ON Wed. Feb 9, 2022 MOONFALL is Sensory Friendly at AMC

Last updated on April 4th, 2022 at 07:45 pm

New sensory friendly logoSince 2007, AMC 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. Saturday, MOONFALL is Sensory Friendly at AMC.

Enjoy the magic of the movies in an environment that’s a little quieter and a little brighter. 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“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of MOONFALL on Wednesday Feb. 9th. Tickets are typically discounted 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).

Still to come in February: Sing 2 (Sat. 2/12); Death on the Nile (Wed. 2/23) & Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sat. 2/26)

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Editor’s note: Although MOONFALL 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-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for violence, disaster action, strong language, and some drug use. 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 Bring out Your Kids’ Best Behavior

Last updated on February 26th, 2022 at 08:23 pm

If you’re the parent of a perfect child – one that never whines, argues, lies or misbehaves – this article isn’t for you. But if your child is guilty of any (or all) of the above, don’t despair. He’s just doing what most kids do. So how do you go about changing his negative behavior? Use positive reinforcement, says child behavior expert Noel Janis-Norton, author of Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn (Barrington Stoke Ltd). Here are some tools you can use to bring out the best behavior in your child:

Descriptive Praise

Instead of lecturing your child when he does something wrong, praise him when he does something right. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for many parents, it’s trickier than they think. “Because humans are more inclined to notice what’s wrong in a situation, we are much more aware when there’s a problem,” says Janis-Norton. “It takes hard work and discipline to notice when children are doing things right, such as not whining or not interrupting.”

The key is to notice – and casually comment on – every little thing that your child is doing that is right, just OK or not wrong. “Descriptive praise is a powerful motivator,” says Janis-Norton. “It catches kids doing the right thing and inspires them to think of themselves as considerate and capable people. The rationale is: What you notice, you get more of.”

Traci McPhereson, 34, of Los Angeles, has seen it firsthand: “My 4-year-old twins responded almost instantly to descriptive praise. I’d say, ‘I see you’re not hitting your sister’ even when my son was just sitting on the floor doing nothing. Sometimes I feel insane saying stuff like, ‘You’re not whining and crying!’ or ‘You’re not sucking your thumb!’ but hey, it works! The positive changes in their behavior have been enormous.”

Reflective Listening

When a child is upset, parents instinctively want to defuse the situation by asking her what’s wrong and then giving advice. Or if she explodes with anger, they’ll get angry, too, and yell at her to stop it. In both cases, parents can calm things down simply by showing empathy, using a technique that Janis-Norton calls reflective listening. “That’s when a parent mirrors what the child is feeling. “It helps to deal with the emotion that’s dominating the child and get it resolved.”

It takes discipline on your part to step back and think before you respond, but the payoff is huge. If your child has lost his temper and is throwing things around, you could send him for a time-out and make him even angrier. Or you could take a step back and say, “You must be very angry about something. I’m sorry that you’re so upset. Can you tell me what happened?” Chances are your child would stop for a second to think about how he feels.

It’s often hard for a child to put what she’s feeling into words. “But when you use reflective listening, over time it will teach your child a vocabulary for expressing her feelings so that she doesn’t bottle them up inside and act on them inappropriately,” she says.

Action Replays

The next time your child misbehaves, be kind and rewind. Instead of scolding, repeating, reminding or lecturing, Janis-Norton suggests you try what she calls an action replay. “This is how parents can follow through with the rules they’ve established with their kids,” she says. “It’s simply asking the child to do things again, but this time the right way.”

Randall says dinnertime is the perfect opportunity to utilize action replays in her house. “My daughter, who’s 3, hates to use her fork,” she explains. “Whenever she starts to eat her food with her fingers instead of her fork, I say, ‘Let’s do that again. Show me how you’re supposed to be eating your food.’ Once she uses her fork, I give her descriptive praise, like ‘See, you knew just what to do,’ and then everybody’s smiling again. It’s nice to be able to avoid arguments that may have otherwise erupted.”

“Plus, doing an action replay will boost your child’s self-esteem,” concludes Janis-Norton, “because she’s now proven to herself that she can indeed succeed.”

Heather Randall, 39, of Sun Valley, Calif., most recently used reflective listening when her daughter had a nightmare. “I went into her room and asked her to tell me about it,” she explains. “Instead of responding with, ‘Don’t worry, it was just a dream, go back to sleep,’ I said, ‘You’re so frightened. Nightmares can sure be scary, can’t they?’ She stopped crying, thought about it for a second, and replied, ‘They sure can.’ After that, she nodded right back off to sleep.”

What Happens at Home CAN Cause Problems at School

Last updated on February 26th, 2022 at 08:23 pm

Can your child get into trouble at school for what they do online at home?

While the answer to that question depends on where you live, the most likely answer to this is that a school can discipline a student for off-campus activities in some cases. The majority of U.S. states allow for it, reports the Cyberbullying Research Center. The rationale for this is for when activities off-campus negatively effect on-campus life beyond a reasonable amount.

That means that when a student engages in inappropriate behavior online, such as bullying a student or sending out racy images of another student, the school may have the right to take disciplinary action. While students (and parents) may argue that their actions don’t fall under the school’s province, the courts have decided otherwise.

And this is not just limited to actions taken by students. The same rules apply to staff/faculty as well. In my own county, a teacher was fired for comments made on her blog under an assumed identity that was derogatory towards her students. Her lawyers argued that she had the right to free speech, but a federal appeals court agreed with the school district for firing her, saying that her actions were “so disruptive at school as to tip the Pickering balance in the school district’s favor.” The Pickering balance refers to a 1968 case that determined that an employee’s right to free speech is protected IF it is a matter of public concern AND if the employee’s interest outweighs the public employer’s interest in an efficient workplace.

When my daughter was in sixth grade, I spoke with the vice-principal about this: kids using social media and how it affects the school environment. He told me that a day didn’t go by when he didn’t have students in his office, discussing something that happened online that caused a problem when the students saw each other again.

What makes that even more troublesome is that this was a grade school, going up to sixth grade. At this point, the students are almost certainly no older than 12 years old. This is important because most social media companies out there require that users be at least 13 years old to use their apps in order to avoid violating the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Rule of 1998, more commonly known as COPPA. This act was designed to limit the amount and type of data that companies can data-mine from them. In reality, it is one of the most broken laws we have, as millions of minors use apps that they should not be using.

How to Avoid Problems

Let’s be honest – most children have at least one incident through their school years that requires the school to take corrective action of some kind. One way to minimize that from happening is to follow the T.H.I.N.K. Principle, as recommended by Fifty Shades of Purple against Bullying, an organization designed to help families who have been affected by bullying in any form. The T.H.I.N.K. Principle helps teach everyone to avoid doing or saying something that could cause problems for them later by focusing on five key points:

  • TRUE Is what I’m saying True?
  • HELPFUL Is what I’m saying Helpful to the situation?
  • INSPIRING Is what I’m saying Inspiring to others?
  • NECESSARY Is what I’m saying Necessary?
  • KIND Is what I’m saying Kind?

It always amazes me as to what I see people post online, especially on Twitter. People say things online that they would never do in person, sometimes hiding behind the anonymity of an app. If we can’t honestly answer yes to these five questions, then we probably shouldn’t post it.

Maybe a better way to consider it is that we should dance like nobody else is watching, but post like we expect it to be read in the principal’s office or even open court someday.

Even with ADHD, “Menditation” Helps Calm a Little Boy’s Mind

Last updated on February 26th, 2022 at 08:22 pm

This is the story of a sweet little six year old, I see at a school to enhance executive function skills. He is rather energetic and would like to throw his body on the crash mat (an occupational therapy mat that is about 6×10 ft wide and 4 ft thick filled with beans or foam) two hours at a time. So we always begin with a heavy dose of running, jumping, side hopping and skipping, even though he’d rather we pretend we’re offensive lineman and just smash into one another.

After we’re all sweaty and I’m worn out, ‘cause just in case you’re not reading between the lines, nothing wears him out, he says “Let’s do menditation.” Yes, menditation, that’s not a typo. When he initially used the word, I jumped all over it, “That’s right Johnny we mend our mind and our body with menditation.” Oh my, he plops down, even though we’re on the cement right outside the backdoor at his school. Bam! “I menditate!” he exclaims.

What Johnny loves is rhythm in action. We do the same thing every time and if I skip a step I hear, “No, Dr. Lynne that’s not how we do it.”

We start by placing a small bouncing ball, the kind you find in the 50-cent machines at the grocery store, on our belly buttons. We breathe into our lower bellies until the ball rises or falls off. This teaches Johnny how to take deep diaphragmatic breaths.

There we remain laying down, close our eyes and breathe in our favorite color, we focus on the color as our thoughts fade away. I tell Johnny his body is falling gently into a pool of water or warm beach sand so that his shoulders fall, his hands open and relaxation wafts over him. He knows now not to speak, but in the beginning we would turn over a three-minute egg timer and choose not to speak until the sand has fallen through the timer. In the beginning he used to sit and watch the sand, that was a fine beginning. Your child may meditate by watching the sand time and time again, eventually he put the timer down, and close his eyes just like Johnny did. Three minutes of meditation might be as a still as a child with ADHD has ever been outside of sleep, so go with it, choose not to talk and just lay there breathing deeply.

When Johnny stirs or shows signs of being bored with the activity we sit up cross-legged and breathe out in a series of long “Ommm”s. This extends the period of relaxation while still providing the child with enough novelty to feel stimulated. After a few “Ommm”s, we stand and drop into a downward dog pose. We slowly rise, salute the sun with our hands over head, our hands fall gently to our sides and we are done. The whole process takes about 15 minutes now, in the beginning four minutes was all Johnny could tolerate.

When Johnny’s brain and body have calmed we them work on our “brain skills” for the day. Sometimes we bounce a large beach ball back and forth each stating one step toward being a good listener, kind friend or attentive student. Whatever the skill, engaging the cerebellum while we state the skill seems to help.

As an example:

Lynne: I choose not to talk.

Johnny: I choose to open my ears.

Lynne: I choose to look into the eyes of my teacher.

Johnny: I choose to watch her as she speaks.

Lynne: I think about the words she is saying.

Johnny: I ignore other noises.

Lynne: I keep my body still on my chair.

Johnny: I keep my hands folded on my desk.

Lynne: Now I am ready to do what my teacher asks.

Johnny: When I listen I learn.

There you have it. Boys can meditate, even boys with severe ADHD like Johnny. First we get out our energy. Then we meditate. Then we learn and even practice a skill.

The brain is a fabulous and miraculous organ. It is primed to learn and grow. All it needs from us as parents and teachers, is to maximize the opportunity. ADHD or not, meditation helps calm the brain and open opportunities for learning. Give it a try. If you also wish for music. Lori Lite’s mp3s can be found on itunes or at her site http://stressfreekids.com.

I am calmer now for writing this story. Hope you and your children will give meditation a try.

Mend, heal, learn.

Shame Nation: Choose To Be Part Of “The Solution”

Last updated on February 26th, 2022 at 08:22 pm

It was July 2017 and I was at home when I got a call from my niece. She and my sister were driving somewhere, and I remember this particular call because it went something like this…

    • “Hey Aunt Stef…you’ve got to check this out…it’s the funniest thing…You remember when we did that show Legally Blonde? Well there’s this group of young kids, and I guess they did a performance of it too, only their teacher video-taped it and posted it on YouTube and oh my G-d Aunt Stef, it’s AWFUL. I mean it’s so bad it’s funny. You’ve got to watch it. Here let me text you some of it.”
    • No that’s ok babe, I don’t need to see it”…
    • “Really Aunt Stef, it’s sooo funny, mom watched it and she thought it was hysterical. I can’t believe their teacher posted this. It went viral so fast it’s incredible. Look I know it’s really long but you can fast forward through some of it, I’ll tell you where the funniest parts are”.
    • Honey…how old are these kids?”
    • “I don’t know…I think they’re in middle school… Look Aunt Stef I’ve got to go, I just texted it to you…watch it later and tell me what you think. You’re going to die laughing…. I love you!!”

I didn’t check it out. But I also didn’t tell her not to. And that bothered me. Something felt really wrong with this video. I was worried about those little kids…I was worried FOR those little kids. How old were they. How long had this been going viral, and how many people around the world were laughing at them. I knew for a fact my niece and her friends at school were…and still, even though it bothered me…I said and did nothing.

When I look back at it now, I think it’s because my niece and her friends weren’t bad or mean kids. Actually quite the opposite. My niece is a gifted and talented young actress studying at a high school for the arts, and I am incredibly proud of her, but for a very different reason. I can say without a doubt that she is one of the nicest, kindest people I know, and she would NEVER deliberately hurt someone! In fact, she feels things very deeply. Yet she missed this! She didn’t see the pain she and the other people watching and laughing over that video were causing.

How the heck did we get here??? To this place where we can sit in a room and make fun of someone who is not there to defend themselves and have no sense at all that our laughing at them could be hurting them.

That is EXACTLY what nationally recognized speaker, parent advocate, and Internet safety expert Sue Scheff explores with the help of journalist, YA author, and blogger Melissa Schorr in her newly released book Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate. Sue knows firsthand how devastating cyber shaming can be. In 2006 she won a landmark case for Internet defamation and invasion of privacy. Now a leader in the movement against cyber bullying, she focuses on teaching others how to avoid virtual cruelty and how to effectively react when it occurs.

According to Shame Nation, psychologists point to several factors that have allowed online cruelty like this to flourish:

  • the anonymity of the Internet;
  • the distance, or lack of face-to-face contact, with a victim,
  • mob mentality run amok,
  • lack of gatekeepers and
  • lack of consequences.

Taken together these factors have become known as the “online disinhibition effect”, the notion that people behave far differently online than they would in reality.

But it’s more than that. It’s also due in part to our failure to instill empathy in young people, and Shame Nation explores this as well. Parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, EdD, author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World makes a strong case that a decrease in basic empathy has created a culture ripe for online attacks. The inability to see those on the other side of the computer screen as people deserving of our compassion is a huge driver. Instead of feeling sad for their pain, we make it funny. We sit at home and watch the “People of Walmart” and laugh as people are publicly shamed. You don’t see or feel the hurt…it’s so far removed, it’s not “real”.

That was what happened with the middle-school performance of Legally Blonde. My niece missed the ball on this one. There was an opportunity to be an “Upstander” …not just a bystander…or worse, add to the teasing and humiliation, and she missed it. But whose fault was that really? If I’m being honest, it was mine

I’m the adult, I set the example. This means I and the other adults in her life need to know what’s happening out in the cyber-world so I can educate her. So she knows what to look for to avoid becoming a victim…or inadvertently a bully.

And while we’re on this subject, I know some of you may be thinking “lock her in her room and for anything other than schoolwork, shut off the internet and all those damn devices” is the answer. But while it may sound good on paper, realistically, I can’t tell her to stay off-line. No-one can. For better or worse, this is a connected world we live in…all of us… kids and adults. Going off the grid is just not an option – and it won’t save her. As Nancy Jo Sales describes in her book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, “I spoke to girls who said, “Social media is destroying our lives. But we can’t go off it, because then we’d have no life.”

So my niece is on the grid (and I am guessing if you are reading this, so is a child you care about), and she is not getting off any time soon – not as a child, and realistically not as an adult. But I can help her. I can:

  • Teach her how to avoid trouble: give her guidelines for online sharing; show her how to protect her online identify and run regular checkups to make sure no-one is damaging her reputation
  • Teach her how to control a disaster if things go wrong: how to document, block, report and identify someone trying to harm her.
  • Teach her how to get support: to take advantage of resources like HeartMob and Crisis Text Line and Online SOS…and know there are systems in place providing help, from simple letters of support to full-on legal aid, if she finds herself a victim of a digital attack.

Because that’s what I learned from Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate.

And finally, I can Teach her to be an Upstander. I can explain what that word is, why it’s important to stand-up for someone else. And then I can apologize for not doing that…and for failing her and those kids. And that’s when I realized if I didn’t do something right at that moment, I would be failing them both again.

So I picked up the phone and called her. And it was a difficult call. Because while it was about something she had done, in truth, it was more about what I hadn’t done. And my very sensitive niece brought up an excellent argument – one I’m betting every one of you will have to deal with at some point, because it’s really fundamental to the Upstander / bystander question:

  • “But Aunt Stef, I don’t think there’s really anything I could have done…there were millions of people…that post went viral”.

She had a point – but then again, that’s the battle every single person faces when they’re being bullied online. They’re one person and it feels like they’re fighting the world. That’s what made this book so insightful, and so powerful, at least for me. What do you do…what can you do…if you come up against this situation… Whether you are living this or just witnessing this. This was my answer…

“Well, hon, what do you think about this”…and I gave her an example I had read (thank you Sue) about a heavy-set middle-aged man who was being publicly humiliated. All he did was dance at a local bar with friends, but someone captured it on video and posted it and the rude comments started coming in from all over. Until two women in LA created a #FindDancingMan twitter campaign, said “I’d dance with that guy”, and created a movement that turned the shaming into a party of compassion.

    • “I’m not saying you have to create a “dancing man campaign” but do you think you and your friends could come up with something creative that might make those kids feel even just a little bit better?”

 

    • I don’t know…maybe”.

And just like that, this HUGE weight came off my shoulders. She didn’t have to have an answer… that wasn’t the magic pill here. She’s a brilliant kid with a big heart and this hit home. I stood up for those kids…and for her …and I think when she has an opportunity, she will stand up for someone else.

It has to start somewhere… That day, it started with us…