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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.

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).

 

AMC is Screening Rings Sensory Friendly Tomorrow Evening

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Rings, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

As always, 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.

Does 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“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Rings tomorrow, Tuesday, February 14th at 7pm (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 February: Rock Dog (Sat, 2/25), Fist Fight (Tues, 2/28)

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Editor’s note: Although Rings has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence/terror, thematic elements, some sexuality and brief drug material. 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 family.

How to Support Your Child’s Development Through Boredom

We have heard the stories in the news all the time—some say kids are “overscheduled” and need more time to play. On the other side, parents of the “tiger mom” variety tend to want their children constantly in activities and lessons to encourage their growth and development.

overscheduled or boredomUntil recently, the one voice you hadn’t heard on this topic was the one of science. Child development researchers are now trying to delve into this topic and understand the relationship between structured activities and children’s development.

In one of the first studies of this kind, researchers at The University of Colorado (CU) looked at the connection between how kids spend their time (structured vs. unstructured activities) and the development of executive function.

As you may know, executive function is one of the key regulatory skills that develops during childhood and is crucial to children’s success and well-being later in life. Executive function includes things like planning ahead, goal-oriented behavior, suppression of unwanted thoughts or behaviors, and delaying gratification. These skills have been shown to predict children’s academic and social outcomes years down the road. Based on this, you can see why researchers (and parents) are interested in understanding anything related to how executive function develops.

In the recent CU study, scientists asked 6-year-olds to record their daily activities for a week. They then categorized these activities as “structured” or “unstructured” according to a classification system previously developed by economists.

For example, activities such as sports lessons, religious activities, and chores were classified as “structured activities.” In contrast, activities such as free play (alone or with others), sightseeing, or media use were considered “less structured.” Routine activities such as going to school, sleeping, or eating were not classified in either category.

The researchers then analyzed the relationship between children’s time activities and their level of executive function. The results showed that there was, indeed, a correlation between these factors. The more time children spent in structured activities, the lower their scores on the assessment of executive function. In contrast, the more time children spent in less structured activities, the higher their assessment of executive function.

First of all, it’s important to note that this is just one study in what I hope will be a whole line of research in this area. In social science, you cannot base recommendations on one study.

Secondly, this study was small (70 children) and was only correlational, meaning we do not know if structured vs. unstructured activities cause a change in executive function or if there is something else going on here. What this study does show is that there is some relationship between these factors that deserves further study.

Boredom and child developmentWhat does this really mean? How could unstructured activities help in the development of executive function? Although researchers do not know for sure, it seems like this may be related to the research on boredom. More and more studies are showing how “boredom” or what adults would simply call “downtime” is related to a variety of positive mental states.

For example, boredom is likely associated with people being more creative. Boredom also allows for the development of new interests, self-reflection and goal-setting.

Additionally, some would argue that a lack of downtime or time for boredom allows kids to become so accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle that anything less-than-exciting seems uninteresting. One philosopher put it this way,

“A life too full of excitement is an exhausting life, in which continually stronger stimuli are needed to give the thrill that has come to be thought an essential part of pleasure.”

All of this is definitely food for thought in terms of parenting. While we do not know for sure how these factors impact each other, it looks like there is some relationship between level of structured activities and the development of executive function. This is something to consider as you plan activities for your child.

The next time your child says, “I’m bored” consider looking at it as an opportunity to support their creativity and problem-solving abilities.

 

The Lego Batman Movie is 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.

lego batman movie 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 The Lego Batman Movie on Saturday, February 11th 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 FebruaryRings (Tues, 2/14), Rock Dog (Sat, 2/25) and Fist Fight (Tues, 2/28)

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Editor’s note: Although The Lego Batman Movie 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 some rude humor and some action. 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.

How to Help Your Underweight Teen Boy Get Healthy

Are you worried about being underweight? Or perhaps your friends or parents have mentioned it.

You may have friends who are taller, heavier and more muscular than you. We all grow and develop at different rates. Lots of boys don’t reach their adult weight until they are over 18.

You can check whether you’re a healthy weight by using our healthy weight calculator. If you are underweight, your GP (*pediatrician), practice nurse or school nurse can give you help and advice.

underweight-teen-boysThere may be an underlying medical cause for your low weight that needs to be checked out. Gut problems like coeliac disease, for example, can make people lose weight.

Read about other medical problems that can cause unexplained weight loss.

Maybe you’re having mental or emotional problems that have affected your eating habits. Depression and anxiety, for example, can both make you lose weight.

Or perhaps you haven’t been eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Whatever the situation, if you’re concerned about your weight or your diet, the best thing to do is tell someone. There’s a lot that can be done to help.

Why Being a Healthy Weight Matters

Being underweight can leave you with no energy and affect your immune system, meaning you could pick up colds and other infections more easily.

If your diet is poor, you may also be missing out on vitamins and minerals you need to grow and develop.

The good news is that, with a little help, you can gradually gain weight until you get to a weight that is healthy for your height and age.

Healthy Diet for Teen Boys

It’s important that you gain weight in a healthy way. Try not to go for chocolate, cakes, fizzy drinks and other foods high in fat or sugar. Eating these types of foods too often is likely to increase your body fat, rather than building strong bones and muscles.

Instead, aim to eat three meals and three snacks a day. You should be having:

  • Plenty of starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes (choose wholegrain versions or potatoes with their skins on if you can)
  • At least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
  • Some milk and dairy food

We all need some fat in our diet, but it’s important to keep an eye on the amount and type of fat we’re eating. Try to cut down on the amount of saturated fat you eat  that’s the fat found in sausages, salami, pies, hard cheese, cream, butter, cakes and biscuits.

Cut down on sugary foods, such as chocolate, sweets, cakes, biscuits and sugary soft drinks.

Strength training can also help to build strong muscles and bones. Find out how to increase your strength and flexibility.

Boost Your Calories

To bump up your energy intake in a healthy way, try these tips:

  • Make time for breakfast. Try porridge made with semi-skimmed (*1% or 2% milk) milk and sprinkle some chopped fruit or raisins on top. Or how about eggs on toast with some grilled tomatoes or mushrooms?
  • Crumpets, bananas or unsalted nuts all make good snacks.
  • A jacket (*baked) potato with baked beans or tuna on top makes a healthy lunch and contains both energy-rich carbohydrates and protein. Adding cheese will provide calcium.
  • Try yoghurts and milky puddings, such as rice pudding.
  • Have a healthy snack before bed. Cereal with semi-skimmed milk is a good choice (choose a cereal that is lower in sugar), or some toast.

Find out how many calories the average teenager needs.

You should also make sure you get plenty of sleep. About 8 to 10 hours a day is ideal for teenagers. Avoid smoking and alcohol.

Teen Boys and Eating Disorders

Sometimes there can be other issues that stop you from eating a healthy diet.

If you feel anxious when you think about food, or you feel you may be using control over food to help you cope with stress, low self-esteem or a difficult time at home or school, then you may have an eating disorder.

People with eating disorders often say they feel that their eating habits help them keep control of their lives. But that’s an illusion: it’s not them who are in control, but the eating disorder.

If you feel you may have an eating disorder, help is available.

Tell someone: ideally your parents, guardians or another adult you trust.

The eating disorders charity b-eat has a Youthline, where you can get advice.

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





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