Some Tricks for Enjoying Halloween !!!

   By Mardie Ninno –  Margaret L. Williams Developmental Evaluation Center, Kohl’s Autism and Related Disorders Program       

 Most children really enjoy Halloween!!  They love the pumpkin faces, the candy they get trick or treating, the costumes, and many of the older children love the scary movies and haunted houses that seem to be everywhere during October.  But for some children, especially children with Autism Spectrum Disorders or children with sensory or anxiety disorders, Halloween can be a really difficult time. Many of these children are uncomfortable with new and different routines, foods, clothing, etc, and Halloween certainly brings with it many novel and unusual sights, activities, and even foods.  Children with sensory issues may be hypersensitive to such things as the feel of the insides of pumpkins, the texture or fit of their costumes, or the unexpected and eerie sounds and music that might accompany a Halloween Party or trick or treating.  So how can families celebrate Halloween in ways that will help their children with these issues to feel comfortable and hopefully actually enjoy the season?

Offer Choices  so your children can decide what would be fun for them to do at Halloween.  Listen to their comments about what they would and would not like to do, and make sure they are an active participant in the decision making.

Prepare, prepare, prepare your child ahead of time!  All of us are more comfortable when we know what to expect, and for children on the Autism Spectrum, this is crucial.  Think about what activities your family would like to participate in. 

Outside Activites Do you want to visit a pumpkin patch that involves going on a wagon ride?  Then you might want to read books about visiting a pumpkin patch, look at the web site of the farm you will be visiting with your child, or look for You Tube or other videos of this activity.  Share these visuals with your child.  Remember, children with Autism tend to process visual information very well, so showing rather than just telling them what the pumpkin patch will be like will be even more effective.

 Costumes Do you want to dress up and go trick or treating in your neighborhood as a family?  Again, introduce your child to the idea of dressing up in a costume way before the big day.  Show them pictures of costumes in catalogs or on line.  Visit the costume section of a store to see costumes.  Help your children to choose their own costumes, and then let them have lots of opportunities to wear them before Halloween.  Some children may have difficulty with the tags, seams or textures of their costumes, so be sure to have them try on the costume before they have to wear it.  That will avoid melt downs and upsets by children whose bodies just don’t feel good surrounded by a slippery fabric or too tight hat.

Trick or Treating  Think about walking your trick or treat route with your children ahead of time, so that they are familiar with where they are going.  And practice the actual act of trick or treating at home.  Trick or treating can be broken down into these 4 easy steps:

  1. Knock on the door
  2. When someone answers, say “Trick or Treat”
  3.  Open your bag so that the person at the door can put in candy or a treat
  4. Say thank you

You might want to make a visual card to take with you to remind your child of these steps.  Or you might want to program these phrases into your child’s communication device.  Or you might want to write a social story about what trick or treating will be like and read it several times at home with your child.

Decorating Pumpkins: Some families like to decorate pumpkins together.  Your child with sensory issues may not like the feel of the insides of the pumpkin.  Or your child may be frightened or disinterested in this activity.   If that is the case, consider one of these options:

  • Offer your child gloves to wear or a spoon to use for the pumpkin scooping
  • Provide other craft materials to decorate the pumpkin that the child does like.  These might be markers, paints, colored tape, stickers, etc.
  • Dress up your pumpkin with your child’s clothing or toys.  Put her hat on the pumpkin’s head or have the pumpkin pose with a favorite stuffed animal.

 Halloween Treats If your child does not like the treats that are likely to be handed out at trick or treating or at Halloween parties, consider bringing foods that he/she will like.  Or bring non-food treats you know your child will enjoy.  You can also try introducing your child to new Halloween foods such as pumpkin cookies and candy corn at home ahead of time.  Your child will be more likely to try a new food in the comfort of his own home than in a strange place.

            Halloween can be a really fun time for families.  Thinking about the activities you would like your family to do ahead of time and preparing your child for them will go a long way to making sure it’s a real treat for everyone!

Armond Goes to a Party: A book about Asperger’s and Friendship by Nancy Carlson and Armond Isaak 2013 recommended by Mary P. Laverty Golisano Children’s Hospital in-house Librarian

A perfect book to share with children nervous about going to a party or any new social event. The colorful pictures and realistic dialogue make this a perfect read for guests and hosts alike.

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Healthy Back-to-School Habits: Hand Washing

By Mary Laverty MLIS

For many families and children in Upstate New York, the first day of The Great New York State Fair also begins the countdown to the first day of school. The first days of school can mean reconnecting with favorite teachers, making new friends and creating some new healthy habits. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics parenting website “hand washing may be the single most important act you and your child have for disease prevention.”
Why do I have to wash my hands so much?
Hand washing can stop the spread of germs. As early as possible, get your children into the habit of hand washing often and thoroughly. All school aged children are exposed to germs – opening door handles, moving chairs, reading books, working at desk tops, using bus handles to climb aboard, sliding into the bus seats, typing or playing keyboards, using learning toys, playing with sports equipment, touching a playmate, or sharing toys. The whole process of infection can happen in seconds and cause an illness that can last for days, weeks, or even longer. The key is to encourage your child to wash her hands throughout the day. For example, help her or remind her to wash her hands:
• Before rubbing her eyes
• Before touching her nose
• Before placing her fingers in her mouth
• Before eating – including snacks
• After a trip to the bathroom
• Whenever she comes in from playing outdoors
• After touching an animal like a family pet
• After sneezing or coughing if she covers her mouth
Studies on hand washing in public restrooms show that most people don’t have very good hygiene habits. “Hand washing” may mean just a quick splash of water and perhaps a squirt of soap, but not nearly enough to get their hands clean.
How do I wash my hands?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following steps to washing your hands well:
• Wet your child’s hands.
• Apply clean bar soap or liquid soap to the hands, and then place the bar on a rack where it can drain before the next hand washing.
• Rub the hands vigorously together. Scrub every surface completely.
• Keep rubbing and scrubbing for 10 to 15 seconds to effectively remove the germs. Pick a song that lasts for 15 seconds and sing it while you wash. Two verses of “Happy Birthday,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” will teach your child how short 15 seconds can be. Frequently, kindergarten and first grade teachers will have a special hand washing song. Your child can teach it to you child as they wash their hands at home. Encourage your child to wash her hands not only at home, but also at school, at friends’ homes, and everywhere else. This is an important habit for her to get into, and hopefully one that is hard to break!
• Rinse the hands completely, and then dry them.
What kind of soap?
Drugstore shelves are full of antibacterial soaps, but studies have shown antibacterial products are no better at washing away dirt and germs than regular soap. Some infectious disease experts have even suggested that by using antibacterial soaps, you may actually kill off normal bacteria and increase the chances that resistant bacteria may grow.
Is waterless washing just as good as soap and water washing?
The best solution is to wash your child’s hands with warm water and ordinary soap that does not contain antibacterial substances (e.g., triclosan). When your child’s hands are visibly dirty, regular use of soap and water is better than using waterless, alcohol-based soaps, gels, rinses, and hand rubs. However, when there is no sink available (e.g., the car), hand rubs can be a useful alternative.

Story time and healthy habits: A few books that can help answer your child’s questions about germs and why washing with soap and water is so important to good health.
Whiffy Wilson: The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Wash by C. Hart and L. Lord 2014; preschool to kindergarten. There was a little wolf called Whiffy Wilson who never brushed his hair. He never washed his paws or face, or changed his underwear. Will anyone be able to persuade Whiffy Wilson to change his gross ways for something far less stinky?


Germs! By M.Howard and C. Stimpson 2012; K-3rd grade. Sam, a young germ, is conscripted to fight in the Germ Army. What is the ultimate goal of the germ monarch, Queen Bacteria? To make the boy in striped pajamas sick. When he fails to wash his hands one day after using the toliet, the germs seize their opportunity to attack, only to be met with the friendly Antibody Army led by King Antibod. This active and dynamic book with giant germs and toilets has a funny story for a serious message – wash your hands to stay healthy!

Dirty Bertie: Germs by D. Roberts and A. Macdonald 2012 1st to 3rd grade. On Monday, Suzy, Dirty Bertie’s sister, stays home from school with the chickenpox. She will have to stay home all week. Bertie wants to stay home too. Bertie uses his sister’s pink toothbrush and drinks from her glass in try to catch her germ but with no luck. Until Saturday morning.




Source material on health issues from Healthy sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics
Books reviewed and recommended by Mary Laverty  Golisano Children’s Hospital Family Resources and Services coordinator for the Family Resource Center in GCH.

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Summer Time Eczema

Summer Time Eczema

By Alyson Weiner

Eczema is a common skin condition that affects children. Affected children usually have dryer skin in the wintertime and end up having more severe symptoms. However, many children become more self-conscious about their eczema when they are wearing shorts and tank tops over the summer. Additionally, sweat, chlorine from pools and sun exposure can actually worsen eczema. Children can still do the summertime activities they love as long as they bathe, use sunscreen when outdoors and apply moisturizing cream or ointment after the bath or getting out of the pool.

What is eczema?
Also known as atopic dermatitis, it is a chronic disease of patchy skin redness and itching caused by a normal inflammation in the skin. IT is not caused by a virus or bacteria and it is not contagious. The rash usually begins in early childhood and the symptoms vary in severity. Asthma and allergies frequently, but not always, go along with eczema, and occur in the family members of kids with eczema.

How can it be treated?
The primary goal of treatment is to avoid flare-ups, keep your child comfortable and avoid long term skin changes. Children with eczema have a less effective skin barrier and are more likely to have irritation from skin irritants; such as detergents, perfumes, hot water, wool, solvents, down feathers, and tight clothing. Sweat, food allergies, infections, and stress can also worsen eczema. To avoid flare-ups, children should take short baths and/or showers in warm water without washcloths. They should use non-detergent, non-scented soaps like Dove, Tone, and Cares. After the bath, the skin should be patted dry and then a moisturizing cream or heavier ointment should be generously applied. The moisturizer should be applied an additional 2-3 times every day. This prevents dry skin. Dry skin leads to increased itching and scratching which may lead to a flare-up. Nivea or Eucerin creams are frequently recommended for slightly to moderately dry skin. A heaver over the counter ointment, such as Aquaphor, or petroleum jelly is useful for severely dry skin. Your child’s doctor can help determine the most useful cream or ointment to use.

For flare-ups resulting in red, inflamed, and blistered skin, steroid cream or ointment may be prescribed by your child’s doctor and applied to the skin for 7-14 days. Caution should be used when applying steroid cream to your child’s face, diaper area, and underarms. The skin in those areas is thinner and may show greater side effects from the steroid cream. Short-term use of steroid cream is beneficial in other parts of the body. See your doctor right away open sores and drainage, or for a flare-up that is not getting better.

What are some complications?
It is important to monitor and treat your child’s eczema and follow-up with your pediatrician. Potential complications include skin blisters and skin infections. Some children have difficulty sleeping due to their itchiness and become irritable during the day.

Eczema usually decreases in severity, as children get older. The frequent use of over the counter moisturizing creams and ointments is a great way to avoid flare-ups and prevent complications. If you have any questions about the best way to manage your child’s eczema, please talk to your child’s primary doctor.

 Alyson Weiner is a fourth year medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University, and she is interested in becoming a pediatrician.

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Helping Our Friends

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central New York is celebrating “Christmas in July” by hosting a community-wide Wish List Donation Drive to help support our guest families.

Throughout July, community members are collecting items on the RMHCNY wish list, which includes nonperishable food and drinks, office and household supplies, and children’s toys. With more guest families staying at the RMH, there is a greater need for wish list items and day-to-day supplies.

 Example wish list items include: coffee, bottled water, granola bars, bagels, dry cereal, English muffins, butter, individual snack bags of chips, fresh fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, peanut butter, small and extra-large trash bags, all-purpose spray cleaner, liquid hand soap, paper plates and paper towels, stainless steel appliance cleaner, white copy paper (8½” x 11”), glue sticks, baby dolls, family movies (DVD and Blu-ray), family-related video games for Wii and Wii U, and more. Gift cards to BJ’s Wholesale Club, Wegmans, Wal-Mart, Price Chopper, Tops and Target are also appreciated. 

 All items must be new for the safety of children with compromised immune systems. To view the complete list of donation items, visit

 “Christmas in July” culminates with a donation drive for community members to drop off any donations they’ve collected on Thursday, July 31, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the CNY Ronald McDonald House at 1100 E. Genesee St., Syracuse. For alternative drop-off times or to learn more about our needs for perishable items and volunteer-cooked meals, please contact Lee Wilder at

 The Central New York Ronald McDonald House has been a “home away from home” for families with seriously ill children for more than 30 years. 

 When families with seriously ill children travel to Syracuse from counties throughout Upstate New York and Northern Pennsylvania to receive medical care at Golisano Children’s Hospital, other local hospitals and health care facilities, Ronald McDonald House Charities of CNY offers an atmosphere where they can share experiences with other families and have the comforts of home at a very reasonable cost.

 Since opening the doors to the new, fully handicap-accessible house in 2012, Ronald McDonald House Charities of CNY has been able to serve even more families in need and keep more families together during some of their toughest times. The larger house allows RMH to meet diverse needs and offer expanded services for new populations of guest families.



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Celebrate Family Wellness Month

By Mary Ann Russo, MS, RD, CDN, Pediatric Nutritionist

Did you know May is Family Wellness Month?  It was created to help families overcome their biggest challenges to staying healthy and connected – our busy pace of life.  The goal is to provide an opportunity to reflect on family habits, lifestyles and find ways to improve mental and physical health.  May is almost over but the positive results from changes in habits and activities will continue into the summer and the rest of the year.

What can you do for Family Wellness Month?

Sometimes the biggest obstacle is where to start. Do you wish you had more time to spend together? Can you improve physical health by adopting healthier eating habits or participating in physical activity? No matter what your answers are to these questions, it’s never too late to make a change for the better. Here are some ideas for taking charge of Family Wellness Month.

Change your family’s eating habits: This doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of the way your family eats. Make a few small changes that your family will be able to make a part of your routine.

  • Try new foods no one in your family has tried before.
  • Cook dinner together one night per week.
  • Slow down and eat dinner together at the table instead of on the run.
  • Cut out pop and soda and replace with water.
  • Be a good role model for your children. If they have to eat their veggies, so do you!
  • Go grocery shopping, visit a local farm market, and let the whole family help plan the meals.
  • Find healthy alternatives to a favorite recipe.
  • Start a garden.

Get your family active:

  • Pick an new family activity to do on the weekend go for a bike ride, a hike, play a game of tag, go for a walk after dinner or if the weather is bad play an active video game.
  • Explore a new park. An inexpensive and fun activity is trying to visit every park in your city or neighborhood. Create a memory book by taking pictures of each park.
  • Have the entire family work together on a project like cleaning the house or yard.
  • Park farther away when you go to the store. Have the kids count how many steps they take to get to the door.

 Plan some family time:

  • Game Night: Board and card games never go out of style. Even a simple card game will give the family a chance to spend some quality time together. It also is a great opportunity for everyone to work on math skills, critical thinking skills and other brain functions so we all stay sharp.
  • Family Project: A fun family project to do together is make a scrapbook of everything you did during the past school year and plan on doing in the summer. Let each family member be in charge of a few pages that highlight their favorite activities with family, friends or schoolmates over the last nine months.
  • Volunteer together: Spend a day helping others and connecting over a common purpose.
  • Visiting Family: It is Family Wellness Month after all, so make it a point this month to go visit grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins you don’t get around to seeing as often as you’d like. If family is too far to make a visit plan a Skype date with them!
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