Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Blog #21~ What Is Normal?

Blog #21~ What Is Normal?

What is normal?  To quote Whoopi Goldberg, “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.”  Normal is boring, average right?  So why do I crave normal?  I was driving through my subdivision the other day and I saw a group of high school boys on bikes and skateboards. I found myself thinking, that’s all I really want….to see Nick doing something like regular kids do every once in a while. 

Last Friday, my neighbor’s son came over after school.  I witnessed normal. I handed him the remote and he sat down and watched a Chuck Norris movie.  Later, while he read a book Nick stood by rocking back and forth like he often does. He then asked me, “Why does Nick always stick his hand down his pants when I am over here?”  Oh, I guess that is not normal. 🙂

In Blog #20 I wrote about some of the activities Nick still enjoys and how they are far from being age appropriate.  I want to expand a bit more on it this week.  If you read last week’s post, I bet you are wondering what he is watching right now?  That’s right he is still on a Thomas the Tank Engine kick. I crave normal because there is noise and chaos living in Nick’s world. Let me put a lens on it. The boy pushes buttons all kinds….. of course fire alarms being his favorite. 🙂 Besides the Holy Grail that being the fire alarms, he also enjoys the phone intercom, volume on the remote control, and popcorn button on the microwave. Is it normal to have to keep a cup of water in your microwave so it won’t burn up? Is it normal to hide your car keys up high on the kitchen cabinet so your child doesn’t set off the car remote alarms?   Doesn’t everyone have to hide their cell phone so their child doesn’t send it swimming in the toilet?  Speaking of toilets, is it normal to call the plumber to unclog something your eighteen year old flushed?  Sergio, my plumber had a good laugh.  He told me in his Hispanic accent, “You can still wear theeeese glasses they were in clean water, not poopy water.”

That’s where my readers ended up!

Okay, my mom said I use to take the knobs off the high fi and throw them in the toilet but I was only three.

Over the years strange things have gone on with Nick in our house. I can still remember Nick’s “naked phase” about seven years ago.  It was getting dark outside and his older brother Hank came in from the front yard.

“Mom, I could see Nick from the cul-de-sac.  He was *buck naked at the top of the stairs holding his wang.”  Sure enough I came out of the kitchen to see a prepubescent Nick stripped down with the light of the chandelier illuminating his naked body groping his you know what. I ran over and grasped the dimmer switch and pulled it straight down. We shook our heads. I knew exactly what Hank was going to say. “That boy ain’t right.” Its what we always say when Nick does something strange, call it our defense mechanism.

I am not sure what was going through Nick’s mind at that time or during any of his wacky stunts. I tried to express it with art when Nick was in third grade.  Remember the spoon man project?  The kids mold a clay head and it is attached to a spoon that sits on top of a platform.  It is up to the students and parents to make the spoon man come to life. This won a spot in the school district art show that year.

Note the artful details around the neck line.  Nick use to chew his shirt and it was always wet and mangled……

I wish I could crack open his skull and see what’s inside.  What I figure is that he knows that he is a funny guy. I wonder what it would be like if he just had Down syndrome and what he would bring to the table. I did stumble on a cool quote by actor, Chris Burke who starred in the hit television series, Life Goes On.  This made me smile…. 🙂

“Having Down syndrome is like being born normal. I am just like you and you are just like me. We are all born in different ways that is the way I can describe it. I have a normal life.” ~Chris Burke

It’s hard not to get swallowed up in Nick’s crazy world. Ordinary is welcomed.  “Don’t take normal for granted.” That’s what the mother of a 7 year old cancer patient said on the radio during a children’s cancer fundraiser event last week.  I get that, totally.  But then again, if I had normal I wouldn’t be writing these stories would I?  I wouldn’t have fun pictures like these to share. This is what he was up to this weekend……

I told Nick to get some clothes out and get dressed…..Looks like he is ready for the whole week…. 

For the record that was 11 shirts, 7 pair of pants and 3 pair of undies…..

Nick at the park walking swift and robotically with his arms up like a Bears linebacker….

Move over Brian Urlacher, Nick is poised and at ramming speed.

Nick pretending he is drinking two cans of mushrooms, he just fills up the canvas with silliness…..

When you rock the extra chromosme you can easily sit like this……He’s still very bendy…..

So perhaps normal is just a setting on the washing machine and nothing more.  I have to remind myself to embrace chaos and be content with all the colorful moments that Nick has brought into my world.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.  Have a great one and until next Monday, may your canvas be filled with hues of many brilliant colors. 🙂


*Buck naked.  I always wondered if it was that or butt naked. I guess I’m not the only one. Here’s what Wiki.answers says:

“It is both. The word “buck” or “buff” is thought to be from the color of a buckskin, which is the pale tan color of European skin – this gives you “buck naked” and “in the buff.” “Butt naked” refers to the fact that your buttocks are not covered.”

I have always heard it “buck naked”. I don’t think it refers to any color at all; the phrase was originally meant to compare one to an “Indian buck” as the men were called many years ago in a less politically correct age. They were commonly thought to be “naked savages”, whether they were in fact or not. Thus, “buck naked” implied being without clothing.






Teresa is the Author of "A New Course: A Mother's Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism" and the mother of two boys. Her youngest son, Nick is 29 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Teresa's passion is helping others understand and navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. She is a DS-ASD consultant, advocate, speaker, and author. Follow Nick's world on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall. For more information and media links, visit

2 thoughts on “Blog #21~ What Is Normal?

  1. T – I really enjoy your and nicks stories!! You are right about the word “normal” – whoopie totally got it right!! Its all in the eyes of
    The person deciding at that moment i thought jordan (first baby) was how a normal baby acted, until i had aidan and the dr said, aidan is more normal than jordan – jordan listened, talked early, spoke perfecrly… You ger
    The picture all aidan did was throw things a s run away! ThAnk you for sharing, I love your outlook on life T – it’s an inspiration to all – leslie

  2. Each child is so unique and come with their own set of interesting things they bring to the table, Leslie. Glad you enjoy the stories and most of all that you find inspiration in them. That makes me push and keep doing this. 🙂

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