Sunday, May 29, 2011

Improve Fitness and Self-Esteem By Incorporating “Family Playtime”

By Marc Sickel, Founder of Fitness for Health

Does this sound familiar?

“I’m not going to play outside and you can’t make me!” yelled Sam* to his mom.

“Honey, you’ve spent all morning inside the house and it’s a beautiful day. Don’t you want to shoot hoops with your friends?” replied Sam’s mother.

The importance of improving fitness skills cannot be underestimated. Many special needs children with low levels of interest in physical activity are often found to have decreased self-confidence. The American Heart Association has shown that physically active children show improvements in a wide variety of measures of psychological well-being—including self-esteem.

A vicious cycle can easily be established as both physical activity and self-confidence decline. A special needs child may feel inadequate when he thinks that he is unable to keep up with his peers and may avoid “play” situations. The child may find ways to compensate for lower skill level by staying indoors when possible, creating fictitious injuries, offering to be the game’s referee, or walking around the perimeter of the activity.

How can parents encourage their children to be physically fit? Make physical activities and games FUN! The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime.”

Need a few ideas for family games? Fitness for Health, a premiere therapeutic, fitness facility for children in the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, recommends the following fun activities:

• Celebrate the nice weather and play balloon toss. Balloons can be filled with air or water, or toss different sized or textured balls or other soft objects. If you are playing outside, try using a wet sponge.

• Design your own obstacle course using household items such as sheets, empty boxes, chairs and sticks that can create tunnels, hurdles and mazes. Create teams—parents versus kids or sibling versus sibling.

• Have a dance contest. Ask each family member to “invent” a dance move and give it a funny name. Ask family member to teach his/her dance to the rest of the family.

• Create your own music videos. Ask family members to raid their closets and create costumes. Next, blare (or sing) your favorite songs and use a video camera to film your adaptations. Plan a family movie night to watch your music video debuts or upload your videos to You Tube.

• Create hours of fun by making your own Twister-style game. Using duct tape or colored chalk, make outlines of shapes on your floor or patio. Ask a family member to call out commands such as, “Place your right foot in the square. Place your left knee in the circle.”

• Play water tag (similar to laser tag, but using squirt guns).

• Set up a treasure hunt. Time the event to encourage participants to walk briskly or jog to find the objects. The person who finds the most items in the least amount of time is the winner.

• Re-enact Wimbledon using homemade racquets. Bend a wire hanger into an oval, cover the oval using old pantyhose, and then duct tape a wooden paint stirrer to create a handle. Crumple a used piece of paper to create the “ball” or “birdie” and play tennis in your own yard.

• Go bowling in your yard or hallway. Before you recycle, gather empty water or juice bottles to use as pins. Add a ball and you’ve created a personal bowling alley!

• Play baseball using a homemade bat. Wash and dry an empty 2-liter bottle. To make the bat more durable, use an 18-inch wooden rod or a stick. Place the rod in bottle and duct tape the remaining portion of the rod to the bottle opening. Use with Wiffle balls, wadded socks, crumpled paper—anything you can imagine!

Families need to work—and play—together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships. With an integrated, team-building approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem.

As a solid base of skills is built, the special needs child who once avoided risk now has the comfort level and confidence to try new activities—and take on new challenges. With this paradigm shift, the child can enjoy the physical exertion and camaraderie of team play and continue to progress physically, psychologically and socially.

* The child’s name has been changed in order to protect his privacy.

Marc Sickel, a certified athletic trainer and founder of Fitness for Health located in Rockville, MD, specializes in creating fun, individualized fitness programs for children and adults with varying needs and skill levels. To learn more about Fitness for Health, visit

Event Summary for the Week of May 30, 2011

Opening Doors Inclusion Institute

Imagination Stage and Kids Included Together will partner to present the Opening Doors Inclusion Seminar on June 11 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

This one-day event will provide attendees with tools and techniques to successfully include and support children with disabilities in early childhood and out-of-schooltime programs.

The Institute will cover Kids Included Together's four core modules of inclusion: Introduction to Inclusion, Respectful Accommodations, Supporting Positive Bahavior, and Partnering with Families.

The cost for the seminar is $10 per participant, which includes lunch and materials. Please register online. The seminar will be held at Imagination Stage (4908 Auburn Avenue) in Behtesda. For more information, contact Diane Nutting at 301-280-1637 or

Mad Science Social Thinking Groups Forming

Speech language pathologists Susan Abrams and Randi Rosenblatt will be running a new Mad Science social thinking group starting Wednesday June 15th at 4 p.m. in Rockville.

This group will be for pre-k through kindergarten children and will meet weekly. An individual parent coaching session will also be included. This structured group integrates social cognitive thinking concepts into weekly science experiments. All groups are based on the philosophy of Michelle Garcia Winner.

For more information on this or other social thinking groups, please contact Susan Abrams at or 301-468-9343 ext. 2.

Parent Support Group

The Lollipop Kids Foundation will host a parent support group for parents raising a child with a disability on June 9 from 7-9 p.m.

The meeting will give parents an opportunity to network in a casual environment as well as time to enjoy conversation and s'mores.

The meeting will take place at Cosi (201 N Washington Street) in the Rockville Town Center. For more information, email

Sensory Friendly Movie: Kung Fu Panda 2

Enjoy a screening of Kung Fu Panda 2 in a sensory friendly environment on June 4 at 10 a.m.

AMC Entertainment and the Autism Society have teamed up to provide a mellower setting for families affected by autism and other disabilities. The movie auditorium will have its lights brought up and the sound turned down, families can bring in their own GFCF snacks, and no previews or ads will be shown before the movies. Audience members are also welcome to get up and move or vocalize. (Unless the safety of the audience is questioned.)

Tickets cost between $4 and $6 depending on the theater. The AMC Rio Cinemas 18 in Gaithersburg (9811 Washingtonian Blvd.) is one of the theaters that participates.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Event Summary for the Week of May 23, 2011

Check out the AutMont Calendar to see all of the activities for this week as well as those coming up!

JSSA Summer Workshops and Groups

JSSA has announced its summer workshops and groups. They offer many programs, including social skills therapy groups; life readiness classes for young adults with Asperger's syndrome; bereavement, parent, and marriage support groups; job search workshops; and more. They have classes in both Maryland and Northern Virginia.

You can find information about all their programs on their website. Following are some autism-related programs that they offer in Montgomery County.

Support Group for Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: These free support group meetings will help parents share coping strategies and community resources as well as develop networks and gain support. Jamell White, LCSW-C will lead the groups, which will be held Mondays from June 6 to August 1 from 7-8:15 p.m at 200 Wood Hill Road in Rockville. Monthly pre-registration is required by calling 301-610-8361.

Stress Management for Adults with Autism Spectrum and Related Disorders: This workshop will teach participants to understand their stress, their reactions to stressors, and to reduce the impact of stress on their lives. Techniques including deep breathing, positive self-talk, and visualization will be introduced and practiced. This group will meet June 13, June 20, June 27, July 11 and July 18 from 6:15-7:15 p.m. at 200 Wood Hill Road in Rockville and costs $175 for the whole series. Pre-registration is required by calling 301-610-8360.

Going Places! Social Club for Young Adults with Asperger's Syndrome and Related Disorders: This group is for young adults ages 18-30. Participants will be encouraged to engage with their peers in a fun and stimulating environment. Activities will include local field trips, games, art projects, movies, and the like. Group members will be encouraged to suggest ideas for outings. This group will meet June 5, July 10 and August 21. Times and locations will vary based on the activity planned for that day. The cost for each event is $25. Pre-registration is required by calling 301-610-8355.

Cool, Calm & Connected: A Young Adult Social Skills Therapy Group Focusing on Relationships: This group is for young adults ages 19-30 who may have Asperger's or a related disorder. This group will work on building and maintaining healthy relationships with peers, parents, co-workers, and significant others and on appropriately managing feelings such as frustration, anxiety, disappointment, anger and jealousy. This group will meet Tuesdays from June 14-July 26 from 6-7 p.m. at 200 Wood Hill Road in Rockville. Each session costs $65 and pre-registration is required by calling 301-610-8358.

Support Group for Siblings of Children with Physical and/or Developmental Disabilities: This coed workshop will cover topics including education on different disabilities, coping strategies, and how to improve communication between parents and children. Dates and times for these sessions are yet to be determined. Get more information and register for this $210 six-session workshop by calling 301-816-2633. Sessions will be held at 200 Wood Hill Road in Rockville.

Family Support Group for Parents and Family Members of Children with Disabilities: Gain knowledge, share resources, coping mechanisms, and strategies at this sessions. They take place June 21, July 19, and August 16 from 7:15-8:45 p.m. at 6123 Montrose Road in Rockville. Each session costs $15. Pre-registration is required by calling 301-610-8355.

Sports Plus Swim Registration Now Open

Sports Plus has opened registrations for the Montgomery County Swim Program that will begin June 4.

Space is limited, so sign up quickly! For more information, check the Sports Plus website.

Shopping Fundraiser for Autism Speaks

My Gym at Cabin John Mall will host a "Mommy Market" on June 5th from 2 to 6 p.m. at with a percentage of sales donated to Autism Speaks.

Local moms will sell their products and services. My Gym will offer child care for shoppers. There will be raffles to support Autism Speaks and discounts and special deals for My Gym summer classes, parties, and camps. Find the complete list of vendors online.

Cabin John Mall is located at 11325 Seven Locks Road in Potomac.

Strategies to Handle the Hard-to-Manage Child

CHADD of Montgomery County will host a lecture on Strategies to Handle the Hard-to-Manage Child on May 26 from 7:15 to 9:15 p.m.

Dr. Georgia DeGangi will discuss strategies for working with children who are inattentive, hyperactive, anxious, overstimulated, and overwhelmed. The presentation is designed to give parents hands-on tools they can use with their child. Dr. DeGangi will offer practical strategies that work at home, at school, and in interactions with family members and peers.

The meeting will be held at the Twinbrook Library (202 Meadow Hall Drive) in Rockville. Registration will begin at 7:15 with the lecture starting at 7:30. Discussion and informal support will follow the speaker program. For more information, email

Monday, May 16, 2011

Extraordinary Parents Night: Succeeding in General Education

The Partnership for Extraordinary Minds will hold its monthly Extraordinary Parents Night on May 18 from 7-9 p.m.

This month the meeting will focus on succeeding in general education. Parents will talk about how they have worked with teachers and school staff to help their children succeed in general education classrooms.

The meeting will be held in the Rockville Library Meeting Room (21 Maryland Avenue) in Rockville.

Upcoming Ivymount Workshops

Ivymount School will offer two workshops this May on social language and kindergarten readiness. Both of them will be held at Ivymount School (11614 Seven Locks Road) in Rockville.

May 19, 6:30-9:30 p.m.—Developing Social Language Skills in a Multi-Cultural Classroom: Participants will learn ages and stage of bilingual language development, specific strategies to increase communication in bilingual children, strategies to support socialization and play for the bilingual learner, and more. The cost for the seminar is $60. Register online.

May 25, 7-9 p.m.—Gearing Up for Kindergarten: This workshop is for parents who have preschoolers who may have another year of preschool or are looking to start kindergarten in September. This workshop will provide concrete, hands-on strategies to develop pre-handwriting skills, social interaction skills, and language and listening skills. The cost is $25 per person or $40 per couple. Register online.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wretches & Jabberers THIS Thursday

Autism documentary Wretches & Jabberers will be showing in 100 cities nationwide on May 12 at 7:30 p.m., including several theaters in the DC metro area.

Wretches & Jabberers is a documentary that follows Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, two men with autism, who embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability, intelligence and communication.

Local showings will take place in DC and Maryland, as well as Fairfax, Virginia. Check the film's schedule to find out where it will be showing in your area. You can also buy tickets online.

Monday, May 9, 2011

May Fair at Stephen Knolls

Thanks to reader Catherine for the heads up on the May Fair that Stephen Knolls School will be holding on May 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The fair will include a cake walk, yard sale, food, fun and games for the entire family. Stephen Knolls is located at 10731 St. Margaret's Way in Kensington, just south of Wheaton Plaza. If you're out at Taste of Wheaton, stop by the May Fair as well!

Supported Housing Symposium

Madison House Foundation and the Washington Group Special Care Planning Team will present the 2011 Supported Housing Symposium: Focus on Options on May 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The symposium will educate parents and other members of the community about supportive housing options for adults with autism that are currently available, as well as creative and affordable housing solutions that are on the near horizon.

The symposium is free and includes lunch. Limited seating is available. Register online. The symposium will be held at the auditorium at the Universities at Shady Grove (9630 Gudelsky Drive) in Rockville.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Event Summary for the Week of May 9, 2011

Check out the AutMont Calendar to see all of the activities for this week as well as those coming up!

I'm running a little behind this week, so I'm hoping to add some events in the next couple of days. Check back here for additions or enter your email address in the box in the sidebar to subscribe to a once-a-day email letting you know about all our events!

Forgive me if I miss anything. Thanks so much for your patience!

Monday, May 9:

Tuesday, May 10:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Autism Friendly Night with D.C. Divas Football

The Autism Society and the D.C. Divas will hold an autism friendly night on May 7 at 7 p.m. the Divas are DC's professional all-female football team.

At autism friendly night, the Divas will designate an accepting autism-friendly section in the stands where individuals can be themselves and move around as they please.

During the game, the team will broadcast messages sharing autism understanding and acceptance with all the fans. Halftime entertainment will be provided by the DC Art Therapy School and its band.

Tickets will be available at discounted rates ($8 for adults, $5 for children, free for ages 6 and under) upon presentation of Autism Society discount vouchers. Contact your local Autism Society chapter for a discount voucher. You can find links to local chapters on the Autism Society website or click here for the Montgomery County chapter.

The game will be played at Prince George's County Sports and Learning Complex (8001 Sheriff Road) in Landover. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Parking is free.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Event Summary for the Week of May 2, 2011