Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #154~Adult Day Program 6 Month Update

Blog #154~Adult Day Program 6 Month Update

On my son’s 22nd birthday this past February, the little yellow bus stopped coming to the door.  My son, Nick has Down syndrome and autism and has aged out of school.  For the past 6 months,  Nick has been going to an adult day program.  This week I want to share some of the activities he’s been doing in this excellent program at the Keeler Center.

Nick’s adult day program is filled with many fulfilling activities each day.  Mondays are dedicated field trip days.

Here are some of the places Nick has visited in the community:

Shedd Aquarium

Library

Brookfield Zoo

Fabyan Park Japanese Garden

Fox Valley Park District Greenhouse

Phillips Park

Red Oak Nature Center

Art Studios

Fermi Lab

Local restaurants (Noodles & Company, Dunkin Doughnuts, Culvers, Colonial Café, etc..)

In the facility, Nick participates in a variety of activities:

Vocational jobs (cleaning and vacuuming sensory room, recycling, shredding, work  bins, gardening, menu planning, cooking, etc..)

nick vacumming aid

Social circle (News to You, greeting and using AAC devices)

Science projects

Table and bin work

Nick work aid

Arts and Crafts (for art fairs, mothers/father’s day, making cards, painting, etc..)

Recreational (gym activities, yoga, etc..)

Nick yoga AID

Fun Fridays (Holiday theme parties, dancing, karaoke, games, concerts, cookouts, movies, etc..)

Speech therapy (insurance private pay), to work on articulation and using his AAC device

Outside the facility, his group does community recycling, shopping for cooking day as well as volunteer jobs.  One of the sites is at a local church, (stuffing bulletins and cleaning the nursery).  The other workplace is at a food pantry, where they organize and stock inventory, like dried beans, cereal and peanut butter.

Nick recycling

Nick has a full life and rewarding activities in his adult day program. The staff is very dedicated, caring, welcoming and patient.  Yes, patient! Nick’s pulled several fire alarms the last few months.  The behaviorist on staff  has put a plan in  place, and met with the staff to curtail this ongoing problem. Hey, it’s Nick’s world, the rest of us are just trying to keep up. The current fire alarm pull count is now 40 pulls since 3rd grade.

While his speech is limited due to having a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, I can tell that he is very happy in this program.  How do I know?  When I wake him up in the morning he is excited to get dressed and out the door.  The other day I was driving him and his buddy Josh to the site.  Just before we crossed over the Fox River, Nick started saying “Keeler” with a big thumbs up.  It warms my heart knowing that Nick is happy and contributing to society. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism

Blog #153~Special Needs Back to School Tips

Blog #153~Special Needs Back to School Tips

For the first time in 22 years, I don’t have to buy school supplies for my son.  Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He aged out of school on his birthday last February.   He attends an adult day program, which he enjoys immensely.  After 22 years I’ve learned a few tricks for getting back to school smoothly with your child that has special needs:

Back to school helpful tips

 5 Special Needs Back to School Tips

1.Look over your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before school begins.  The IEP outlines academic and functional goals, supports needed, accommodations and services.  Reach out to your child’s case manager/IEP coordinator or Support Teacher, and ask specifically how these will be implemented.

2. Arrange a visit to the classroom before school begins.  Request that a social story (pictures or video); be made of the settings that your child will be in at school, (classroom, lunch room, gym, sensory area, etc.).  If possible have the social story include pictures of support staff and classroom peers. If a child with autism can see it in picture form, they will better understand it.  This in turn, becomes their blueprint which; will lesson anxiety levels for your child.

back to school Nick

3.During the classroom meet and greet, arrange a mode of communication with your child’s teacher.  In the past I have used both email and a communication notebook which goes back and forth.  Since my son is for the most part non-verbal, so this allowed me to share if Nick had a restless night or was maybe he was fixated on fire alarms. (By the way,  he’s been at it again. He pulled a few more alarms this summer, while staff was on vacation. Check the “About” Page for the current pull count).

 

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4.Start Early! Get school supplies, clothes and shoes shopping done and haircut at least a week before the start of school, (if not sooner).  Having a child with special needs often means a lot of angst over haircuts.  For Nick the stress of getting one can affect him for several days after.  If you would like more tips on haircuts, hit the search box on the top right of this page.  Type in: Blog #18, A Cut Above. The night before school starts, have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices.  It’s all about having a smooth start to the day and this helps especially at six o’clock in the morning.  One thing that was NEVER EARLY; the school bus.  Make sure you have carved out your schedule accordingly and have something for your child to do while you wait.  On average, we’ve waited 30-45 minutes for the bus to get to our house the first few days of school.

photo (113)

5.Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school.  It is fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing in the classroom.  Here are a few ways I’ve volunteered:

*Holiday Parties

*Art Awareness Presenter

*Chaperone Field Trips

*Assist Case Manager/ Support Teacher- Making copies, laminating, helping to create classroom supports.

Nick and I wish you all the best as you start the new school year with your child that has special needs.  Be cognizant of what is in the IEP, follow-up with communication, layout the blueprint for your child and get organized.  That’s the recipe for a smooth start to the new school year.  Oh, and don’t forget to take that cute first day of school picture and post it on Facebook.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa

Nick’s First Day of Kindergarten, 1999

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan), Physical Therapy and Special Needs, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #152~Lessons From Olympian Simone Biles

Blog #152~Lessons From Olympian Simone Biles

After winning individual gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around on Thursday, Simone Bile’s, in an interview, made a declaration. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” she said. “I’m the first Simone Biles.”

Simone Biles

Before going to teach spinning class last week, I was rushing around the house getting ready.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the Good Morning America interview featuring gold medalist, Simone Biles at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.  It struck me that this pint-sized, power house had 4 training tips that packed a lot of punch. I grabbed my coffee, pen and pad to jot down a few bullet points.

Having a child with special needs presents many obstacles in life.  I’ve had my share of them with my son Nick, for the past 22 years.  Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  The low muscle tone (a trait of having Down syndrome) delayed him from reaching gross motor milestones until much later than most babies.  He didn’t sit up until a year old, and he didn’t walk until he was 3 ½ years old.  Nick had to work a lot harder to hit those targets with years of physical therapy.  We’ve also spent 22 years going to speech and occupational therapy to help feeding, communication along with fine motor, sensory issues.

It has been quite a journey, which brings me back to those bullet points I scribbled down.  In the Good Morning America interview, Simone offered up some advice on her training regimen.  They are 4 simple lessons, and my take on they apply to raising a child with special needs:

  1. Enjoy the Ride

The journey isn’t always going to be easy.  It’s going to take a lot of hard work and shedding tears.  And that’s to be expected.  But, find a way to embrace the journey.  Have some fun as you go, and surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

  1. Never Give Up

There will be days, weeks and months where you see no progress.  Sometimes mistakes will be made.  That’s when you pick yourself up and trust that you can do it no matter what.

  1. Trust Your Squad

The fierce five huddled, cheered each other on, and believed in other.  When you have a child with special needs, you have to get a good squad together to help push them to succeed.  This includes the IEP team along with outside therapists.  Huddle in from time to time, and always keep the lines of communication open.  Make sure all the goals and dreams for your child are in sync.  Parents should have their own squad of friends and support groups you feel comfortable with.  Your squad understands the insurmountable pressure faced when raising a child with special needs.

Fab 5 Rio

4. Treat Yourself

After a competition, Simone (whether she wins or not) enjoys pepperoni pizza.  Parents of special needs kids spend a lot more time and energy helping their child reach goals.  It is beyond exhausting. Get a respite worker to watch your child.  Find the things that you enjoy and indulge.  Go out to lunch with girlfriends, get a manicure, go workout, take a trip to Target (alone), enjoy a nap, have a glass of wine.  Treat yourself, you deserve it.

That’s great advice from the 19-year-old Olympian champion.   Life will always have it ups and downs, twists and turns.  But if you can find a way to embrace the journey, you can hit the top of that podium and be the champion of your own life and your child’s.

Nick wins the gold for the softball throw at the State Special Olympics~2003

Nick Special Olympics

 

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Fun Side of Nick

Blog #151~OBX Vacation

Blog #151~OBX Vacation

What is OBX?  It’s an acronym for the Outer Banks.  OBX is a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina. Along this coastline you will find quaint towns, sleepy fishing villages, lighthouses and a beautiful coastline lined with dunes covered in sea oats.

Sea Oats

OBX lighthouses

It’s the place to go and unwind, let go of worries, and relax.  The biggest decisions for me would be which swimsuit to put on along with what book and cold beverage to have in my hand.

OBX signs

For the past six years, our destination has been Duck, NC.  My son Nick, is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He absolutely loves to come here.  Vacations and travelling can be tough on our kids with special needs.  Having a regular vacation spot gives Nick predictability. This in turn makes him feel secure, thus keeping his anxiety level down.  New environments and being out of a routine can be tough for a person with special needs; especially autism.  Anxiety can lead to serious meltdowns.  We are fortunate to be able to return here to Nick’s Uncle and Aunt’s beach house. A place where Nick feels at home.

Nick and Uncle Ron at the crows nest…..

Nick and Ron OBX

Nick is comfortable in their house and helps out by vacuuming and unloading the dishwasher.  He loves swimming in the pool and soaking in the hot tub.

Nick with his “stim” of choice, the tappers.  My beverage of choice; a Lime-A-Rita 🙂

Nick pool obx

Sensory issues related to autism can be another challenge on vacations.  Nick struggles with the texture and unevenness of sand as well as extreme heat.  It can be hit or miss getting him to even walk out to the beach.  The weather conditions were just right this year, with mild 80 degree temps and a nice breeze to cut the heat.  He did well hanging with us all on the beach a few times.  He even dipped his toes in the surf; success!

Nick Beach OBX

The dynamic was different this year.  We missed some family members including Nick’s grandparents, his brother and cousin.  Health issues, a new job out of college and a summer internship kept them from coming.  We missed having everyone together, along with the laughs and good times we’ve shared over the years here.

Nick and his brother Hank, OBX 2011

Nick and his brother, Hank at the Outer Banks, NC

OBX 2011

OBX Family 2011

OBX is where we let the stress fade as the waves washed away worries.  We each find our ways to unplug; whether it’s fishing, biking, tennis, manicures, massages, swimming, sunbathing and cracking open a good summer read.

My book of choice, following the extraordinary journey of retired Secret Service Agent, Clint Hill with five Presidents.  I highly recommend reading Five Presidents (#1 New York Times Best Selling Authors, Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin)….

Five Presidents

The book is finished on OBX vacation, 2016.  Nick enjoyed his time there and still seems very happy.  We will take back some great memories, new tan lines and a good feeling of being restored.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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