards. Once babies are able to roll into different positions they can be allowed to sleep in those positions.
  • Use a firm sleep surface with NO soft objects or loose bedding. Infant beds should have firm mattresses and tight fitting sheets – and nothing else – including no crib bumpers.
  • Breastfeeding is recommended. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS and the more that a mother exclusively breastfeeds, the greater the reduction in risk. But the authors note that “any breastfeeding is more protective against SIDS than no breastfeeding”.
  • Room-sharing with the infant on a separate sleep surface is recommended. Having the baby sleep in its own crib or bassinet is best, but bedside sleepers that are CPSC-approved can be used. No safety guidelines have been developed for in-bed sleepers and there is currently no evidence regarding their ability to reduce SIDS risk – so these are not recommended.
  • Avoid overheating and head covering in infants. AAP does not provide specific room temperature guidance, but states that babies should wear only one more layer than an adult would to be comfortable in the room.
  • Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Although experts do not yet know why, use of pacifiers has been shown in multiple studies to guard against SIDS. The pacifier should be used when laying the baby down to sleep. It does not need to be put back in the mouth if it falls out while the child is asleep.
  • Avoid smoke exposure and alcohol/illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth. Prenatal and environmental smoking exposure are major risk factors for SIDS.
  • Prenatal care and immunization of infants is important. Both prenatal care and infant immunization have been shown to have a protective effect against SIDS.
  • Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no evidence these reduce risk of sleep-related death.

The Academy has also recommended against use of products marketed to reduce risk of SIDS – such as wedges and positioning devices. These are not CPSC-approved and do not have scientific evidence to support their claims, and may actually pose hazards. They also caution against swaddling. However, the authors do support daily tummy time for babies to promote development.

Finally, AAP has also provided guidelines for health care providers (including in NICUs, nurseries, and childcare centers), public health officials, and manufacturers. These can be found on the AAP website.



Tell Your Teen: “Stop Smoking…Start Shopping”

Cigarettes are smelly, unhealthy and pricey. If you gave up smoking today, look what you could buy instead. These figures are based on giving up 20 cigarettes a day.

After One Week

Money saved £42.91 (*$43.96 in the US, based on average cost of a pack)
stop smokingHealth benefits After one week of not smoking, levels of carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas that binds to red blood cells so that they carry less oxygen) return to normal and your lungs start to clear. Toxins start leaving your body, and you have more energy.
What you can buy You’ll be saving on average £6.13 a day (*$6.28 in US) – enough for a daily treat, such as a lipstick or frappucinos for you and a friend. Or save it till the end of the week and you’ll have £42.91 for a new haircut.

After One Month

Money saved £171.64 (*$175.84 in US)
Health benefits Your senses of taste and smell return as the withdrawal symptoms come to an end.
What you can buy A good digital camera to keep a record of the good times.

After Three Months

Money saved £514.92 (*$527.52 in US)
Health benefits Your skin looks great and, because your circulation’s better, running for the bus is easy.
What you can buy Wish you were here? Your savings could now pay for a holiday, or a lot of shoes.

After Six Months

Money saved £1,029.84 (*$1,055.04 in US)
Health benefits A breath of fresh air: your lungs are working up to 10% more efficiently.
What you can buy A whole new wardrobe. No more excuses for wearing last year’s outfit! And you’ve saved enough for about 100 CDs and DVDs.

After One Year

Money saved £2,059.68 (*$2,110.08 in US)
Health benefits Congratulations. You’re fitter, a lot richer, and your risk of a heart attack has halved.
What you can buy A designer watch – time to bring on the bling. Or new wheels. Put down the deposit on a new car or buy a second-hand one.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.


Setting Expectations with ALL Kids – Not Just Special Needs

On our monthly trip to my son’s orthodontist I witnessed a classic parenting mistake, and I was torn about whether I should speak up. As I sat waiting for my son to be finished a mom came in to the office with her two sons. angry mother of teen playing computer gamesShe was frazzled from sitting in traffic, as we all are in this ridiculously overcrowded city. Her two boys immediately went over to the arcade style video game in the waiting room, which is set on free play.

The older boy kept winning, and the younger boy was getting more and more vocal about his frustration with the game. Every time he shouted out, his mom would say his name in a disapproving tone. He kept shouting and she kept calling out his name, using a gradually angrier tone each time. It was a little funny because she was getting angry at him for being loud but she was being just as loud and making it worse, but I kept my amusement to myself.

Here is what I noticed as an objective observer – she never told him to lower his voice! She kept getting madder while he had no idea what he was doing wrong! I wanted to point it out to her, but I felt it was overstepping the limits of polite society. Plus, I didn’t want to come off as a know-it-all and she was so upset I didn’t think she would really be able to appreciate the help. One symptom of many special needs diagnoses is the lack of ability to control volume or to read social cues so maybe that was part of this scenario. But I wondered if much of the fuss would settle down if she had just explained calmly to him that this was an office where people are working and they need it to be a little quiet so they can concentrate.

Think about the last time you got frustrated with your child, special needs or not. Did you clearly explain what you wanted or needed? I have certainly made this mistake both as a teacher and as a parent and even as a human being. What seems so obvious to one person might be completely unnoticed by or unimportant to another.

Try to be clear with your instructions and corrections, and offer an explanation. Better yet, discuss expectations beforehand – like while you are stuck in traffic. It’s the perfect time to remind your child of what is expected. Social stories can also help special needs kids with new or scary situations as well as remind them of what will be happening and what they can expect. For more on social stories check out this link: http://www.educateautism.com/social-stories.html

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 10-17-2016 to 10-23-2016

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: Batman’ Is Chasing Down Creepy Clowns To Help Kids Rest Easier https://t.co/Ug0ZBW8Xti Nice! Thanks Batman!

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use Twitter and Facebook to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
I’m proud to support the Dove SpeakBeautiful Squad to help girls combat negativity on social media! Dove Self Esteem Project https://t.co/l8T9nKI1rA