Posted in Education and Special Needs

Memorial Day Holiday Break

Memorial Day Holiday Break

We are having a great time this weekend with my family (Babs-my mom, Laura-Sis and her husband Scott along with my nephew Jake and Jenna my niece.) Lots of laughs, fake sneezes, whoopee cushion fart humor, elbows rubs and fun. 🙂 Al’s parents (Jim and Theresa) also joined us to celebrate Nick’s graduation from high school held at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center.

NIU Home of the Huskies!

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Burning questions dear readers???????

*Did Nick pull a fire alarm at the graduation?

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*Was there any hand flapping as he made his way across the stage?

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*Did that cap and tassel stay on his head? 🙂

*Just what did happened after Nick was handed his diploma?

Tune in next Monday to find out! Blessing to our troops and veterans today.

~Teresa 🙂

Posted in Education and Special Needs, Fun Side of Nick

Blog #55~School Days

Blog #55~ School Days

I can’t believe tomorrow is Nick’s last day of school.  He graduates from high school on Sunday.  Recently after our basement flooded, I was going through some wet boxes and found my old “school days” book. I flipped through the yellow pages looking at pictures and my vital statistics (height, weight, activities, awards and achievements.)

Nice handwriting there, T…… 🙂

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This prompted me to share some school day pictures of Nick.  I pulled out his box of memorabilia from his closet.  Nestled inside I found his old baby blanket, christening candle, artwork, an autographed baseball and  his book.

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There’s just one problem.  I only filled out first grade, the rest well……crickets….chirp…

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Here are some of Nick’s school Portraits  over the years 🙂

 Nick’s 2nd Grade picture.  I love this toothless grin, one of my favs!

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3rd Grade…..

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 4th Grade, this is my Mom’s favorite……….

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In many pictures, Nick smiles with his eyes…… As Tyra Banks calls it “smizing” 😉

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The awkward early pre-teen years… Don’t we all have one we’d rather  leave stuffed in the drawer?

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Speaking of awkward, check out this mug shot from freshman year.  None of my family has seen this one. This photo package remains fully in tact stuffed in a shoe box. 

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It’s never easy to get a good photograph of Nick.  Trying to get him to look into the camera, smile, keep his hands from flapping is a daunting task. Having Down syndrome and autism makes for some interesting stories.  If you haven’t read Blog #5~Ready, Set, Action- Check it out ( June 2012 archives). It’s a classic Nick story 🙂

High School ……He’s getting bigger, and it looks like I should have run the Norelco over his stubble…..

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Junior year of high School…..

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Hope you enjoyed a look back at Nick.  My how he has grown. If you want to see Nick’s senior portrait you’ll have to wait until next week.  I think this blog just became Nick’s school days book.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #54~Mom Helpline

Blog #54~Mom Helpline

What did I want for Mother’s Day?  ……………………. Just the sound of crickets.…..

I applaud the moms who enjoy breakfast in bed served by their kids.  I am not there anymore.  Really all I want is a little peace.  For me, it is having the luxury to take some time to do simple errands. Not rushing at a mad pace. It’s a gift just knowing that someone is watching Nick so I don’t have to bust my ass to get home.   And so I did.  I took my time after teaching two spin classes. I drove out of work slowly taking a chill pace towards Oswego.  I  stopped off at Ulta, Kohls, Target.  Oh how I love you three amigos!  Ladies, you are with me here, right? 🙂

So I got my wish, to breathe, stretch my arms out and enjoy doing what I like.  I also received a nice handmade gift from Nick.

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It lasted less than a day hanging on the shepherds hook.  A menacing squirrel plucked it off and darted across the yard holding it in his mouth.  Al got my favorites,  Yankee Candles and a new fountain for the deck.  That’s how I get my Zen on.

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While Nick showers me with little kisses, his older brother is more understated. Hank quietly posted a message on Facebook, “Happy Mother’s Day, Madre!  You’re the best.”

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Later he emerged out of the shower clean shaven and said, “This is your mother’s day gift.”  He knows exactly how to win his Madre’s heart.

While I was out driving yesterday and I pondered on what to write about for this week.  How is being a mom of a child with special needs different?  The images of my all my fellow warrior moms came to mind.  The path we were given is worn with sleeplessness that extends for years.  The basic milestones like eating solid foods, walking, talking, and potty training take longer to reach.  Some of these may never be met. The ones that do get met are sweet and savory.  Warrior moms become experts on their child’s diagnosis and IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans.)  They learn a whole new vocabulary of words from doctors, educators, speech, occupational and physical therapists.  They juggle schedules to all of these therapies and carve out time to attend conferences and seminars to learn more about how to improve the quality of life for their child. They become advocates for their child and help others who follow behind them.  Those with children who have behavior problems have to shift gears during a mid laundry fold and clean up a splatter or cut a meltdown off at the pass.

This is just one of many things Nick has dumped out.  For the full list check out Blog #3~Getting Your Goat, located in the April 2012 Archives!

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Sometimes the meltdowns just happen and the warrior mom has to maintain patience while their child is hitting, biting, pinching, kicking and destroying everything in their path.  It’s not all doom and gloom.  Having a son like Nick who has Down syndrome and autism can also bring sweetness, innocence and unconditional love.  That is what keeps me fueled as I take a breath and get ready for another day.

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What can you do to help a mom with a child who has special needs?  It means a great deal when I get a message, text or card.  Knowing that someone is thinking about you can really make a person’s day.  Offer to babysit or help a mom find respite care. “The Care.Com Team” provides a list of caregivers who have experience working with special needs children. Watch for signs that a family is becoming to isolated.  Sometimes being in the trenches, we might not realize how bad things have gotten. During the height of Nick’s puberty period, my in-laws (Jim and Theresa) saw that we were in over our heads. They found some resources and parents to help us find a new path for dealing with the difficult problems we were having.  Reaching out and finding support is essential.   This can be through a local group like NADS (National Association for Down Syndrome).  There are many groups online and through Facebook that I have found to be helpful such as “MyAutismTeam,” “Circle of Moms,” and “Mom2Mom” which has a hotline 1-877-914-Mom2.  There are many more listed under my resource page.

Today there is no school so I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to concentrate to do this piece. Nick was up earlier playing his iPod loudly and pushing buttons as I tried to sleep with one eye open. Over an hour later he crawled in bed next to me.  Surprisingly, he is taking a page out of his brother’s book, still sleeping in now. 🙂

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It’s 11:00am and all I hear is the dull hum of the refrigerator and the sound of my fingers tapping on the keyboard.  No iPod or Thomas the Tank Engine blaring, no water faucets running full blast, no phone intercom or microwave buttons being pushed.  Just crickets…………

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Cheers to all you moms out there and may your Mother’s Day wishes come true. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #53~Scuba Diving, Really?

Blog #53~Scuba Diving, Really?

About a month ago I clicked the inbox to purge emails.  I spotted one from Nick’s Adapted Physical Education (APE) teacher. Subject:  Scuba diving…What the? I laughed picturing Nick strapped down with all that equipment on his back and around his face.  I can’t even get him to leave a hat on for more than thirty seconds.  I started to hit delete but something made me pause.  I skimmed the information and hit reply.  “I am not sure this is something that Nick could tolerate.  What do you think?”

His APE teacher, Meredith Jordan wrote back.  “I think we should give it a try! He really enjoys swimming and has no problem putting his head under water. He has also done an awesome job responding to directions given to him during class. It can’t hurt to try!”

Good point, what did we have to lose?  After all, he does love to swim….See Blog #17~Life’s a Beach (located in the August 2012 archives) for more about Nick’s swimming experiences.

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I read through the information, watched an ABC news piece and checked out the website (www.diveheart.org.)

Scuba diving is the only activity in the world that has zero gravity. And the enjoyment of that zero gravity gives people with various physical disabilities a special freedom.  Jim Elliot started the organization called Diveheart and has been working with divers with disabilities since 1997.  Elliot states that, “There’s a very, very short learning curve in scuba diving with for people with disabilities and without disabilities.”  “Diveheart is a nonprofit whose mission is to build confidence and independence in children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the activity of scuba diving,” said Elliot. “We serve all disabilities. Kids with autism and Down syndrome, the vets coming back with traumatic brain injuries, amputations it doesn’t matter. The only thing that keeps you from diving is pressure related illnesses, open wounds and people with seizures can’t go deep.”

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Fast forward to last week….  I opened up my laptop and found this in my inbox from Mrs. Jordan.  I was stunned!

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Here’s what Mrs. Jordan wrote about Nick’s scuba experience…..”It’s pretty cool; I was getting emotional watching him. He did such an awesome job and I was so impressed with how relaxed he was during the entire process. He followed their instructions without any hesitation. I would definitely recommend trying this again possibly with the same organization. The Diveheart instructors used verbal instructions for Nick. They did show him how to open his mouth wide to get the breathing piece all the way in. They thoroughly explained to him everything they were doing. They did not use visual pictures at all. I had a peer partner in the water with him assisting the instructor. The instructor did have to hold the breathing piece in his mouth for a while until Nick realized he had to hold it. Once he got the hang of it he did not want to come up! He was SO relaxed the entire time. They had pretend fish/water toys in the water and Nick LOVED diving for them! Needless to say, he did not want to get out of the water. He was in for about an hour!”

Look at my frogman go :)….

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Diving for toys…..

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Sometimes I have to remind myself not to set limits on Nick.  Mrs. Jordan was right, it can’t hurt to try. Thank you Mrs. Jordan and Diveheart! 🙂 I am very grateful for Nick to be given this opportunity.  I would never have thought to try something like this.  Lesson learned, sometimes you have to *Think outside the box.

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That’s what is in my noggin this week.  🙂

~Teresa

*Thinking Outside the Box according to The Phrase Finder means to think creatively, unimpeded by orthodox or conventional constraints.  It originated in the USA in the late 1960s/early 1970s. It has become something of a cliché, especially in the business world, where ‘thinking outside the box’ has become so hackneyed as to be rather meaningless. The ‘box’, with its implication of rigidity and squareness, symbolizes constrained and unimaginative thinking.