Halloween Safety for Special Needs Children

Halloween is almost here, along with costumes, trick-or-treating, and lots of candy and snacks. There are many ways to prepare to keep your child safe while having a good time. For families of children with special needs there are often extra precautions needed to ensure a fun holiday. Below is a brief list of suggestions and resources that may be helpful.

General Safety Tips

-Choose light-colored costumes that are easily seen at night. If necessary, add reflective or glow-in-the-dark tape to the costume and treat bag.

-Be sure to buy flame retardant costumes or use flame retardant materials. This means the material will not burn.

-Be sure your child can breathe and see out of the costume; be sure masks, wigs and beards don’t cover eyes, noses or mouths. Instead of masks, consider using non-toxic face paint or makeup.

-Put a name tag with your phone number on your children’s costumes.

-Avoid oversized and high-heeled shoes to prevent falls. Be sure costumes aren’t so long a child can trip over them.

-Make sure any props such as swords or wands are short and flexible.

-Walk on lit sidewalks and walk from house to house (no running).

-Cross at crosswalks and do not assume vehicles will stop for you.

-After trick-or-treating, check all treats to be sure they are sealed. Discard any candy with torn packages or holes in packages, and spoiled items.

Trick-or-Treat Basics

Under age 12:

-Children under 12 should always go trick-or-treating with an adult.

-Be sure your child knows your cell or home phone number.

-Children should know how to call 911 in case they get separated or lost.

Older children:

-Older children should have a route and a time limit

-Be sure your child carries a cell phone, and a flashlight or glow stick.

-Children should go in a group and stay together, and only go to houses with lights on.

-Children should never go into strangers’ cars or homes.

For Children with Autism

The sights, sounds and smells of the holiday can be immensely challenging for a child with autism. In many cases, if children know what to expect beforehand, Halloween can be a bit less stressful. Some preparation suggestions include:

-Reduce anxiety by maintaining your child’s regular routine as much as possible.

-Use stories to prepare your child for the holiday and activities you may do. Watch movies with scenes of children trick-or-treating and participating in Halloween activities.

-Mark event dates on your calendar. Consider adjusting how far in advance you prepare your child if he gets anxious when anticipating an event.

-Respect your child’s limits when planning and scheduling activities.

-Practice wearing a costume before Halloween. Allow your child to dress up as their favorite character regardless of age. There are even pajamas that look like costumes.

-Avoid props that may cause sensory overload.

-Make fun, Halloween-themed food throughout the month.

-At parties, find a private room for your child to safely relax when overwhelmed.

-Attend drive-up or drive-through Halloween events.

-Instead of trick-or-treating, consider creating a candy/toy scavenger hunt in your house or yard, or buying a pinata to fill with allergy-friendly candy and toys, and allow your kids to break it open on Halloween.

-Play sensory games with slime, squishy brains, etc. Click here for some great ideas for sensory games.

-Make Halloween crafts to use as decorations.

For additional tips, click here.

For information on keeping your child with ASD safe, click here.

-Create innovative ways to safely hand out candy to trick-or-treaters such as a cool candy slide Here’s an example.


For children with sensory issues, many activities during this time may be additionally difficult. Below are additional accommodations that may help:

-Discuss Halloween and costumes with your child before the holiday arrives.

-Select a sensory-friendly costume and have your child wear familiar, comfortable clothing underneath. If possible, wash the costume before wearing to soften the material and remove any unfamiliar scents. Consider having your child wear a compression or weighted vest underneath.

-Have your child practice wearing their costume before the holiday and make necessary adjustments.

-Factor in time for breaks.

-Bring items that comfort your child, such as noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs, weighted vests and comfort items.

Click here for more information.

The Teal Pumpkin Project

The goal of The Teal Pumpkin Project is to make trick-or-treating more inclusive and safer for children with food allergies. By placing a teal pumpkin on your stoop, you are letting trick-or-treaters know you have non-food treats that are safe. Read more here.


Halloween can be celebrated in a variety of ways that provide safe fun for all. A little planning and preparation can help greatly toward enjoying any holiday and Halloween is no exception. It is important to assess your family’s needs and go from there. There is no gold standard to which we must adhere in order to enjoy this holiday. Create your own way of celebrating and enjoy! Happy Halloween.


Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.

Halloween Tips for Autism Families: https://tacanow.org/family-resources/trick-or-treat/
Halloween Safety Tips: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/halloween.html
Halloween Sensory Play: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/totally-awesome-non-spooky-halloween-sensory-play-ideas-kids/
Keeping Your Kids with ASD Safe: https://tacanow.org/family-resources/keeping-your-kids-with-asd-safe/
How to Have a Safe and Sensory Friendly Halloween: https://www.myautism.org/news-features/how-to-have-a-safe-and-sensory-friendly-halloween
The Teal Pumpkin Project: https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/about-teal-pumpkin-project

Pandemic Anxiety in Children

The coronavirus pandemic has been a long, stressful time for most, but especially for young children. While we are hopefully moving in the right direction about transitioning toward more pre-pandemic routines and activities, there is still much cause for anxiety in children.

Uncertainty, fear and staying at home has made changed routines difficult. Children don’t always understand why they can’t go to school, see their families, or play with their friends. Remote learning, while a way to attempt to keep children current with their studies, can be another cause of anxiety. For children with special needs, the disruptions are amplified. Services that have moved to teletherapy are additionally challenging, and maintaining a calm, albeit new routine is difficult as well.

We are sharing the following information from Boston Children’s Hospital: 

Some kids hide in their rooms. Others turn their cameras off during remote learning and don’t want to talk to anyone. Still others feel panicky when they do go out in public. As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, its effects on our mental health may have become increasingly noticeable — especially in children and teens. “My daughter used to be really energetic and motivated,” says one mother. “She was happy and light. Now, she’s just folded into herself.”

She’s not alone. Families are reporting troubling changes in their children’s emotional well-being, particularly when it comes to anxiety. To better understand the problem — and learn what parents can do to help — we spoke with Allison Scobie-Carroll, senior director of social work and family services at Boston Children’s Hospital.

A lot of kids seem to be experiencing increased anxiety. Why?

Like adults, children and teens are missing being around their peers. They need those relationships not just to feel good, but also to practice social skills. Now that we’ve been in this for a year, we’re seeing the effects of what happens when children are separated from regular social interaction for long periods of time.

What are some aspects of the pandemic that can cause or worsen anxiety in kids?

Our “new normal” means that the way we interact with each other has changed. Things that once came naturally — like just being out in the world — are now fraught with concern. If a child is already prone to anxiety, the rejection they might feel when someone steers away from them may be amplified, even if that person is simply trying to physically distance.

Then add in masks, which can contribute to anxiety in a couple of different ways. First, they block our ability to read social cues, like smiles or frowns. They can also impede the ability to practice deep breathing, which is a natural way to counteract anxiety and for some people contributes to feelings of claustrophobia. That said, masks are critical to protecting against COVID-19, and most kids have adapted well to wearing them.

Can kids “catch” anxiety from their parents and other adults?

Collectively, we’re transmitting a lot of worry and kids absolutely pick up on that, particularly if they’re already sensitive or prone to anxiety.

What can parents do to help their children cope with anxiety?

The most important thing you can do is to let your child know you’ll be there for them — it’s so simple but so fundamental. You can also try the following tips:

Listen to them. Children experience and navigate the world through a different lens than adults. Their worries need not be rational or fact based, but they are still valid.

Teach them coping skills. Regular exercise, turning off screens at least an hour before bed, and using apps like Calm to practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can all help kids (and parents) ease anxiety.

Schedule safe playdates. There’s no substitute for being around friends — kids relate to each other in ways that adults just can’t. Ask your child if they’d be interested in seeing the friends in their circle, as long as they follow safe precautions like wearing masks and practicing physical distancing.

Connect with other parents. The pressures of life right now might make you feel something is very wrong with your child — but many families are experiencing the same thing. Situational anxiety can be a natural response to chronic stress. It can help to know that it’s not a failure on your part and that you aren’t alone.

Know your child. A lot of kids and adults are experiencing panic attacks, having night terrors, or developing phobias for the first time during the pandemic.  If you’re concerned about new or worsened symptoms in your child, contact your primary care provider for help.

The Mayo Clinic offers additional suggestions for helping children with special needs during this time:

Kids with special needs and their parents may feel anxious, just like any family. At the same time, families with complex needs have a hidden strength: They’re resilient, and they know what it takes to adapt to the unexpected. If you’re in this situation during the COVID-19 pandemic, know that you can navigate uncertain times successfully. Here are some suggestions:

Rely on your experience

Think back to strategies that have worked for you in the past. Go back to the basics. This might include:

  • Keeping a consistent schedule for meals, medications, exercise and bedtime
  • Planning gradual transitions that suit your child’s pace
  • Using visual cues to illustrate schedules and activities
  • Scheduling quiet time to reduce sensory input and de-stress
  • Offering warm praise for a job well done
  • Promptly correcting or redirecting negative behavior and offering a chance for a redo

Help your child feel in control

Explain that everyone is working together to keep the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading and making people sick. This is why some schools and playgrounds may be closed. Likewise, having a playdate or going to a friend’s house may not be an option. Explain that kids can be a big help, too, by following such practices as:

  • Washing hands with soap and water often, or clean hands with sanitizer
  • Sneezing or coughing into a tissue or a bent elbow, not hands, and throwing used tissues in the trash
  • Keeping 6 feet of space between themselves and others outside of the house
  • Waving or giving smiles instead of hugs, fist bumps and high-fives
  • Wearing a face mask at grocery stores and in other public places

Revisit your child’s treatment plan and care needs

If your child has a treatment plan — which might include things such as a list of prescription medicines, therapy instructions, and emergency and medical contacts — make sure that it’s up to date and accessible. It may help to have it in the form of an electronic document that you can easily share. In addition:

  • Identify potential alternative caregivers, in case you or your child’s regular caregiver is sick.
  • Gather specific instructions for caregivers, including information on your child’s medical conditions, doctors and therapists, daily schedules, and preferences.
  • Visit websites of support groups and organizations you’ve typically relied on in the past.

Manage stress

During the pandemic, everyone feels added stress. But it’s possible to manage stress so it doesn’t get overwhelming. Consider these tips:

  • Take breaks.Remember to make some time for yourself. Wake up a few minutes early to gather your thoughts. Pause a minute or two before bedtime to do some stretches or deep breathing. Take time to gather your mental reserves.
  • Limit access to the news.Being informed is good. But information overload can heighten anxiety about the disease.
  • Stay healthy.Even though schedules feel off, prioritize getting enough sleep, eating balanced meals and staying active. These fundamentals will reduce stress and improve everyone’s state of mind.
  • Connect with loved ones.Stay connected with grandparents and friends via phone or video chat. Or write a letter. Maintaining your family’s support network is a key coping strategy.
  • Have some fun.Share relaxed moments with your family, when you’re not focusing on work or school. Play games with your kids, go for sunset walks, do cooking projects together and enjoy home movie nights.


It’s a challenging time for sure. Children experience their own anxiety, but also feed off the environment within their home. To handle both yours and your child’s anxiety it is important to find ways to enjoy the time together with your family. The weather is changing; get outside and play, take a walk, create a scavenger hunt…just be together and soak up some fresh air. We’ll all get through this together.

Stay safe and be well.


Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.


Things to Consider When Choosing a Summer Camp for a Child with Special Needs

It might be cold and dreary outside, but there’s no better time to explore summer camp for your children. It’s important to find the right setting for your child, whether it is a day camp or sleepaway camp. To find a summer camp for children with special needs, there are additional factors to consider based on your child’s skills, interests and abilities. Special Needs is a comprehensive category that includes issues such as physical-care needs and orthopedic appliances to speech delays, learning disabilities and behavioral issues. For all children that fall within the special needs category, summer camp is more complicated than just sending in a deposit.

You’ll want to start thinking early about the kinds of activities your child would benefit from, and this involves assessing your child’s needs, your options and details about each camp you are considering. Consider your child’s age, interests and personality. You’ll also want to think about how summer activities can help support your child’s year-round learning. Questions to ask yourself include:
What would your child enjoy? Does your child have a passion such as animals or music? If so, you could look for summer programs that encourage his passion, such as a music camp or zoo program.
What skills is your child working on? A child who needs help learning to read could benefit from a program that provides specialized reading tutoring. If he’s been focusing on socialization skills, a noncompetitive camp setting with lots of interaction with other children could be a good opportunity to continue learning social skills. Consider the goals he has been working toward during the school year and how he could progress over the summer.
If your child has difficulty in new or unfamiliar situations, talk with other parents in your child’s class or neighborhood to see if your children could attend a program together.
Options to consider include summer programs in your community. You can learn about these from your child’s school staff. Teachers can likely recommend programs and activities that have been accommodating and successful for children with special needs. Ask other parents as well. Some local options might be:
Local park and recreation programs. Usually half-day or all-day programs, these often cost less than other programs but may have residency requirements.
Day camps. Religious organizations, schools and Ys offer day damps. They may have limited hours but might offer extended-day coverage.
Activity programs and workshops. Organizations like libraries, museums and nature societies offer short-term workshops in a variety of areas.
Overnight camps. These may offer stays by the week, month or all summer. Many are oriented toward specific activities such as sports, nature or the arts.

Once you have found several programs that might work, some in-depth questions to ask include:
What is the program philosophy? Look for camps with clearly stated goals, that will be a good match for your child’s personality and will increase her sense of confidence and self-esteem.
How much training and experience do staff members have? Are staff members able to make needed accommodations? Can they effectively manage your child’s behavior in a way that makes you comfortable?
What is the ratio of staff members to kids? A camp with an adult-to-child ratio of 1:2 is very different than 1:10.
What kind of medical facilities or professionals are on site? Find out if a nurse is available and how medications are dispensed. Be sure the camp staff is trained to respond to medical emergencies such as seizures.
Are the facilities accessible?
How will you communicate with staff members and with your child? For day programs, ask if you will have opportunities to speak with counselors at drop-off and pick-up time. Will staff members be available by phone or email? If your child will attend an overnight camp, find out how often you will be able to speak with him.
What are the sleeping, bathing and eating arrangements? For overnight camp, you’ll want to be sure your child will be comfortable and get the help she needs to be able to fully participate in the program.
Check references and learn what other families think of the program.

According to summer365.com, a free camp advisory service, below are five main points to remember when searching for a camp for special needs children:
There is a camp out there for your child. There are specialty camps designed for nearly every disability or need, some running for a full summer or a shorter session, and some taking over another camp’s facility for a period of a few weeks at summer’s end. Mainstream camps sometimes work with specific needs as well. Susan Kasnett, Co-Founder of summer365.com says “One summer, I saw a girl in a wheelchair having a wonderful time at a traditional summer camp. Depending on your child’s needs and the camp’s capabilities, things that might not seem like an obvious fit could work.”
Ask for advice in deciding if your child is ready. Parents should speak with a child’s teachers, psychologists and anyone on their team when deciding if a child is ready for camp, especially a sleepaway experience. A good barometer is if parents feel that a child has outgrown whatever they’ve been doing in past summers, it could be time to explore new experiences. Keep in mind that it’s okay to encourage a child to move out of their comfort zone and encourage a new experience. Some children who rely deeply on routine might never openly volunteer for a change but could ultimately thrive and learn in a new environment. However, you don’t want to send a child who’s going to be anxious or miserable to the point of being unable to participate.
Interview the camp. While camps that focus on a particular disability or need tend to interview families, you need to interview the camp as well. Important questions to ask include: What is the camper-to-counselor ratio? How is staff selected and trained? Is there any therapy programming offered? Have past campers been eligible for extended school-year funding or insurance reimbursement? How does the camp handle homesickness or other needs particular to your child? Visiting a camp while it is in session is the best way to get a feel for the camp’s culture, philosophy and accommodations.
Be honest with the camp about your child. Do not play down your child’s needs; you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. If your child has behavior issues, let the camp know. If your child is physically independent at the beginning of the day, but by evening needs far more help, make the camp aware of these things.
Be honest with your child about camp. Take to him/her about homesickness and share your personal experiences with it. Let him/her know that is it natural but will pass. Being at camp can be wonderful, but going away from home can be hard, and there’s no reason to gloss over that issue with any child.

Parents must also remember that it is discriminatory for a provider to tell you that your child cannot be admitted to a program because of her disability. If your child needs one-on-one assistance at a camp but the camp cannot provide this, your insurance company or state department that oversees the welfare of children with disabilities may be able to pay for an extra teacher, aide or counselor.

As an additional resource, we’re including links to some sites that may help in the search for a summer camp:
Federation for Children with Special Needs Camp Guide:  FCSN Camp Guide 2019
Long Island camps for children with special needs: https://www.nymetroparents.com/article/summer-camps-that-offer-special-needs-programs-and-services-for-campers-on-long-island
Hofstra University REACH Program for campers with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs: https://www.hofstra.edu/academics/ce/summer-camp/specialty_reach.html
NYC camps for children with special needs: https://mommypoppins.com/newyorkcitykids/nyc-summer-camps-autistism-special-needs-aspergers-adhd-sensory

With some solid research as well as conversations with your child’s teachers and other parents, you’ll be able to find the perfect summer camp environment for your child. Before you know it, you’ll be deep in preparation for that fun time—sunscreen, bathing suits and more!

If you have any questions about your child’s development, reach out to us! You can call 516-731-5588 or reach us by email.


Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or visit our website for more information..

American Camp Association acacamps.org



Holidays for Children with Sensory Needs

We are deep into the holiday season and all of its shopping, visiting, dinners and more. For children with special needs and especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), this time of year is very challenging and often downright impossible to navigate. A child with SPD who is trying to handle the sights, sounds, smells and crowds of the holidays can experience a rapid meltdown.

Sensory Integration is the process by which we receive information through our senses, organize the information and use it to participate in daily activities. Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to external stimuli. SPD may affect a single sense, such as taste, touch or hearing. It may also affect multiple senses, and people can be under-responsive or over-responsive to things with which they have difficulties.

It can be viewed as a spectrum, with sensitivities that range from mild to debilitating. Difficulty processing information from our senses leads to a variety of issues including:

-trouble communicating

-uncoordinated movement, balance and gait

-difficulty with spatial orientation

-discomfort and pain

-dietary restrictions

-depression and anxiety

-learning disabilities

SPD is an ongoing issue that becomes elevated during the holidays. With so many additional situations, such as lights, sounds, odors and crowds it’s important to have coping strategies to help your child during this time of year. It’s also important to know your child, and know his/her triggers as you plan for the holidays.

The most important aspect of the holidays and SPD is remember that you know your child. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Before outings, shopping and get-togethers prepare items, toys and foods that offer calm and peace to your child when he/she is stressed. Involve your child in packing these items. Reminding your child that you worked together in planning will help assure him that he’s not alone in the overwhelming situation. Speak with family or friends who will be attending seasonal activities with you. Explain that you are preparing some strategies in support of your child’s sensitivities.

We’ve put together a list of some situations and strategies that might help:

This time of year means extra crowds. There will be a lot of people at the mall, shopping centers, small stores, and holiday get togethers. Certainly, if you can leave your child home while shopping, that’s the best option. For those times you can’t realistically avoid crowds, you can try to shop at non-peak hours to help your child adjust. You can also try some of the following:

-use headphones if external noise is troublesome; this is a good way to keep a constant, comfortable sound level

-try sunglasses to help deal with excess visual stimulation

-use weighted vests and ankle weights to provide the physical pressure to stay calm

Each family knows their child best, and knows what items and strategies work best during travel. Favorite electronics and other activities can help with a long car ride.

Photos with Santa
We’ve heard of extremes regarding children with SPD and having photos taken with Santa. Some children are—let’s be polite here—not happy about it. Red-faced, screaming and sweaty, these children are not pleased when propped on Santa’s lap. There are also children who are so interested in Santa they touch his beard, play with his bells, and take a long time with the bearded man. For those children, it’s worth exploring ‘Caring Santas,’ available at certain malls this holiday season. Here are two links to these events: https://www.instagram.com/mksallc/  and https://events.longisland.com/caring-santa-at-smith-haven-mall2.html

Plan ahead with regard to houseguests, whose presence can cause over-stimulation like any other crowd. Be sure your child has a quiet area in which to play or rest. Let relatives know if hugging is ok or off limits. Overall, it’s important to try to keep your child’s routine as normal as possible, even if it means parents wind up rearranging their own routine or schedule. It’ll be worth it!

The holidays are synonymous with big meals and a lot of special foods. Oral defensiveness is a common issue for children with SPD, and this can lead to picky eating. While this is likely something that is worked on throughout the year, the holidays mean new, unique holiday dishes, many with strong odors. Some strategies for handling this include sticking to your regular routine with regard to meal times and placement of dishes and silverware. Notify guests of your child’s dietary issues when appropriate to avoid hurt feelings when a child refuses to eat new foods. At mealtime, allow your child to explore new foods, respectfully and discretely. If possible, prepare one or two of your child’s non-holiday favorites. New foods, a large crowd at the table and a lot of distractions are very difficult for a child with SPD to handle. Reward good behavior with special treats, extra play time or special praise.

For additional coping tips, take a look at this list: https://sensoryprocessingdisorderparentsupport.com/tips-for-a-more-successful-sensory-christmas.php


We’ll circle back to the most important point: remember that you know your child. Trust your intuition; no one knows your child better than you do. Make no apologies for your child and surround yourself with people who understand you, and what your child is going through.

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season.



Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development or about Sensory Processing Disorder. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.






Are You and Your Children Washing Your Hands Properly?

Kids are back to school, cold weather is coming and we’ll be spending more time indoors. It seems like a perfect time to review handwashing practices to keep everyone clean and healthy. Did you know that frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself, your family and others from getting sick?

While it seems simple enough, there are some dos and donts for washing your hands, including how and how often. If you’re not washing properly, you’re missing out on its benefits. Did you know the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls handwashing a “do-it-yourself” vaccine?  Studies show that frequent handwashing helps prevent the spread of certain illnesses, including stomach bugs, strep and the flu. With most children picking up 6-10 colds each year, handwashing is an easy preventive measure.

Some handwashing facts:
-For every 15 seconds of handwashing, 10 times more bacteria are removed.
-A research study showed that school children who washed their hands had 51% fewer sick days due to stomach bugs and 24% fewer sick days due to colds.
-Compared to dry hands, damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to spread bacteria.
-Hands spread approximately 80% of common infectious diseases.
-Only 1 out of 5 people wash their hands before preparing food.
-95% of people either don’t wash their hands, or don’t wash properly after using a public restroom.

It’s also worth noting that antibacterial soaps, such as those containing triclosan, are no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap, and they may lead to antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. As of 2016, liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps and body washes containing antibacterial ingredients can no longer be marketed to consumers. If you or your child are not near running water, hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch. Be sure the sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol and is used properly: apply gel to the palm of one hand, rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, until hands are dry. Be sure to supervise young children using sanitizer; swallowing these products can cause alcohol poisoning.

When should you wash your hands?

Always wash:
Before, during and after preparing food, especially raw meat, poultry or fish
Before eating food
Before treating wounds or caring for a sick person
Before inserting or removing contact lenses
After using the bathroom
After changing diapers or helping a child use the bathroom
After contact with bodily fluids
After treating a cut or wound
After touching an animal, animal food or treats, animal cages or animal feces
After touching garbage or outdoor garbage pails
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing (try to cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder)

It’s also a good habit to teach children to wash hands when they come home from school. This is especially important if they are going to eat a snack as soon as they come home. You can teach children to Wet-Lather-Scrub-Rinse-and-Dry. Those five simple steps are all it takes.

How to wash your hands properly:
-Turn on water and wet your hands, preferably with warm water.
-Apply soap and lather well.
-Rub hands together, palm to palm; clean all surfaces including fronts and backs of hands, wrists, fingers, between fingers and under fingernails.
-Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. You can hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice, and that about covers it.
-Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
-Dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel and use the towel to turn off the faucet.
-If you’re in a public place, use the paper towel to open the (dirty!) bathroom door as well.

It’s important to teach children how to wash their hands, and to encourage them to wash frequently. If a child can’t reach the sink, explore keeping a step stool handy. Make handwashing an important and fun part of your day to keep you and your family as healthy as possible! For more resources, including handwashing videos, and some additional hygiene tips, read more here.

Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Handwashing
Mayo Clinic Handwashing Dos and Donts
Duquesne University School of Nursing Proper Handwashing Techniques and Hygiene Tips: Guide for Teachers and Parents
Fastmed Back to School Checklist: A Handwashing Lesson



Safety and Injury Prevention for Children

As parents and caregivers, we always want to protect our children and ensure their safety. This means making sure indoor and outdoor environments are safe, and that we teach them how to protect themselves as well. This post, while not an inclusive list, covers several aspects of safety including household, outdoor, poison, fire and internet safety. If you have specific questions about your child’s safety, we recommend you first speak with your child’s pediatrician.

The first line of defense to keep your child safe begins in your home. Have you gotten down on the floor to take a look around, from a baby or child’s perspective? You’ll be surprised at what you see! Take a look at outlets, wires, tall bookcases, plants and more. If they are accessible, you’ll need to make adjustments so your baby cannot reach, pull or chew on any of these potential dangers.

Let’s go over some common danger areas in the home:

Windows: Window guards should be installed on all windows in your home. Be sure an adult can open them in case of fire. If a window is open more than four inches, a child can fall out. Screens offer protection from bugs, not from falling.

Blinds/Shades: There is a strangulation risk from corded blinds and shades! Ideally, install only cordless window treatments. Be sure to keep cribs, furniture and climbable surfaces away from any windows. Shorten pull cords to the shortest usable length. Tighten continuous-loop cords tight, and anchor with a tension device. Check manufacturer’s directions for more information.

Kitchen: Be sure to turn handles from pots and pans toward the back so they cannot be pulled off. Be sure to teach children that the stove and oven are not to be touched because they get very hot. Install a stove guard and knob covers. Knives must be kept out of reach of children. If you have a garbage disposal, warn children of its dangers.

Cabinets and drawers: Use safety latches so young children cannot open these. Even so, be sure to keep dangerous products (cleaning chemicals, medications) out of reach of children—safety latches are not guaranteed failsafes.

Electric appliances/wires: Cover any unused electrical outlets with safety covers. Be sure cords are out of reach; children can pull on cords, making objects fall, or children can trip over cords. Lamps pose an overlooked safety hazard as they can be pulled down. Try using Velcro or Command tape to secure lamps to tables. Watch for floor lamps that tip easily.

TVs: While many of us mount flat screen TVs on the wall, many are on top of stands or in wall units. Climbing or standing children can grab hold of the TV and pull it down, with the risk of it falling on them. Be sure your TV is secured to any stand or unit if it’s not mounted on a wall.

Bookcases: These look like large ladders to children, so be sure to install anchors for bookcases. These secure the unit to the wall behind it, preventing children from climbing or grabbing on and having the unit fall on them.

Plants: Be sure to purchase only nontoxic houseplants and keep out of reach of young ones.

Fireplace: For safety tips, visit https://parent.guide/how-to-baby-proof-your-fireplace/. Consider adding a padded bumper around the hearth, especially if it’s a raised ledge.

Batteries: Many toys and household items contain small round batteries, which pose a choking hazard to children. They can also leak chemicals and cause burns. Keep devices that use these small batteries out of reach of children, or place a piece of duct tape over the controller so children cannot access the battery. Store loose batteries locked away as well. If you suspect your child ingested a battery, contact the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333.

Small items: Be extra careful about any small items throughout the house—pen caps, jewelry, magnets, soda bottle caps—and keep them out of reach of young children.

Heating: Cover or block access to radiators and heat vents. Do not use portable electric heaters near children.

Laundry room: Never let children handle single-use detergent packets; keep them in the original container unless actively placing one in the washing machine, seal the container after use, and store the container in a locked cabinet. Use child safety locks on front-loading washers and dryers to prevent your children from opening them or crawling in, especially during use.

Fire safety: Make sure there is a working smoke and CO alarm outside every bedroom, on every floor, and in the garage. Test the alarms and changes the batteries each time we change the clocks. Keep flashlight and fire extinguishers in your home and know how to operate them. Teach children never to play with candles, lighters or matches. Do not overload any outlet with too many plugs; never run cords under rugs or carpet. For more fire safety tips: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Safety-in-the-home/Escape-planning/Basic-fire-escape-planning

Poisons: Open windows for ventilation when using cleaning products. Never use barbeques or other outdoor equipment indoors for cooking or heat! These can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Lock up medicines, cleaning solutions, cosmetics and soaps out of reach of children. Teach children never to eat, drink or open products if they don’t know what they are. Know the poison control hotline phone number: 800-222-1222.

Outdoor safety is important too! Keep these tips in mind as the weather changes and more time is spent outdoors:

Streets: Teach young children to hold an adult’s hand and look both ways—twice—before crossing a street. Tell them never to run into the street to chase a ball or toy. Train your children to watch for cars backing out of driveways. Teach your child to use hand signals when on a bike.

Safety gear: Children should always wear a helmet and elbow pads when riding bicycles. For rollerblading and skateboarding, they should wear helmets, knee and elbow pads and wrist guards. Street safety rules apply here as well.

Sun safety: Babies younger than six months should be kept out of direct sunlight, as their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. Babies older than six months must have sunscreen applied 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every 2 hours, or after sweating or swimming.

Water: Never leave infants and young children alone near any water. They can drown in less than 2 inches of water—bathtub, bucket of liquid, toilet. Teach children 4 and older to swim, and supervise them at all times. If you have a pool or hot tub, be sure there is a locked fence at least 4 feet high enclosing it. Pool and beach toys are not appropriate flotation devices. For more details about water safety, see our previous post: https://mksallc.com/theres-still-plenty-summer-left-safe/

Important car safety information:

Use seats that meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. For more information visit: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats. Always use safety seats, even for short rides. Before installing a car safety seat, read the seat instruction manual and your car owner’s manual. You can get installation help with a car seat inspection and register your seat for recall notices: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#installation-help-inspection. If your child’s seat has been in an accident, replace it with a new one. For special needs children, contact your child’s pediatrician for help with finding an appropriate seat.


In addition to these tips, be sure to take classes in infant/child CPR and first aid, keep a first aid kit handy, and have important phone numbers nearby for caregivers (poison control, pediatrician, fire department). For a comprehensive safety checklist, https://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_venues/home?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9JOfgp2P2gIVQVuGCh37PQbUEAAYASAAEgLIR_D_BwE. It’s easy to have fun, but more important to be safe! If you have any questions, contact your child’s pediatrician. We are also available if you have any questions about your child’s development or behavior. We can be reached at 516-731-5588.

Some information shared courtesy of Children’s Home Society of California, www.chs-ca.org.


Positive Discipline For Behavior Problems

As a parent, you’ve no doubt dealt with a child misbehaving, being mean, having a meltdown or throwing a major tantrum. Not fun. Been there, done that, not going back? Like it or not, our children’s behavior is something we will always need to address, whether it’s a child being pleasant and kind, or being downright cruel and loud. Learning strategies and coping mechanisms can help you deal with a variety of behaviors and situations. Positive discipline is a popular and effective way to manage and promote positive behavior.

Positive discipline is a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen, with fundamentals of the program based on work by Alfred Adler and Rudolf Driekurs. Positive discipline is designed to teach children to become responsible, respectful community members. Important skills are taught in a way that is encouraging and respectful for both children and adults.

According to Dr. Nelsen, parenting with positive discipline means being kind and firm at the same time, which is effective long-term and helps children feel a connection—a sense of belonging and significance.

Below are answers to common questions regarding positive discipline:

What is positive discipline?
Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is guidance and teaching that promotes positive behavior; punishment is a penalty imposed in reaction to unacceptable behavior. Positive discipline is a discipline model that focuses on the positive points of behavior. It is more effective than punishment because desirable behaviors that last a lifetime must come from within the child rather than be imposed by external force.

What is an example of positive discipline?
Frustrated parents often describe a child’s personality with words like rebellious, lazy and selfish. Behavior can be altered, but personality is more resistant to change. If you focus your efforts on behavior, goals are more likely to be reached. For example, don’t say, “That’s a good girl!” This sends a message that being good all the time is the goal—an impossible expectation. You can say instead, “I like the way you spoke to Grandma just now.” No amount of “good boy” or “good girl” will build a positive self-concept. Give your child specific feedback on his actual good behaviors, because his self-image is composed of his accomplishments. The most effective way to build good behavior is to shape it with praise.

What is meant by specific praise?
The more specific your praise is, the better the child will understand what he’s doing right and the more likely he will be to repeat it. To increase desirable behaviors, you must emphasize the specific behaviors that please you. One morning, for example, you notice your child has made his bed. At that moment, he’s brushing his hair. If you simply say “Looks nice,” he won’t know whether you are referring to his bed or his hair. Instead, you can say, “I really like the way you made your bed so neatly this morning. Thanks.”

How can I praise progress if I hardly notice any?
Start praising every little step toward the target behavior, making a point of catching your child at being good. For example, tell your child he must clean up his toys when he’s through playing with them, though he’s never done this before. Praise every bit of progress, however minor. Start by praising your child for picking up one toy even though he’s left three others on the floor. You might say, “It was great the way you picked up your truck and put it in the toy box. Let me help you pick up the others.”  The next time, praise him for picking up two items, and so on.

The goal of positive discipline is developing mutually respectful relationships between adults and children. Positive discipline boasts many benefits including improved classroom behavior, increased self-confidence, reduced destructive behavior, and enhanced adult-child relationships. For more resources, visit www.positivediscipline.com.

If you have any questions about your child’s development, visit www.mksallc.com or feel free to contact us at 516-731-5588 or by email at info@mksallc.com. Our dedicated professionals are happy to answer any questions you have.


How to Win the Food Battle with Your Child

If you’re a parent of a young child, you’ve been through it at least once. You know—your child won’t eat or will only eat orange things; your child will drink only juice and it has to be from the bottle with his favorite cartoon character on it;  or your child only wants snacks—those delightful situations that surround mealtime. What should be a pleasant experience turns into arguments, ultimatums, bargaining and more. You’ve reached your wit’s end, and having your child sit quietly (albeit eating French fries and juice for dinner) is almost worth selling your soul to you know who.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Sometimes when you are too deep in it, you can’t imagine a light at the end of the tunnel. However, by taking a step back (and a deep breath) along with a fresh approach, much progress can be made. It is important to remember that you should never argue, bribe or threaten your child with regard to food. While it is frustrating, to be sure, and worrisome to think that your child isn’t eating “properly,” bear in mind you are the parent or caregiver, and ultimately you decide what food and drink is kept in the house and offered to your child. Choices help (“do you want carrots or corn with your chicken?”) and maintaining a matter-of-fact tone in all discussions goes a long way toward fostering balanced conversations about food choices.  Of course, if there is a serious concern or issue please speak with your child’s pediatrician. This post will cover 6 main food battle issues and suggestions, and hopefully it will help turn mealtime into fun time.
1.  Basic Food Truths
One of the most basic truths about your preschooler is that he is a child—not an adult in kid’s clothing. Children have different physical and emotional needs than adults. These differences apply to the type and amount of food they eat, as well as to their behavior at eating time. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Children need smaller portions than adults. Approximately 1 tablespoon of each type of food for every year of the child’s age is an ample portion size in most cases. For example, a 2 year-old can be offered 2 tablespoons of chicken, 2 tablespoons of rice and 2 tablespoons of a vegetable.
Young children may be suspicious of new foods and recipes. Give them time to try out a new food. Try several times over the course of several months before declaring the dish a disaster.
The form a food takes can often determine whether or not it gets eaten. It isn’t uncommon for raw, crunchy vegetables to be preferred over soft, hot ones. Also, foods that can be eaten with the fingers are usually preferable to those needing utensils. Remember to cut hard-to-chew foods into very small pieces for younger children to avoid choking incidents.
Choices help. Offering your child choices—of snacks, side dishes, or type of sandwich, as examples—is important as they exercise their growing independence. It’s usually easier for a child to choose between two or three options than to make an open-ended decision. And it’s a win-win situation as you get to offer a choice of healthy options, and your child gets to select what he wants.

2.  How Can I Get My Child to Give Up the Bottle?
Try to offer liquids in a cup at about 6 months old. Offer about ¼ of an ounce of liquid in small, open plastic cup. Hold the cup while your baby learns how to adjust his lips to the edge. If your child is having difficulty drinking from a cup, try the suggestions below:

Use thicker liquids. Your child’s little mouth needs practice to drink from a cup. Try using thick liquids or purees at first. A jar of strained pears makes a great shake; it’s a familiar taste and the puree is easier than milk or juice for your child’s mouth to control. The puree moves more slowly, and is heavier, making it easier to control.
Choose the right cup. Be sure the mouth of the cup is not too big. There are a variety of lidded cups available. For most children, a spouted cup is fine. If your child needs to learn more oral skills, consider using a lidded cup with no spout. This provides your child’s mouth with the same feeling as drinking from the cup lip, and prevents spills.

3.  Why Should I Teach My Child to Feed Himself?
The main way to prevent feeding struggles is to teach your child how to feed himself at as early an age as possible. You can wait for your infant to show you when he is ready to eat (by leaning forward, for example) and allow him to pace the feeding himself (by such indications as turning his head). Do not insist that he empty the bottle, finish a jar of baby food, or clean the plate. By the time your child is 6-8 months of age, start giving finger foods. Such foods allow him to feed himself at least some of the time. By 12 months, your child will begin to use a spoon, and by 15 months he should be able to feed himself completely. This is your child’s first step towards independence.

4.  Feeding Without Fuss
How many snacks? What about dessert? How much milk is too much? There’s much to be covered here, but we’ve simplified it into 11 helpful tips:

Prepare three meals a day with snacks in between. Your child’s stomach is small and his energy needs are high. He needs to eat every 2-3 hours.
Put your child in charge of how much he eats. Trust your child’s appetite center. The most common reason many children never seem hungry is that they have so many snacks that they never become truly hungry. Drinking too much milk can reduce a child’s appetite as well.
Provide comfort. Use a high chair or booster seat to get your toddler right up to the table. Give him a spoon and fork, but don’t make him use them. Sit down to eat with your toddler.
Help your child eat successfully. Choose foods that are easy to chew. Cut food into bite size pieces. Be careful about choking hazards, like round slices of hot dog. Let him use his hands—he needs to touch and feel the food in order to learn to like it.
Make one meal for everyone. Put a variety of nutritious foods on the table: a main dish, milk, fruit or vegetable, bread and another starchy food like rice, noodles or potatoes. Include at least one food your child usually likes.
Don’t force food. If you try to control how much your child eats, it’s hard for him to eat the right amount to grow well. If he eats only a little bit at one meal, he’ll make up for it at snack time or the next meal.
Be a good role model. Seeing you eat vegetables helps your toddler learn to like them too.
Dessert shouldn’t be a reward. If you make your toddler clean his plate to earn dessert, you teach him that dessert is better than dinner. Explain that a healthy diet includes a balance of food and dessert.
Learn some nutrition basics. Learn what foods give your child the nutrition he needs. For instance, eggs and cheese can substitute for meat, and fruits substitute for vegetables.
Plan the snacks. Think of snacks as little meals, not just sweets or treats. Offer a variety of nutritious snacks.
Be careful with juice and milk. Offer juice and milk only with meals and snacks. Keep in mind that milk contains as many calories as most solid foods. If you allow them out all day, your child may fill up and won’t eat well at mealtime. Daily milk requirements can be discussed with your child’s pediatrician, and is based on your child’s age, weight and height. If your child is thirsty, give water instead.

5. What to Do About Picky Eaters     
We’ve all seen at least one of these: the child who says ‘no’ to every food offered, the child who eats only grilled cheese sandwiches, and more. Here are some suggestions for dealing with some food personalities:

The “Play” Boy – Your child loves to play with his food but doesn’t eat it.
At the end of the meal, clear the table without comment; gently refuse snacks until the next meal.
Big Eyes – Your child constantly leaves food on the plate.
Try offering your child a smaller serving size. Don’t worry if a little is left over, and never force your child to clean his plate.
Doctor No – No matter what you serve your child, he wants something else.
Don’t prepare a separate meal for your child, but don’t force your child to eat what he doesn’t want. Offer simple alternatives: a bowl of soup or a peanut-butter sandwich. If your child still refuses, have him wait until the next meal to eat.
Junk-Food Junkie – Your child eats only cookies, candy, chips and other sweets.
Offer healthful, sweet alternatives such as raisins, oatmeal cookies, dried fruits, and fruit-flavored milkshakes. If you don’t keep junk in the house, it’s easier to remove it as an option.
The Juice Addict – Your child drinks only juice and no other beverage.
For a balanced diet, your child needs to drink other beverages, and the sugar in juice quickly can become excessive. Dilute the juice by mixing with an equal amount of water. Offer low-fat milk and flavored milk.
The Trader – Your child bribes you by asking for promises and rewards in exchange for eating.
Avoid getting into a battle over food. Refuse to use food as a reward or to reward your child for eating.
The Food Jag – Your child eats one and only one food, meal after meal.
Ignore the jag. Let your child eat the food he wants, but continue to offer other foods as well. If the jag continues for more than a few weeks, call your pediatrician.

6. Can I Have a Snack?
How many times a day does your child ask this question? Snacks are an important part of daily eating, but offering healthy choices can go a long way in fueling your child properly and teaching good habits. Below are some healthy snack suggestions:

Yogurt (low-fat or nonfat)
Crackers (whole grain, low-fat)
String cheese (part-skim)
Carrot or celery sticks with low-fat or yogurt dip
Dry cereal (low sugar)
Tortilla with low-fat cheese
Crackers (whole grain, low-fat)
Plain mini bagels or whole-grain bread with jelly, peanut butter or cream cheese
”Pizza” made with English muffin, tomato sauce & mozzarella cheese
Graham crackers, fig bars, animal crackers


In all, offering healthy choices, remaining calm during food conversations, and remembering that children have certain food needs and attitudes towards eating will go a long way in having meal time become a fun, family time. For more information on child milestones, visit our website at www.mksallc.com. And remember to Like us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MKSA-261755423850561/ ) and follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/mksallc )! We love connecting with families.

10 Tips to Encourage Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

One of the most common concerns among parents and caregivers of young children is speech and language development. This post’s contributing author is Betty Aboff, an MKSA Speech-Language Pathologist with 25 years’ experience in evaluating and providing therapy for children.

Many children begin understanding language and speaking their first words at their expected milestones. However, many children do not speak or speak less than they should for their age. Below are language stimulation techniques recommended to help you facilitate and expand your child’s understanding of language and speech skills.

  1. PlayThe importance of play cannot be emphasized enough. Children love to play with all types of toys and play various games. Try to sit at your child’s level while interacting and playing with toys; sit on the floor or at a small table and chairs. You can model the appropriate way to use the toys presented or do hand over hand/show the child how to explore the toy appropriately through trial and error. Always remember to laugh, smile, be bubbly and use an animated voice.
  2. Talk The importance of being vocal during your interactions with your child is very important! Talk about the here and now, and speak slowly. If the child is speaking in 2-word combinations, use 2-3 word sentences when responding. Talk about everyday events and routines such as getting dressed and eating dinner. Use “self-talk” (what you are doing while child is watching)–for example, “Mommy’s eating now.” Comment on actions of the child (“parallel talk”-what the child is playing with, seeing, or doing), i.e. “Jeremy is eating,” labeling common objects (i.e. “cup”), and describing objects throughout your play interactions and during everyday activities. Language and new vocabulary is best learned while doing something.
  3. Modeling – Provide a good model for your child to follow. For example if your child says: “baby hurt,” you say “put a Band-Aid on it.” Model words for your child, especially for their wants and needs. Modeling helps the child increase their understanding and use of words. Try to pair the words you say with a visual cue such as a picture or actual object. Speak slowly; use clear, simple and consistent speech. Speaking slowly will make it easier for your child to understand what you said to him/her. Make sure to provide pauses/time for the child to respond to what you are saying.
  4. Don’t use language to anticipate your child’s needs or desires – Give your child the chance to make his needs known. Always offer choices before giving your child what he/she wants, and model the vocabulary at least 3-5 times, i.e. “Do you want a ball or the car?”  The child will learn that he/she must use language to get what he wants, and can’t simply grunt or point.
  5. Use Positive Reinforcement – Always make your child feel good about speaking. Respond quickly to your child’s efforts at speaking, and reward the attempt at communicating to you with verbal praise. Be specific, i.e. “good talking,” “good for you that you said ___,” or use a gesture such as a high five. Encourage and praise all verbal and non-verbal attempts (whether or not they are perfect) the child is using to communicate his needs to you.
  6. Expansion – Expand what the child says; if the child says “car,” you say “blue car.” Generally, add one or two words to what the child has said to you, i.e. “baby” and you say “baby sleep” or “baby eat cookie.”
  7. Imitation – Begin with imitating actions, animal sounds, environmental sounds and nonsense syllables, and progress to syllables and words. A child usually will imitate a word before he can say it on his own spontaneously.
  8. Follow the Child’s Lead – Talk about what interests the child. Use a child’s choice of toy to engage him/her in play; as he is interested in the toy, he will be more likely to listen to the language being modeled by the parent while playing with the toy.
  9. Be an Active Listener – Listen to your child. Show that you are listening to what he/she has to say. This will show the child that his/her message is important to you! Encourage listening activities; a child has to learn to listen before he can learn how to speak.
  10. Repetition – Repeating the label for objects or actions helps the child learn the new word so he can incorporate it in his vocabulary, making the child feel comfortable with it so he will begin to use it.

Always remember to maintain good eye contact! A child wants to talk to you when you are listening, smiling, interested, and asking questions. Give the child all the time he needs to express himself.  EVERY ACTIVITY CAN BE A LANGUAGE LEARNING EXPERIENCE!