November’s Sensory Friendly Movie Screening

Last updated on November 14th, 2010 at 06:52 pm

Sensory Friendly Films logoWe first heard about “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” this past January, in a guest post by Rosie Reeves. For those of you not familiar with this fantastic program, 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.), and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing.

To borrow from Rosie’s post: “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”.Sensory Friendly Films2

This month Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 will be screened on November 20th. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this program.

Coming December 11th: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.


Editor’s note: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: part 1 is rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality. Please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description to determine if this movie is right for you and your child.

PMD 1999–2003: Learning to Walk

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:40 pm

The PedREST storyAs I mentioned in my last PedREST post …by 1999 we had the first set of engineered “concept drawings” of our Pediatric Emergency Transport System – a.k.a. PETS. Our company was in what could probably best be described as a “toddler phase” – we were learning to walk before we could run – and walking meant refining our drawings and “officially” beginning the patent process.

I won’t bore you with all the details of the process we went through to create our patent (although for any of you starting this process, I’m happy to answer questions). Suffice it to say that we did a “prior art” search to make sure we wouldn’t overlap anyone else’s concepts and then worked with our attorneys to draft a patent that described in detail why the EMS community needed the PETS to save kids’ lives. There were multiple changes – both to the document and to the attorneys we were working with – but in the end, by September of 2002, Pediatric Medical had filed for its first U.S. patent. 🙂

By the end of the year things had started to pick up speed. A talented graphic artist / friend of mine by the name of Pete McKay created some logo options for us:

PETS logo 1PETS logo 3PETS logo 2

I met with a close family friend who was interested in helping us launch the product. With her on our side there was no way this couldn’t succeed. In business, she was a force to be reckoned with… to me, she was a mentor and a friend. …AND she wanted to help!

I emailed her our logo options and she responded – she HATED the name. Unbelievably frustrating (we loved it)…but unfortunately she had a point. People would either pronounce our name as “pets” or “peets” and neither really worked to our advantage or conveyed anything at all to do with child health or safety. I honestly couldn’t believe I had missed that, but really it’s very easy to get tunnel vision when you focus so intensely on something like this. Sometimes you need an objective opinion to see the forest through the trees.

So, point taken – lesson learned – and off we went to find a new name. By January of 2003 we had it: PedREST, a Pediatric Rapid Emergency Transport System AND a place for Peds patients to REST). It said it all and we were off and running…

Until next time…

Top 5 Holiday Tips for Children with Special Needs

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:40 pm

All kids can get overstimulated from time to time. The holidays, with its bright lights, loud sounds and crowds can be particularly tough on kids. Children with special needs may have even more difficulty during the celebratory season. Dawn Grosvenor, mom to a special needs teen and founder of Hopelights magazine, has written a wonderful article to help families with special needs children manage the holidays with minimal upset and hopefully, maximum joy:

HOPELights™ Holiday Top Five Tips for Children With Special Needs

Studies show there are over 10 million families in the U.S. that have children with special needs who experience some form sensory processing dysfunction, making all children special this holiday season

Holidays are a busy time of year, full of activity from people to places that can easily over stimulate Holidays can be fun...not scarychildren, especially those with special needs. A survey by the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found 10.2 million U.S. children in the have special healthcare needs, or 14 percent of all U.S. children. More than one-fifth of U.S. households with children have at least one child with special needs. HOPELights holiday tips are designed to aid the families that love and support special needs children—having guidance on high-sensory events like the upcoming holidays are critical.

“This means millions of children in the United States have some sort of challenge with things like loud noises, environmental or event transitions, crowds, sensitivities to taste or touch just to name a few,” said Dawn Grosvenor, founder of HOPELight Media. “Which is why putting special emphasis on how to help children and their families through the holiday hustle and bustle is critical in ensuring they have a positive, healthy and loving interaction with friends and family. Holidays should be cherished and foster positive memories that last a lifetime. ”

HopeLights Holiday Top Five Tips for Children With Special Needs:

1. Make a Visual Schedule – Many children are used to routine, structure and consistency, but much of this is lost during the holidays. If your child can see it coming for days, hours and minutes before it happens, transitions from place to place or even events in your own home will be more welcoming to your child.

2. Identify “Anchor” or Transition Items – Most children have an attachment to a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, toy or other item. Make sure your child has his or her favorites nearby especially if you are traveling. Let them carry a special bag of their favorite goodies. It is a little piece of home and helps them feel grounded and secure.

3. Establish Warm Up Times and Personal Space Parameters – Holidays bring in visitors or not-so-familiar faces that your child only sees once or twice a year. It is important these visitors give your child time to warm up and re-establish a connection. Great Aunt Betty may not be familiar right away, but she will be rewarded with a warm interaction 20 minutes or so into her visit if Aunt Betty and your child are prepared for the event.

4. Create and Communicate Code Words – Special needs or not, every child hits a melting point. Too many people, too many presents, skipping or moving a nap time can lead to the uncomfortable fit. As a parent, we can sometimes see these coming or at the very least we can intervene at the beginning. Talk with your family members before everyone gets together and establish a “Code Word” and ask them to help when you say this word or phrase. It can be as simple as “Houston, we have a problem.” By establishing code words with friends and relatives, this lets them know when you and your child need a private moment. You will be amazed how well they understand and cooperate without hurt feelings and it takes the pressure off of you.

5. Set Your Own Expectations in Advance – As parents we sometimes expect too much of ourselves, and put even more expectations on the “perfect” holiday. Remember you are only one person with only one goal, to love your children and ensure they are safe and happy this holiday season. Create your own To-Do lists and schedule plenty of time between events and preparation of visitors so you are not rushing through the holiday, but savoring each moment.

In honor of this holiday season, for every new annual HOPELights Children’s Activity Magazine subscription for children with special needs purchased in December 2010, a new subscription will be donated to a child in pediatric hospice for the coming 2011 calendar year. [See related announcement at: GIVING].

Team up With Schools to Fight Flu Season

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Kids going to schoolThis cold and flu season, kids are at risk of picking up more than just math and reading skills at school. The good news is that many school districts have been preparing for a potential pandemic influenza outbreak for a few years, so they’re ready to tackle this year’s challenging season, says Dr. Lani Wheeler, executive member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health. “Most schools and school districts are doing a great job.”

But as a proactive parent, you can look for specific things — and take some vitally important steps — to ensure your child’s school is in the best possible position to keep cold and flu bouts to a minimum this year.

What to Look for

  • School bathrooms should be well-supplied with plenty of soap and paper towels. A recent study found that washing hands without soap is virtually worthless in terms of fighting germs. Completely drying hands is also vital, as viruses are more apt to survive and multiply on a moist surface.
  • Every classroom for young children such as preschoolers or kindergartners should have a sink so they can wash hands frequently. Critical hand washing times include before and after group play, outdoor play, snack time, lunch and bathroom breaks. If a classroom does not have a sink, the school should provide plenty of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers should be stored beyond the reach of young children because ingesting this substance could cause serious side effects.
  • All students’ schedules should allow plenty of time to wash hands on a regular basis, especially before lunch.
  • Young children, and even middle school and high school students, should be reminded often by teachers to cough and sneeze into the inside of their elbow. This will help prevent the spread of colds and flu to other kids.

What You Can Do

  • Attend the next Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting and share your concerns. Use this as an opportunity to connect with other parents and organize an email list of parents interested in health-related topics. Appoint one parent as the liaison between your group and the school nurse so information can be passed along quickly and efficiently.
  • Check with your child’s teacher to see if there is anything she needs. For example, the limited school budget may create a shortage of soap and germ-fighting supplies. To help, organize a fundraiser to pay for supplies. When it comes to their children’s health, parents are almost always happy to assist.
  • If you have the financial means, take a supply of extra strong tissues to your child’s classroom. When kids blow their noses, it’s important that the tissue doesn’t rip apart. A broken tissue could allow germs from the nose to transfer to the hands. Once on the hands, germs can easily spread in a highly contagious environment such as a classroom.
  • Confirm that your child’s teacher and school have updated contact information for your family, including email addresses; home, work and cell phone numbers; and a backup emergency contact. In the event of a flu outbreak or school closure, you may need to be reached during the day. It’s important that your child’s school has all relevant information, especially if you have recently changed jobs or moved.
  • Check your school’s Web site for updates and information on flu-related news. Make sure you are always up to date on communications from the school.
  • Gather a list of school faculty contact numbers and resources. If an outbreak occurs, you won’t have time to scramble for contact information.
  • Make sure your child’s school has an action plan in place and is prepared for an outbreak. The school nurse or principal can typically answer your questions or concerns. Schools should communicate with the local health department to determine school closures and be prepared to separate students and staff members who exhibit flu-like symptoms while at school. If no plan is in place, contact your local health department so its representatives can work with your school nurse and administrators.
  • Talk personally to your child’s teacher and make sure he or she is prepared to provide parents with at-home assignments for students who have to miss more than a few days of school.

Every school is bound to be hit by one or more outbreaks, but being prepared and working closely with teachers and administrators can help make this flu season go by with as few sniffles as possible.

PMD 1998-1999: Pinocchio becomes a “Real Boy”

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 12:42 pm

I mentioned in my last post that fairly early on we realized we would need better drawings than Suzanne’s concept sketches – we needed to find The PedREST storysomeone who could take her ideas and turn them into something that could be built. In my mind this meant engineering drawings…trouble was, I didn’t know any engineers. So…where to start???

It is here that I’m proud to say I made one of the best decisions I’ve made in the 15+ years since this whole thing started. I say this because I’ve also made a lot of dumb ones…and I’ll share those with you too…but for now I’m going to share what turned out to be a terrific path for us to follow.

It’s July of 1998 and we need engineers…I’m thinking we should probably be looking for someone with a bio-engineering background (given the nature of our device)…oh, and did I mention we have very limited (think non-existent) funds? So I’m racking my brains (and questioning everyone I know) and it occurs to me that we have a great engineering school right here in Atlanta: Georgia Tech. I checked online and found the contact information for their engineering program and sent them a note:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a young entrepreneur who is working with a friend /colleague on a medical device that we believe will significantly impact the emergency medical care environment. As such, I am writing to request your assistance.

Having begun our patent process, we would like to secure engineering drawings of our concept and materials recommendations. As we are just starting out and operating on a “shoestring” budget, we were interested in obtaining the services of a talented graduate student. We are of course prepared to compensate him /her for time spent preparing the drafts, evaluating materials, etc. We were hoping this might be a project that could be of some interest to one of your students, and would gratefully appreciate if you could recommend one of your “best and brightest;” someone who might be willing to accept modest fees in exchange for “interesting resume material” (after the patent is secure).

Thank you in advance for any advice and/or assistance you can lend in this endeavor. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail or phone at your convenience.

Not long after I was contacted by Dr. Wepfer from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering with suggestions of professors to contact who might have students with similar interests. After speaking with several of them I had received enough student recommendations to begin interviewing and not long after that we hired two of them.

I know that to some of you this may not have been the most exciting part of Pediatric Medical’s story…but for anyone undergoing the “invention” process, finding folks to work with that are both skilled and affordable can end a project before it even begins. Working with smart, creative grad students can be a win for both of you – not only can you access the talent you need to bring your ideas to life but in turn you can provide them with the one thing students usually lack when they enter the workforce…“real world experience”.

By the summer of 1999 we had our first set of drawings completed, PMD had incorporated and we had a new set of attorneys ready to help us get our patent out. Our chief engineer soon graduated and went on to work at JPL – a NASA research and design centers specializing in the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft (thank you Wikipedia). We continued to work with him for a number of years, continuously innovating and improving on our original concepts. Looking back though, it was the events of that summer and the help of our “rocket scientist”…that finally brought Pediatric Medical to life.

Until next time…thanks for listening…