Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #101~Teaching Nick 101

Blog #101~ Teaching Nick 101

This week is a perspective written by one of Nick’s middle school teachers, Jessica Martin. She taught Nick during the throes of puberty when his meltdowns were at an all-time high. Nick has Down syndrome and autism and struggles with speech.  He gets frustrated trying to communicate and  understanding the concept of change.

Here’s what his middle school teacher, Jessica Martin had to say about big guy:

It’s hard to believe that the first time I met Nick the year was 2007.  It seems just like yesterday when he walked into my classroom.  When Nick first came to me, he had episodes of self injurious and aggressive behaviors.  He also didn’t like to work much.  I collaborated with his mom who gave me the okay to use pop as a reward for Nick. I started small and used a token board with three squares spelling out the word “pop”.  If he did a work, he got a letter. This process continued until he completed three works with appropriate behaviors and got all three squares which spelled POP!!!!!!!  And omg did he get excited! He would announce in a high pitched excited voice, mocking me, “Nick goooot popppppp!” He would take his little cup that was no bigger than a medicine cup and tip it back, chucking that single gulp as if he had gone days without a drink, slam it down and give us all thumbs up! By the end of the year, he tolerated longer work periods.  We doubled his work time to 6 squares on the token board and changed it from “Pop” to the word “Sprite”.

sprite can

His work refusal behavior was eliminated 🙂 Yipieeee!  There were still small, occasional outbursts here and there but with his mom’s help, we created some amazing social stories to alleviate his stressors. By 2008, Nick was extremely popular in our school. He worked as garbage duty through multiple wings of the school, was happy and was beginning to talk more. His abilities and growth made me so proud.

When Nick finished middle school, I became his respite worker. There are so many hilarious stories too. Oh my gosh, the Taco Bell story comes to mind.   I took Nick to the mall one day. We would go on the weekends to shop around and then get lunch. (Taco bell of course.)

taco bell

I got him to tolerate shopping at the mall for over an hour, (which included lots of shoe stores and Nick trying on display high heels).  As a reward, we headed over to get our tacos and bean burritos.   Proudly, Nick walked with me down the stairs to the food court, looking as if he were on a mission and walked towards the glorious Taco Bell stand.

taco bell dog

We turn the corner and my heart literally froze. The stand was walled up and under construction. Now, 5 years ago, this would have caused a huge scene. Nick stopped, dead in his tracks, looked at the construction sign, fingers curling into little fists and all of the sudden, he yelled as loud as he could, DAMNIT!!!!  He then stomped his foot and we walked away. He handled it so appropriately! Should he have sworn? Probably not, but, I was screaming it in my head so I didn’t correct it! We drove to the nearest taco bell and chowed down on processed beans! Phew!

He’s in the zone…….


I have seen so much growth in Nick. He surprises me every day. I love him with all of my heart. My big guy! 🙂 ~Jessica Martin

Nick and Jess…..


I love hearing the perspectives of others who have worked with or been around Nick. It gives me clarity to the fact that he does make progress in his learning and behavior. And he is loved and adored in the process. Special thanks to Jessica Martin for sharing her experiences with Nick.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂



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 #101~Teaching Nick 101

  1. TJ,What a wonderful story. Nick has been so blessed to have such a diligent and caring teacher. And it is delightful to read about his growth and success.If only the POP technique could be used to stop the fire alarm pullsJoleene

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