Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Fun Side of Nick, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Update~Nick’s World

Update~Nick’s World

I just got back from a routine doctor’s appointment for Nick.  He completely enjoyed imitating the coughing and throat clearing sounds the gentlemen next to us in the waiting room.  Since the morning has dwindled away, I am opting to give you and update on Nick’s world instead of pulling something out of my noggin to write.  Nick is 21 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  Here’s a little slice of his world and what he’s been up to (besides imitating others hacking and sneezing)………

Nick attends a post-secondary transition program called STEPS.  His days are full with work jobs,  occupational and speech therapy, cooking, community trips and other school related activities.  A big thank you to Jodi, who took many of these pictures of Nick’s world.

Nick helps to make ice packs which he delivers to the schools in our district….

Nick delivery

Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, guess who’s here?

Nick delivery 2

Community trip bowling…..

Nick bowling ramp

Sensory break time at school……

Nick relaxing.jpg

Dinner with his buddies at Ci Ci’s Pizza……

Nick Ci Ci's

Visit to WVHS Wrestling Team venue, he had to try on the headgear 🙂

Nick Wrestling

Nick dancing in Miss R’s (respite worker) boots….

Nick Dancing

Nick the “winter ninja” relaxing at home…..

Nick Winter Ninja

As you can see, Nick has a very full life which he enjoys every day.  I have to thank his respite workers for taking such good care of him and getting him out into the community.  That’s a slice of Nick’s world and what’s in my noggin this week! 🙂

~Teresa

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #129~ Communication Strategies and Autism

Blog #129~ Communication Strategies and Autism

Last week I attended a presentation given by Brian R. King (www.brianraymondking.com).  This was part of the Autism Expert Series at The College of DuPage.  The topic was “Speaking of Autism: Communication Strategies for Connection and Collaboration with Those on the Autism Spectrum”. Brian has firsthand experience in this area. He is a best selling author, speaker, trainer and life coach.  As a cancer survivor, adult with A.D.D., the father of three sons on the autism spectrum as well as someone who lives on the autism spectrum himself, he has learned something very critical:  “That success in life has nothing to do with circumstances, but everything to do with strategies”. ~Brian R. King

autism puzzle superman

In his presentation, Brian covered 6 main areas of needs and provided strategies specific to those on the autism spectrum:

  • Certainty:  What things can be put in place that that are predictable and consistent?  Meltdowns can happen when a need for certainty is not met.  So it is important to put a loop hole in daily plans.  Make sure you have “Plan A” and “Plan B” in place and explain both beforehand.  Plan A is golfing, but if it rains then go to Plan B a pre-set indoor activity.  If they can trust that there is a Plan B, there will be less anxiety and a willingness to be flexible. 
  • Variety:  As important as certainty is, there is a need to keep variety in the mix.  Life can’t always be about going to McDonalds for lunch. You’ve got to step off the curb.  Look up other restaurants on the web that have similar menu items with your child.  Together, come up with a plan to try a new spot. Be prepared to have an escape plan, if the trip doesn’t go as planned so the child can decompress.
  • Significance:  People on the autism spectrum need to know they matter.  What might appear to be attention seeking behavior (talking out of turn, not raising their hand to answer a question) may be an attempt to be noticed, validated and to be a part of the group. Another example is this; a child may not process the question as quickly as their peers.  They might just make up an answer or a lie when put on the spot.  One teacher tip would be to ask the question and say, “Johnny I’m going to come back to you in a couple of minutes”.  This allows the child to process the question and not just blurt out any answer.  Visuals can also help to process information.  Provide a tool to write down the assignment.

visual work board

  • Love and Connection:  Working with those on the autism spectrum requires patience and letting the child know that you hear them, understand them and have their back.  It is essential to pause, and avoid lecture or shame.  But rather teach that you want them learn from mistakes.  Be their cushion of safety so they feel cared for and loved.

understanding

  • Growth:  We all have a desire to make progress and see results of improvement.  What need is the child going toward?  Often there is a tendency to gravitate to certainty.  Look for ways to have the child excel in those places of certainty.  In contrast, keep in mind the child will tend to avoid areas where there are too many opportunities to fail. These are the places that will require more support.
  • Contribution:  When you have something of value to give, you feel more significant.  Look for those strengths and allow the child on the autism spectrum to shine.

My son Nick working the vacuum at a community job……

Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3)

  Assessing these 6 areas of needs and putting strategies in place will set your child up for success. It will also help those on the autism spectrum feel secure, valued, and connected and a part of the group/community.   I am always looking for ways to help my son.  Nick is 21 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  After attending this presentation I’ve identified some areas I need strengthen within these strategies.  This includes getting a “Plan B” more consistently, continue to stretch his boundaries, listen to him when he tries to get attention inappropriately, and allow him to shine in what he does the best. 

Thank you Brian R. King, for shining a light on how to better communicate with those on the autism spectrum and provide strategies to support them. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Fun Side of Nick

Blog #128~ Lessons From Dick Van Dyke

Blog #128~ Lessons From Dick Van Dyke

I just finished reading Dick Van Dyke’s new book, Keep Moving and other Tips and Truths About Aging. In the book jacket it reads:

“Show-business legend Dick Van Dyke is living proof that life does get better the longer you live it. Who better to offer instruction, advice and humor than someone who’s entering his ninth decade with a jaunty two-step? Van Dyke isn’t just a born song-and-dance man; his irrepressible belief in embracing the moment and unleashing his inner child have proved to be the ultimate elixir of youth.”

Dick Van Dyke Keep Moving

It was a quick read packed with some good advice, tips and anecdotes. After I put the book down, it got me thinking about my son Nick, who is 21 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  Many of the suggestions given are things that my son does every day.  Here are just a few of the many ideas Dick shares:

*Keep moving! If Dick Van Dyke is at the store and hears music playing he starts dancing. Work out regularly.  Van Dyke was on the treadmill humming.  A guy next to him asked, “Hey you’re humming! The rest of us are huffing and puffing and you’re humming.  How do you do that?”  Van Dyke replied, “Vocal cords are muscles too.  But also humming, as with a Buddhist chanting, singing or even an infant making noises as it discovers its voice, sets up a sympathetic frequency in your body that simply feels good.”

Dick Van Dyke at store

*You don’t have to act your age. You don’t even have to feel it. There is no way you have to behave. Be a goofball, have fun, and be silly.

IMG_0026

*Keep your sense of humor. Van Dyke writes, “I once heard someone say that if you can’t laugh at life, you’re missing the joke. I agree.  As far as I’m concerned, a sense of humor is the way we make sense out of nonsense.”

*Have a daily routine. Get up and get moving, make lists, work out, go shopping, learn new things, ask questions, take a nap, and always enjoy a nightly dessert.

*Don’t forget to smile. Don’t forget to make someone else smile 🙂

While these ideas are simple, what stands out to me is having the right attitude to approach each day. It’s the theme which threads through his book.  I see a lot of this in my son. He wakes up; usually cuts a fart and laughs.  If you’ve ever been around Nick, you know that he spends a great amount of time dancing and humming.   He also thrives on his daily routines aided by a picture sequence that serves as his list. And yes, his infectious smile will make your day!

photo (30)

Inside the Keep Moving book jacket really sums up the essence of my message this week. “Dick’s optimistic outlook is an invigorating tonic for anyone who needs a reminder that life should be lived with enthusiasm despite what the calendar says”.  My son Nick embraces this.  He is my daily prompt to live that way each day.  That is what’s in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂