Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Fun Side of Nick

Blog #75~ 5 Reasons I am Thankful for Nick

Blog #75~ 5 Reasons I am Thankful for Nick
The road I have travelled with Nick was not in the plan.  It’s the thin, grey line on the map that is bumpy and full of twists and turns.  Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  The pace was bogged down as he struggled to hit developmental milestones. Other times it has been lightning fast, (like when you are racing to beat him to an exposed fire alarm). After 19 years and 30 fire alarm pulls, I am very thankful for Nick and here is why:

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1. I appreciate the small successes much more now. I don’t take anything for granted that a child has to learn like sitting, eating, crawling, walking, talking and especially toilet training. Each victory has been sweeter when Nick hit the marks.

2. I am more grounded because of Nick. He has taught our family to stay humble. While other moms were bragging about their child getting A’s in honors classes, being the star athlete and what colleges they were looking at, I smiled politely.  In my mind I was thinking, “At least Nick didn’t pee in his pants at school this week.”

3. I’ve become some what of an expert on Down syndrome and autism. Through trial and error along with wonderful teachers, therapists and mentors I have learned what works best for Nick. I am now able to pay it forward in my writing, speaking engagements and helping other parents out.

4. Life is never boring with Nick. He cracks me up with his mischievous ways.  He generates  laughter and tons of  “Likes” on my Facebook page: Down syndrome With A Slice Of Autism”.

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Here’s Nick’s signature elbow bump, (his version of a high five) with his Dad and Aunt Laura  🙂


He’s got that look on his face like, I’m going to grab your wine)  🙂

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What a jokester, hardy har har Nick……

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5. Nick gives unconditional love so freely. Each morning he wakes up, lets out a fart and smiles. All through the day he showers me with kisses, elbow bumps and hugs.

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I am truly thankful to have travelled down this road with Nick.  It has been a blessing to be his mom.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

snoopy thanksgiving

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #74~ Teaching to 21

Blog #73~ Teaching to 21
Last week, I was a guest lecturer at Northern Illinois University. The graduate level class topic was “Functional Communication and Social Skills” as it relates to autism. I presented a parent’s perspective.

NIU logo

One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is teaching personal independence. It’s never too early to start working on these skills. One concept brought to my attention by Nick’s support teacher from elementary school is called, “Teaching to 21.” What skills will an individual with special needs require to lead a successful life after school is finished? Here is a list of skills that should be addressed both in school and at home for students with special needs:

 Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)


“Functional skills” are those skills that if learners cannot do for themselves, someone will have to do for them. Functional skills are immediately useful and important. They increase self-help and independence and are present in every setting and throughout every stage of life:

Basic skills:
Basic Communication
Health, safety, first aid
Night time routines

Home Skills Module:
Meals at home
Household mechanics

Community Participation:
Basic mobility
Community knowledge
Meals in public
Money handling
Social awareness

School Skills:
School waiting and transitions
Classroom routines
Meals at school
Classroom people, places and objects
Classroom mechanics
Outside school
Functional academics
Classroom leisure and independence

The IEP team should address these skills in goal planning and daily schedules of the student. In addition, supports should be put in place that will assist the student in reaching these goals. Here are some of the supports that Nick has used in school. Since Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, these tangible provisions give him clarity and focus in doing his tasks.

*Visual supports such as task strips, social stories, picture schedules and video modeling:
task strip
*First-then visual or app to remind student what they are working for:
first then

first then app
*Timed Timer clock or app and Picture Scheduler app:

timed timer

picture schedule app
*Physical prompting-teacher may do hand over hand to teach a school and fade back to just pointing to direct student.

*Guiding student with visual cues (putting stickers on washcloths to teach folding sequence, sprinkle hole punch paper dots on floor to teach vacuuming, using counting templates, etc…)

Nick packaging door knobs_Habitat_4 (2)

For students with autism, if they can see it…. they can understand it. In Blog #5~Ready, Set, Action (located in April 2012 Archives) I wrote about how successful video modeling was in teaching Nick skills around the house. He responds to and is motivated by seeing the footage in a video format. It also landed him a community job at a local elder residence care facility.

Nick hard at work 🙂
Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3).

Nick takes great pride in his jobs both in the community, school and at home. We continue to work on the skills needed for him to be as independent in all areas of his life so he is ready to manage things when he is finished with school. It’s all about starting early and teaching to 21! That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂


Follow Nick on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

Posted in Autism, Fun Side of Nick

Update~ Under Construction Part II

under construction
Update~ Under Construction Part II

We survived “Carpet-Palooza” last week.  It was a long day and I felt like a giant Swiffer dust rag when it all wrapped up shortly after 7pm.  Last June, in Blog #59~The Sleuth Detective, I wrote about things that just disappeared into a black hole around the house.  I do have some good news of some recovered items!

black hole

Two Nick’s iPods were recovered from the deep recesses 🙂 Oh and a bunch of toys that our cat, Miss Mellie had batted around and got trapped behind the settee in the dining room.

Now you see why I felt like a giant Swiffer cloth 🙂


Nick got home from school and saw the mayhem, his first reaction was to say, “Wow!”


The foreman of the Lowes carpet crew took one look at Nick and said, “I remember, doing this house now.” (He had done the basement after the reconstruction from the flooding in April.) I wasn’t surprised, Nick can leave a lasting impression.

Nick squeezed his way into the kitchen and was delighted to see all the treasures that had been buried…….


As I continued to clean up the silk plants that pretty much serve the function of being dust catchers, I caught Nick out of the corner of my eye.  He was throwing the cat toys at the carpet crew.  As my friend, Kendra put it, “Nothing says welcome to my crib like getting hit upside the head with a cat toy.”  As I mentioned, Nick can leave a lasting impression. Down syndrome and autism can be so much fun! 🙂  The Lowes carpet crew had a good laugh and appreciated his lively spirit.

The day rolled out nicely and the carpet looks wonderful!  Here’s Nick’s crib, it looks brand new……


I am slowly peeling away through the boxes that I had to shove into the guest bathroom and out in the garage.  They are filled with the breakables, knick knacks and all the stuff that was on the closet floors. I’m taking it one box at a time and will be making my third trip to AMVETS with donations.  The silver lining; getting new carpeting does make you organize and clean out unwanted items.  Speaking of AMVETS, here’s to our brave veterans today!

veterans day

That’s what is in my noggin this week.  Stay tuned for next week’s topic about communication and social skills as it relates to autism! 🙂


Posted in Autism

Update~ Under Construction

Update~ Under Construction

under construction

It all started with the heavy rains earlier this spring which lead to flooding in the basement.

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The basement is put back together and looking pristine with fresh paint and carpeting.  But guess what?  Now I want the rest of the house done.  Twelve years and two boys can really beat up a house. Nick’s autism and raging meltdowns have put a lot of dents in the walls.  Both of their rooms have seen better days.

The ugly side of autism….Nick use to hurl all kinds of stuff at his bedroom wall.  Here it is all patched up…….

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Next stop, fresh paint in the boys rooms followed by the new carpet installation in the rest of the house.  I think I just opened up a huge *can of worms!  🙂

can of worms

I have three days to get all of the knick knacks and breakables packed up and clean out the bottom of all the closets in preparation for the carpet installation. Oh, and there is the sitting room… corner stacked with clutter, ughhhh. This area could be featured on the show “Hoarders”.

In the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Scarlet o'Hara

My sister in law, Ali saved the day bringing me boxes, wrap and wine!  Thanks dear Ali for all of this and helping me haul the heavy boxes of china, stemware and crystal that I packed up over the weekend out to the garage.  Home renovation is one sure fire way to get rid of clutter and organize.  🙂

Stay tuned for more about Nick’s world after this construction site gets completed!  That’s what is in my noggin today. 🙂


*Open up a can of worms idiom~

According to Wiki.answers and Wise geek: “To open a can of worms” usually means to bring a new set of distracting complications and difficulties to a discussion or a problem. As a “can of worms” is a wriggly mass of confusion, a topic may have many detailed and involved aspects, whether you realize them or not.

Metaphorically speaking, to open a can of worms means to inadvertently create numerous new problems while trying to solve one. Experts disagree on the origin of the phrase, but it is generally believed to be a Canadian or American metaphor coined sometime in the 1950s. Bait stores routinely sold cans of worms and other popular live baits to fishermen, who often discovered how easy it was to open them and how difficult it was to close them. Once the worms discovered an opportunity to escape, it became nearly impossible to keep them contained.