Make Easter Happy and Healthy for Special Needs Kids

Easter is almost here, and like Halloween and Valentine’s Day the holiday celebrations Easter egg sachetinvolve lots and lots of candy. Many special needs children, along with many typical children, are severely affected by the synthetic dyes, preservatives, sweeteners and other artificial ingredients in treats. Simply reading labels and choosing all-natural products before filling eggs and baskets may just let your family have a more enjoyable holiday, and the habit of reading labels can improve the quality of life for you and your special needs child.

The non-profit Feingold Association has tons of information on medical studies that prove the link between these additives and increased hyperactivity, inability to focus and other symptoms. The site also offers a program and diet to eliminate these ingredients. Conditions that have improved on the Feingold diet include ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD, MBD, TS and many more. Adopting the Faingold diet, or your own modified version of avoiding these ingredients, may not even mean a major overhaul of your family’s eating. According to the Feingold Association website, “Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Flavored Puffs are acceptable, but the orange colored Cheetos (with artificial coloring) are not. Duncan Hines makes a chocolate cake mix with artificial flavor – and another version without.”

So many caregivers of special needs children are searching for that magic pill, which may just be in the form of a shopping cart.

There are many stores that offer a wide selection of all-natural candy and treats, as well as items that are gluten-free, sugar-free and organic:

  • Whole Foods – Find your local Whole Foods here. (Whole Foods has partnered with Streit’s to offer all-natural Hannukah foods, fyi)
  • Trader Joe’s – Find your local location of Trader Joe’s here.
  • Many all-natural items are also available online, such as these All-Natural Jelly Belly jelly beans, which are also gluten-free, dairy free and kosher.

Know of a great store or product? Email me or share it with us all as a comment!

This Saturday 3/26 at AMC, KING RICHARD is Sensory Friendly

Last updated on August 5th, 2022 at 10:26 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, King Richard 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 King Richard on Saturday March 26th. 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).

Coming Soon: Encanto and Sing 2 (check with your local SFF theatre for schedule)

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Editor’s note: Although King Richard 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 some violence, strong language, a sexual reference and brief drug references. 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.

My Child Has a Toothache, Help!

Last updated on April 4th, 2022 at 07:21 pm

It’s very difficult when your child is in any pain and toothaches can happen in your little ones. Let’s start by addressing what could be the cause of their toothache: their diet. If your children eat excessive candy or drink a lot of soft drinks, they may experience decay or cavities. The bacteria that live in your child’s mouth breaks sugar down into acid which then causes erosion of their teeth. Ask your child to point out where the pain is. Other causes could include mouth ulcers or swollen gums a cold sore which can affect inner mouth areas. Look inside your child’s mouth for swelling or red spots. If you see anything suspicious call your dentist and get an appointment immediately. Using home remedies could help temporarily but don’t let that deter you from making an appointment because without fixing the source, the ache will come back.

You can apply a warm damp cloth to the affected area from the outside. Try giving some Children’s Tylenol to your child and make sure they are not touching it or playing with the area. Don’t delay treatment as your child needs immediate and necessary dental care.

We suggest several things to help make your child’s first visit a pleasant one:

  • When your child has a dental appointment, make it part of a trip where they get to do something fun afterwards.
  • Don’t let your dentist wear a mask when introducing him/herself to your child.
  • Taking a favorite toy may help distract your child from fear or stress
  • Children pick up on their parents fears so if you are fearful of the dentist, don’t let your child know that.
  • Don’t use threats as a way to make your child go to the dentist because they will then see it as a punishment instead of a help.
  • Rewarding your child for being good at the dentist is always encouraging.

Most of all try not to let a toothache be the first reason your child sees a dentist. We always recommend starting young and introducing your child to good oral hygiene at a young age to develop healthy habits. As said before, the condition of your child’s baby teeth can affect that of the permanent teeth so start those good habits young!

Is Your Stress Harming Your Kids?

Last updated on April 4th, 2022 at 07:21 pm

Money worries, job demands, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have us stressed to the max… and it’s taking a toll on our kids. A 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that children who said their parents were stressed said they were stressed too. They reported feeling sad, worried or frustrated – and their parents had no idea, according to the survey. As of 2022, according to the APA: children’s mental health is in crisis.

Stress is bad for your well-being, but it puts kids at risk too. Numerous studies show that chronic tension is damaging to children’s mental, physical and oral health. “Our children pick up our feelings and concerns. When we’re stressed, it makes them worry. And when we’re calm, they feel more secure and content,” says educational psychologist Michelle Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.

Here, a few research-proven and expert-recommended tips to ID stress effects in your kids, reduce their anxiety, and keep your own tension in check.

Spot the stress signs. Since most kids can’t just come out and say, “I’m stressed!” the APA advises watching for these red flags:

  • Acting irritable or moody
  • Withdrawing from favorite activities
  • Expressing concerns
  • Complaining more than usual
  • Crying
  • Clinging to a parent or teacher
  • Sleeping or eating too much or too little
  • Experiencing stomachaches and headaches, which can be a side-effect of stress

Give them some control. Giving kids choices and a sense of control over a situation helps them deal with stress better, according to The National Institutes of Health. Give them a heads-up on any changes or decisions that might affect them, so they can process the information without feeling blindsided.

Get physical, together. Exercise releases endorphins – your body’s natural stress-reducers. Go on a family hike, take a bike ride, or dance around the living room. And to keep your own stress at bay, start a regular exercise routine.

Avoid unnecessary stressors. Say no to extra responsibilities when your plate is already full. Skip movies, TV shows or news stories that make you tense. Bow out of social situations that are uncomfortable. And stay away from people, places and things that make you anxious or unhappy.

Be accepting. Can’t change a problem? Change yourself. By choosing to see the positive in a challenging situation (…Mr Rogers “look for the helpers“), stepping back to gain perspective, and abandoning perfectionism.

Cuddle up. When you feel your anxiety level rise, take a cuddle break. A simple back rub or a big hug can release your child’s tension — and help you relax in the process. Plus, a snuggle with your spouse can boost your heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones and releasing oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” according to a study conducted by The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Protect your time. Part of reducing stress is nurturing yourself so you’re better able to handle life’s zingers. Whether you like to garden, bake, read mysteries or hit the mall, set aside “you” time every day. And don’t forget to laugh! It helps your body beat stress – and it keeps your kids smiling too.