Helping Hands Bakery: Gluten Free Love for Special Needs Families

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:24 am

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 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 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

Last updated on August 29th, 2015 at 03:51 pm

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?

Last updated on August 30th, 2015 at 05:29 pm

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 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: )

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?

It’s Important to Explain Why “That’s Inappropriate!”

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:25 am

I don’t remember the phrase “that’s inappropriate!” from when I was growing up. Maybe it wasn’t used back then – or where I grew up in Canada. Or maybe I was just such a good girl…. Hmmm. But I must admit that it’s been a very handy phrase around our house over the past few years for things like: the use of “stupid,” excessive burping or bottom-waggling, and “toilet” humor – particularly at the dinner table.

Now, at our house, use of “that’s inappropriate” often gets good behavior results all on its own. Nevertheless, a recent incident at my son’s afterschool program highlighted how a great phrase like this can get over-used and become an excuse for not communicating properly with children when we are uncomfortable or don’t know how to handle a situation.

The “Situation”

One afternoon, at the school’s extended-care program, Elliott and his other 4th-grade friends were discussing characters from books like the “Percy Jackson” series. He’s read all the books and has become quite interested in and familiar with Greek Mythology.

Apparently one of the names they had come across was “Oedipus” – a tragic figure who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother (he had been given up for adoption as a baby) – made famous through Freud’s psychoanalytic “Oedipus Complex.” Although the boys didn’t know any of this back-story and only mentioned the name, their aftercare group leader heard their discussion and sharply told the boys: “That’s inappropriate!” Unfortunately her comments ended there – and my son’s confusion and sense of injustice began.

That evening, in relating his story, it was clear that Elliott really wanted to know what, if anything, he had done wrong. “If Oedipus is a character from Greek mythology, why would talking about it be inappropriate?” he asked. I told him that the conversation probably made his group leader – who was young and fairly new in her job – uncomfortable, since a famous doctor from over a hundred years ago created a theory called the “Oedipus Complex” to describe a mental illness when a boy loves his mother too much. “Too much?!” he proclaimed. “But aren’t we supposed to love our mothers?!” …..Hmmm. “Yes,” I said. “But Oedipus married his mother.”

The Outcome

Since Elliott’s response to that was “Ewww,” I concluded that he’s not suffering from the aforementioned complex – despite the fact that, at the age of two, he did say he wanted to marry me! We agreed that there probably wasn’t anything really inappropriate about Oedipus but that it was best not to talk about him at school, since some people clearly found the story disturbing. I don’t know if this was the right approach, but it seemed to satisfy him. And I did base my strategy on two common pieces of parenting advice for “socially-sensitive” subjects (like sex):

  1. Don’t make a big deal about the issue – or your kids will
  2. Communicate openly but don’t give them more information than they need or asked for

Now, I do wish that his aftercare teacher had handled the situation differently, but it did remind me that I also need to be careful of too-frequently reaching for the “that’s inappropriate” crutch. And I got a wonderful opportunity to practice my “sensitive-subject” skills. So I guess that’s ok.

Video Games and their Impact on Child Aggression and Empathy

Last updated on May 30th, 2017 at 10:06 pm

“Can’t I just play one more hour?”

“But there’s nottttthhhhthinnnng else to do!”

“Chill out, Mom. The game is not that violent.”

There’s no doubt that video games are a part of the plugged-in generation’s lifestyle. But are you aware just how much of an impact video games have? Check out these stats:

REALITY CHECK: Did you know that:

  • 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls ages 12 to 17 play computer, web, portable or console games?
  • More than 90 percent of kids play video games 30 minutes a day though boys spend twice as much time playing than girls.
  • In fact, video gaming is so widespread among American kids that studies show that nearly every teen plays games in some way, regardless of gender, age or economic status.

For some kids games are “everything.” That’s why there’s also growing concerns among parents about video games that range from: making kids more aggressive, developing sedentary lifestyles, squelching cognitive development or academic potential. After all, it’s very easy for kids to fall into the habit of spending too much time in front of those controllers.

The truth is too much video game playing isn’t healthy for anyone and can rob our children from experiencing the great outdoors, reading for pleasure, getting enough exercise, doing their homework, as well as learning to get along with others. But don’t rush to judgment too quickly. Over the last decade video game makers have come a long way and playing some of those games actually benefits our kids’ learning and motor dexterity, and even helps keep them in better shape.

Here are solutions to help you wade through those tough choices and know whether playing that video game is actually aiding or hindering your child’s development.

Parenting Solutions for Kids and Video Games

Know Your Child

For my two cents, I don’t think it’s healthy for any kid to play violent video games. But don’t get me wrong, playing one video game is not going to cause irrevocable damage. Just please know that some children are influenced by aggressive content. If they continue playing violent games they will stress more and become more aggressive and less empathic. Research finds that video games may decrease our kids’ capacity to feel for others:

Video Games May Decrease Empathy

A University of Toronto study with 150 fourth and fifth graders found that those spending the most time playing violent video games are also most likely to agree with statements such as: “People with guns or knives are cool,” and “Parents should tell their kids to fight if they have to.” Those same kids are also more likely to disagree with statements such as, “When I’m mean to someone I generally feel bad about it later,” or “I’m happy when my teacher says my friend did a good job.” Many child experts (myself included) are concerned that violent video game playing may desensitize your child to empathy-or that glorious capacity to feel for another.

Kids who are more sensitive, have an aggressive or hyper temperament, or are predisposed to aggression by witnessing or experiencing it are also more likely to be aggressive after playing certain video games.

A review by the University of Michigan of over 85 studies found that “video games increase aggressive thoughts and angry feelings, aggressive behaviors and decrease helping behavior.”

But you don’t need research to prove that to you. Just monitor your child’s behavior closer. If you notice he becomes more wound up or aggressive and you think it’s due to playing that game, the solution is simple: Take away those controllers and stay abreast of late-breaking research so you can make responsible parenting decisions as to what is best for your child. Be clear as to not only which games are off-limits but how long your kid is allowed to play.

Be Selective As to Video Content

Set clear parameters as to which games you will allow your kids to watch. Ratings established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board are prominently labeled on the outside of each video game box. (By the way, game raters include child development experts, retired school principals, teachers, as well as parents). Teach your kid those ratings so there are no questions or arguments.

Video Game Ratings

EC (Early Childhood-Ages 3+): No inappropriate or objectionable material

E (Everyone Ages 6+): May contain minimal violence, some comic mischief or crude language

T (Teen; Ages 13+) May contain violent content, mild or strong language and suggestive themes

M (Mature-Ages 17+) May include more intense violence or language; mature sexual themes

AO (Adult Only-Ages 18+) May include graphic depiction of sex and violence

Watch the Whole Game

Many games appear mild at the lowest skill level but grow increasing violent as the player’s skill increases. So if the box with the rating is missing, watch what your child is playing all the way through to the end or ask your child to give you a demo. These games can appear deceiving.

One of the most popular-sellers, “Grand Theft Auto” begins as a fast-pace racing game, but as a player moves up in the competition (and later into the game) points are earned for knocking a policeman off his motorcycle and running down a pedestrian. You can also hire a prostitute, have sex with her, then knock her out and get the money back. Yes, such games are rated for adults, but kids say they can gain access to them easily and many parents never watch beyond the first scenes, not realizing how inappropriate is the content of following scenes. And a recent study found that nearly 80 percent of E rated games contain some violence.

Take Time for Friends

UCLA studies find though certain video games can increase kids’ IQ, they do so at the expense of learning crucial social skills. So don’t let video game playing detract from being with friends. You may also want to put limits on game playing when friends come over or restrict video game playing all together. Don’t be surprised that once you set limits for video playing in your home that your kid decides to spend more time at his friend’s house. If the friend’s parents are allowing unlimited video playing, it may be time to speak with them and share your own policy. They just may decide to adopt a one-hour limit as well.

Teach Anger Management

A study of 1254 preteens found that a big reason they play video games is to manage their feelings, including anger and stress. In fact, kids who play violent games are more likely to play to release anger. Make sure your child knows healthy ways to release anger such as exercise, healthier eating, journaling upset feelings, talking to someone about their upset thoughts, deep breathing exercises or meditation. Then encourage your child to use those strategies to get their anger out.

The long and the short on video games is that there needs to be more research to determine the long-range impact on our children. Meanwhile, keep a closer eye on your child’s behavior. And remember, you do pay the electric bill and are the parent. It’s okay to say, “NO!”

When A Parent Should Worry

Here are red flags that may signal that video games are a negative influence:

  • Peer replacement: Uses video games as a substitute for friends or being with kids.
  • Addiction: Replaces other entertainment forms; if restricted from playing, behavior flares up; goes through “video game withdrawals” (all your child wants to do). This is such a concern of the American Psychological Association that members are hotly-debating whether video game addiction should be labeled a mental health disorder.
  • Aggressive: Acts out, becomes more impulsive or aggressive after playing.
  • Less caring: Displays less concern or empathy towards others.
  • Grades wane: Homework battles increase, grades or test scores decrease.
  • Sleepless: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (Beware: quick-fire screen images and aggressive content activates the brain and can keep kids awake).
  • Couch potato: Too sedentary a lifestyle, limiting exercise, gaining weight.
  • Credit card: Your credit card shows unexplained charges. Online gaming networks charge to play; video games are easily purchased online using a parent’s credit card



Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions has been released and is now available at

7 Ways to Sneak in Family Fitness

Last updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 11:25 am

We’ve all heard about the alarming rise in obesity in this country, but more widespread is the epidemic of “couch-potatoitis” that affects even those who aren’t overweight. Americans have become increasingly sedentary, spending their free time on things that involve no physical activity: video games, movies and TV, the Internet.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity a day for adults and 60 for kids. But you don’t have to put your family members on a strict fitness regimen to boost their exercise quotient. Here are seven fun ways to get everyone up and moving.

1. Step it up.

Start a campaign to see which family member can take the most steps per day. The recommended number for adults is 10,000, but kids should do twice that amount. Buy everyone a pedometer (you can get them for under $10) and a small notepad to record where they walk and how many steps it took. Compare notes at dinner. You can hold contests or make a guessing game out of it: How many steps does it take to get from the kitchen to the laundry room and back?

2. Play games.

The next time you have a family game night, leave Monopoly on the shelf and grab Twister instead. Games don’t have to be sit-down affairs. Go for a round of Wii boxing or play a machine-dance game.

3. Be a citizen scientist.

Ever go out and record the colors of courting pigeons in your area? Or count the number of squirrels in your neighborhood? Through citizen science programs, your family members can become untrained “researchers” for a number of ongoing science studies, many of which involve outdoor activity. Visit the Science for Citizens website to see which programs are looking for volunteers.

4. Do the moonwalk.

Strolling around the neighborhood during the day is nothing special. Do it at night, and it’s an adventure. After dinner, grab a flashlight and hit the pavement for 30 minutes of walking, talking and stargazing. Be sure to return at least an hour before bedtime or nobody will be able to fall asleep!

5. Get handy.

Find a big project that everyone can participate in. Build a tree house, cut and haul firewood, paint a room, restore a piece of furniture. All that activity – sawing, hammering, scraping, sanding – is good exercise. Just don’t call it work.

6. Play tourist.

See your hometown or nearby city like a visitor would: Take a guided walking tour, visit the zoo, play in the park or go on a hike. Being a tourist always involves walking and physical activity, but it doesn’t have to include travel.

7. Create an obstacle course.

Making an obstacle course indoors or out with household items provides two workouts in one: First, you run around snatching up materials (cushions, shoes, sports equipment, garden tools, etc.), and then you run around the course. Your kids will be too busy laughing to realize how much exercise they’re getting … which is what family fitness should be about.