The Lego Batman Movie is Sensory Friendly, Tomorrow at AMC

Last updated on February 12th, 2017 at 11:43 pm

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 February: Rings (Tues, 2/14), Rock Dog (Sat, 2/25) and Fist Fight (Tues, 2/28)


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 Support Your Child’s Development Through Boredom

Last updated on July 13th, 2017 at 12:20 am

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.


How to Help Your Underweight Teen Boy Get Healthy

Last updated on February 20th, 2017 at 07:51 pm

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.

Child Health & Safety News: Wk 6 “Nut Allergy Travelers vs Airlines”

Last updated on February 20th, 2017 at 07:51 pm

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Safety News: Melbourne mum tells of daughter’s gang rape and suicide to warn bullying ‘costs lives’

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 15 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety Headline of the Week:
Travelers With Nut Allergies Clash With Airlines

Your Child’s Sick: Do You Know if They Need Antibiotics?

Last updated on April 26th, 2018 at 03:29 pm

Antibiotics are wonderful things. Since penicillin was first found and produced in the early twentieth century and used during the Second World War, it and related antibiotics have saved countless lives and cured many an illness quickly.

Antibiotics work by inhibiting certain growth factors and processes needed by bacteria to reproduce and flourish. As with many significant discoveries, penicillin was found purely by luck when an early twentieth century biochemist was trying to grow Staphylococcus (a type of bacteria). He opened the Petri dish to find that the growth of Staphylococcus seemed to be inhibited by a white substance growing next to it; that substance was studied and named “penicillin”, and indeed, did prevent growth of bacteria. The huge toll of injured and dying soldiers during the Second World War stimulated a renewed interest in the now decades old “antibiotic”, and it was pressed into service on battle fields around the world. Its successful wartime use spread to the private sector. Although initially used to help cure life threatening illnesses, it began to be used for even minor illnesses that would begin a trend that is still going on today.

The number of antibiotics in use today and their complexity is overwhelming and new ones are produced in ever increasing numbers. The primary reasons for producing a new antibiotic are to be able to treat an increasing number of bacteria known to be producing new diseases in people. Also the old antibiotics become outmoded when the existing bacteria develop very intricate mechanisms to shield themselves from the effects of the antibiotics (resistance).

Antibiotics are ineffective against viral infections, but many times well meaning health care professionals put them into use to possibly stop the advance of the viral illness (or secondary bacterial infections). Sometimes, antibiotics are dispensed at the insistent request of the parents who, in a misguided attempt to help “cure” their child of a viral illness, wish to use the latest antibiotic. At least in Pediatrics, an overwhelming majority of illness is due to viral infections and therefore speaks against the use of an antibiotic.

When antibiotics are used indiscriminately and in large amounts the following things can occur:

  1. More “allergic reactions” because of the widespread use of these drugs
  2. Increasing numbers of bacteria are developing resistances to these new and old drugs (leaving very few effective antibiotics for some very dangerous bacteria)

This is a trend that will probably continue unless health care professionals make this information available to the public. It is important to note, as new antibiotics are developed, the cost of delivering these to the portion of the population that really need them becomes prohibitive and adds tremendously to the cost of health care in this country. The process of getting a new medicine through the testing and the FDA is both very time consuming and expensive

Most of your child’s illnesses will be viral in origin and will not need an antibiotic. In addition, some routine illnesses that children get, such as ear infections, have been scrutinized carefully by researchers and their findings suggest that antibiotics may not be needed in mild ear infections. In fact, there are times that even severe ear infections can be followed carefully without the use of antibiotics as long as the pain is controlled. Every attempt is being made to limit the use of all antibiotics in general. There are certainly situations that require an antibiotic such as strep throat and certain types of pneumonia, but your doctor will discuss the options at the time of your visit.

Think both locally and globally when it comes to the use of antibiotics: it will help your child and children all over the world.


Editor’s Note: with temperatures fluctuating wildly, (often by as much as 20 degrees on a day to day basis), it’s no wonder we’re seeing sniffles, sneezes and coughs that just won’t go away. With the questions on every parent’s mind: “is this a cold? maybe the flu? should I take them to the doctor? do I need to keep them home from school an extra day”, it seemed the perfect time to re-share this Dr Joe classic from 2010 (Antibiotics…Not Always the Answer).

How Much Water Should My Child Drink to Be Healthy?

Last updated on June 6th, 2017 at 11:58 pm

True or false? More than 50% of children in a Harvard study were not adequately hydrated? True!

little girl with water bottle“More than half of children and teenagers in the United States might not be properly hydrated, according to a nationwide study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. In fact, 54.5% of the students in the study had urine concentrations that qualified them as below their minimum daily water intake.” In fact, boys are less likely to drink enough fluid when compared with girls. And just an 8 fluid ounce daily increase in water intake was enough to significantly lower risk of inadequate hydration.

Below you will find some ideas to help your children stay hydrated. In addition, print out the #KidsEatClean Badge and let your child pass it out to classmates – or if they’re involved in group activities, to team members – so everyone is mindful of the fact that we need to sip all day long.

Get the Scoop on H2O

kids eat clean badgeDetermining children’s hydration needs is based on the individual. There is no perfect calculation or amount of water prescribed for every child. Generally speaking, one ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day is prudent, but a spot difficult to calculate exactly because intake from fruits and vegetables as well as wet foods such as yogurt figure into the calculation.

  • Generally, there is a minimum fluid intake set at 50 ounces on average per day for children ages 5-12.
  • If your child is an athlete or moves a lot, he may need up to 25% more water per day than the average child.
  • Sipping clean water throughout the day, averaging 3-4 ounces per hour in a 12 hour day is generally a good practice.


bloom cover - 140x208Written for real parents with anxious, angry and over-the-top kids, Bloom is a brain-based approach to parenting all children. Taking its lead from neuroscience and best practices in early childhood mental health, it offers parents, teachers and care providers the words, thoughts and actions to raise calm, confident children, while reducing the need for consequences and punishment. The first book of its kind, it provides pages full of printable mantras you can carry with you, hang on your fridge or use in your classroom to raise emotionally competent kids. Stop second-guessing the way you handle misbehaviors, and learn why they occur in the first place. Bloom is available at