You Can See Rock Dog Sensory Friendly Tomorrow at AMC

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new 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.

rock-dog-posterDoes it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of Rock Dog on Saturday, February 25th at 10am (local time). 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 (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming later in FebruaryFist Fight (Tues, 2/28)

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Editor’s note: Although Rock Dog has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for action and language. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.

Is Your Child a Bullying Victim? Read this Mother’s Story

When Maria’s daughter moved to secondary school (*middle school), she was bullied by a group of girls who had been her best friends at primary school (*elementary school).

Halfway through the school year, Maria** became aware that her daughter Sam** wasn’t being invited to her friends’ houses anymore.

mother's-bullying-story“She doesn’t always tell me what’s going on at school, but I noticed that she was biting her fingernails a lot and sleeping badly. She seemed quite upset.

“I talked to her about her friends and why they weren’t meeting up. Eventually, she told me that they didn’t get on anymore. I found out that her old friends were excluding her.

“For example, when she bumped into them in the street, one of the girls said directly to her, ‘This is the one we’re not talking to anymore’.

“They were also really nasty in the playground. They left her standing on her own. She was still trying to be friends with them but they just ignored her. She was very upset.

Bullying Incident

“Then I witnessed an incident one Saturday afternoon.

“Two of her old friends phoned her. They asked her if she’d started her periods. She said it was none of their business, but they kept her on the phone. She wasn’t strong enough to end the conversation.

“They were laughing and shouting, ‘We want to know, we want to know’. I was standing next to her, and felt disgusted. I felt really sorry for Sam. Afterwards, I thought of calling one of the girls’ mums, but I decided not to because I thought it might make things worse.

“I was very upset because I used to spend a lot of time with these girls, but now they didn’t think my daughter was good enough for them.

“I was worried about Sam because I thought it must be horrible to believe you’ve got really good friends and then they suddenly turn against you.

How Sam got Help with Bullying

“I told Sam that she should talk to Nicole, a learning mentor at her school. I knew that Sam liked Nicole, whose role was to sort out this kind of issue.

“Soon after, Nicole contacted me. Both she and Sam’s form teacher had noticed that Sam was being bullied.

“I found out that she wasn’t only being bullied by this group. Sam is half-Polish, and another girl was calling her a ‘Polish sket’ in class.

“The school intervened quickly. They cracked down on the racist comments and the use of the insult ‘sket’. After that, the problem with that particular girl was completely resolved.

“Nicole, the learning mentor, also set up a friendship group to understand the dynamic in this circle of girls who’d all moved up from primary school together. She asked the bullies and a few other pupils to talk together about friendship, boyfriends, fashion, puberty and growing up. A lot was revealed.

“It seems that Sam’s primary school (*elementary school) friends got to know other girls at secondary school (*middle school) and became more interested in fashion, make-up and boyfriends. Because Sam was more childlike, they didn’t want her in their group anymore. She wasn’t cool enough.

“Sam was different. I think that’s often what bullying is based on. She has her own style and doesn’t follow everyone else.

“Nicole had several chats with Sam, and helped to strengthen Sam’s self-esteem. When she was picked on, Sam used to get quite upset and would try to defend herself, but now she’s able to ignore it.

“When I spoke to Sam about the meetings with Nicole, I could see that things were improving. At home, I explained to her that friendships change, and primary school (*elementary school) friends don’t necessarily stay friends for life. I didn’t want to suggest that Sam was the victim because that can make you feel weaker.

“Sam has finally found a new set of friends and is really happy with them. She’s become more confident, and she no longer tries to be friends with girls who don’t want to be friends with her.”

**The names in this article have been changed.

Bullying: Information and Support for Parents

To find out more about how you can help your child if they’ve been bullied, read Bullying: advice for parents.

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

Child Health & Safety News: Wk 8 “Sex Messages Hiding in Roblox”

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: How to talk to your kids about school safety – what if a classmate brings a gun? http://bit.ly/2l2hgE9

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 social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we miss something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of this past week’s top 18 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Dad warns about popular game Roblox after he found sexually explicit messages in 8 y/o son’s Ipad… https://t.co/uhBkDVAgsZ 2017-02-18

Feeling Helpless? Reframe “I Can’t” For Your Special Needs Child

Learned helplessness is defined by Google as a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression. But I think we need to question ourselves and our children more often and challenge this assumed defeat. This helplessness can become a bad habit and we need to find opportunities to make new, better habits.

The other day I was (once again) at the orthodontist with one of my kids. I should have used the restroom before I left work, but I knew we had this appointment and I didn’t want to lose any time. I made my way in the usual ridiculous traffic, picked up my son and we rushed along to the dentist. I practically ran from my car to the lobby, rode the elevator and hurried across the hall to the office…where I saw a teenage girl take the women’s room key and leave. I know it is a one-person bathroom so I wasn’t going to get in until she was finished.

I sat down, crushed, but figured it would only be another few minutes. The time stretched out and she was still not back. Then it hit me – why was I torturing myself? What would happen if I didn’t follow the standard practice? I stood up and took the men’s room key. I mean, all I needed was plumbing – does it really matter what the sign on the door says? I knew it was single occupancy so I wasn’t going to go barging in on a group of guys.

I remember when my child was younger and would tell me that she couldn’t read, yet she managed to navigate the television’s on-screen guide to find the show she wanted to watch. Sometimes the familiar “I can’t read” response was an excuse to get out of homework, sometimes it was a plea for attention or assistance and sometimes it was just a bad habit that no longer served any purpose.

So I urge you to question everything for yourself and for your child with special needs. Re-examine skills from time to time. Check back in on tasks that were challenging in the past. And also, take a long look at your thoughts and assumptions.

How to Reframe Your Child’s Negative, Anxious Self-Talk

Anxious-child-with-negative-thoughtsDo you have a child who is often emotional or moody – or prone to anxiety or depression? If so, you might be familiar with the negative self-talk that often contributes to these conditions. And, actually, any child – or adult – is subject to these thoughts on occasion.

Negative or anxious self-talk – sometimes also called “automatic negative thoughts” – is unhelpful, often skewed thinking that tends to drive negative emotions and behaviors. For example, your daughter might react to a friend who gets angry while playing and goes home, by thinking “I’m no fun to play with….nobody likes me” – and might avoid inviting any other kids to come over and play.

I learned about the concept of negative self-talk years ago through cognitive behavioral therapy while dealing with issues from my childhood. But I was surprised when I first began noticing examples of this thought pattern in my young son. When Elliott was in his first couple of years of elementary school, he would often come home at the end of the day and report that his day was “terrible”.

After digging a little I would often find out that one “bad” thing had happened each of these days – which then tainted the whole rest of the day. This overgeneralization / all-or-nothing thinking is an example of negative self-talk – and caused Elliott to have negative emotions about school and resist going in the mornings.

There are several different types of negative or anxious self-talk. A good reference book on anxiety for teens and kids – My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic (by Michael A. Tompkins, PhD and Katherine Martinez PhD) – gives an interesting classification for these unhelpful thoughts (a summary is listed at the end of this post). This book was recommended to me by a child and family psychologist and is well worth a read.

As the book title suggests, there are ways to deal with and manage such unhelpful thinking – and it’s useful to start early with kids who are prone to negative thoughts. At a minimum, it helps to start by identifying and unpacking the negative thought.

For example, with my son Elliott and his “terrible” days at school, I started asking him if anything good happened during the day. This got him to go over all the events of his time at school and put the “bad” experience into context – and I suggested that one or two bad experiences might not make a whole day terrible. Pretty soon, when I asked him how his day was, Elliott would outline how different parts of the day went (great, so-so, neutral, awful, etc) – and this pattern has persisted for more than five years! Even better, he has generally been much more positive about his school days ever since.

Additional exercises for recognizing and dealing with negative self-talk are provided in My Anxious Mind. Another practical book, with useful exercise to help teens cope with negative thoughts and other drivers of anxiety, is The Anxiety Workbook for Teens, by Lisa M. Schab, LCSW.

Types of Anxious Self-Talk  (from My Anxious Mind: A Teen’s Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic)

Book Ends

This is anxious thinking that assumes there are only two possible outcomes of a situation – both at opposite extremes, with no possibilities in the middle. So, the child in the earlier example might be focused on how the play date with her friend needed to be perfect, and if that didn’t happen it would be a disaster.

Binocular Vision

In this unhelpful thought process, your child will “magnify” the effect of something bad – like failing a test – and assume that he won’t be able to go to college as a result. Or he might “shrink” the importance of something good, like all his excellent grades in other classes.

Fortune Telling

This type of self-talk involves your child thinking he or she can predict the future – usually thinking something bad will happen. For example, your child is engaging in fortune telling if she decides to audition for a part in the school play but spends the weeks leading up to the audition thinking “I’m not going to get the part”. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t – but she doesn’t know, and anxious self-talk won’t help the outcome either way.

Mind Reading

In the earlier example, the girl whose friend got angry and went home assumed that she could read her friend’s mind; that the friend thought she wasn’t fun and didn’t like her anymore. This is the mind reading track – and it’s important for the girl to know she isn’t a psychic and her friend will probably be back to play the next day.

Overgeneralization

With overgeneralization, similar to binocular vision, your child will focus on something small (usually bad) to make broad conclusions or sweeping statements – like, if one friend gets angry at me then no one likes me. Or if your son has one bad soccer game, assuming he’s no good and will get cut from the team.

End of the World

With this anxious track, your child is always expecting something terrible to happen. This could be at school or in relationships with friends, but it could also be thinking that every noise around the house is a burglar.

Should-y/Must-y Thinking

Too many thoughts with “shoulds” and “musts” can set the bar for performance and life experience way too high – and make your child anxious and less confident.

Mind Jumps

In this type of unhelpful thinking your child will jump to conclusions (usually negative) without all the facts – like when hearing that he isn’t invited to a party at a friend’s house, your son assumes his friend doesn’t like him. Getting the facts might tell him otherwise, especially if he finds out it’s a family-only affair (for example).

 

Video: Kids and Cancer – What You Need to Know About ALL

Dr Victoria Grandage, Consultant Hematologist at the Children and Young People’s Cancer Service at University College London, describes the signs and symptoms of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, also known as A.L.L. She and the mother of a young former patient, Josh, talk about the treatment and experience of ALL; a cancer that, thankfully, has a high cure rate in children. Click on the picture below to go to the NHS YouTube channel to watch the video.

Editor’s Note: Video Highlights

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or ALL is a form of cancer of the blood
  • For reasons we do not yet fully understand, immature cells in the bone marrow – lymphocytes or lymphoblasts – rapidly build up and crowd out the normal bone marrow cells
  • Some of the symptoms of ALL include:
    • Anemia: tiredness, shortness of breath, lethargy
    • Infections, high fevers, maybe mouth ulcers
    • Bleeding, bruising and rashes
    • Enlargement of some lymph nodes around the neck or in the groin
    • Enlargement of the liver and spleen
    • Bone pain (a prominent symptom)

“When Josh was about two and a half, he went back to crawling rather than walking. He’d say his legs were too sore to walk and he’d crawl around for the first half hour or so (after getting up) and then start walking after that.”                                    Josh’s Mom, Angela

  • child with cancerInitial treatment, before a diagnosis has been confirmed, is supportive to address the above symptoms and can include fluids for hydration, antibiotics, and possibly a blood transfusion
  • Treatment of the leukemia itself involves chemotherapy, a broad term for many different drugs that may be given in tablet form, as injections, or directly into the blood stream as IV infusions
    • Some ALL chemotherapy drugs are also given via a lumbar puncture
  • Side effects of the chemotherapy include nausea, tiredness, and hair loss
  • Treatment begins with acute therapy – for Josh this lasted 9 months – and is followed by maintenance treatment for a couple of years
    • Josh’s total treatment lasted three years
  • The majority of children with ALL go into remission – and 75%-80% of those are cured
  • Further intensified treatment, including a stem cell transplant, may be required for children who do not go into remission