Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #172~ Autism:5 Ways You Can Help

Blog #172~ Autism: 5 Ways You Can Help

The aim of Autism Awareness Month this year, is to educate the public about autism.  How do you react when you see or meet a person that has autism?  Autism is a complex mental condition and developmental disability, characterized by difficulties in the way a person communicates and interacts with other people.  People with autism are classed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the terms autism and ASD are often used interchangeably. A wide spectrum disorder, people will autism have set of symptoms unique to themselves; no two people are the same.

autism awareness 2016

My son Nick is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  As April comes to a close this week, I want to touch on autism awareness and acceptance.  Since the aim this month is to educate the public about autism,  I would like to challenge each of you to open your mind and heart to people having autism, along with their families and caregivers.

photo (26)

Here are 5 things you can do to show acceptance and support:

*Open your heart, give a smile to a family struggling out in public with a child who has autism.  If you are a praying person, say a prayer for compassion and tolerance.

*Reach out, pay a compliment or offer help, to a family who might be dealing with a difficult time with their child.  “You have a lovely family.” “You are a wonderful parent, I admire your patience.”  If you encounter a family going through a tough time, such as a meltdown, or if the child is shutting down, ask them “What can I do to help?”

*Be a friend, make a phone call to check in, set up a coffee or lunch date, or offer to help out with carpooling or running an errand.  Bring a bottle of wine or a Starbucks latte, over and chat.  Many parents may not get a chance to speak to other adults on a daily basis.

*Teach your child about inclusivity.  Invite a classmate with autism, to your child’s birthday party.  Show that they are genuinely welcome, even if their child can only tolerate a short time.  Look into inclusion opportunities for your child at school like lunch buddy or peer partner programs and volunteering for Special Olympics.  These are all ways to teach your child to be kind and compassionate.

It’s great to see that Sesame Street just added a new muppet, Julia who has autism!

Julia Sesame Street

*Stand up and advocate, if you overhear someone saying something inconsiderate about autism or any other disability, speak up!  Share about autism on your social media.

Awareness and acceptance means allowing yourself to be open, compassionate and kind.  Acceptance is not about tolerating others that are different from you.  It is about valuing our differences as human beings, and seeing the heart and strengths that lies in each of us.  That’s what is in my noggin as Autism Awareness Month wraps up this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @ #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #171~Rocking the Socks, and Helping Twice

Blog #171~Rocking the Socks, and Helping Twice

wehelptwo

The first part of rocking the funky socks campaign was to promote awareness on World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), held each year on 3/21. The second part was for every pack that we sold, We Help Two donated a pair of warm, thermal socks which we donated to a local homeless shelter in our community.

My son Nick is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  The sock campaign raised $500.00 which we donated to Chicago based, The National Association for Down Syndrome, (NADS) http://www.nads.org.

world-down-syndrome-day

Last week, we took a full box of 59 pair of thermal socks donated by We Help Two, over to the Hesed House in Aurora, IL.  We Help Two partners with schools, organizations, individuals and non-profits to make twice the difference.

Nick Hessed House 2

 “The Hesed House is the second largest shelter in the State of Illinois, and the largest shelter outside of the city of Chicago. With the help of professional staff, alliances with outside agencies and 6,000 volunteers from 70 area churches, almost one thousand individuals (including 188 children) are served each year through Hesed House’s shelter and three housing programs. Hesed House sees 16 newly homeless individuals each week – that’s one new homeless individual every 8 1/2 hours. Hesed House strives to get 16 or 17 individuals out of homelessness each week.” 

hesed house logo

The Hesed House is not just a homeless shelter.  Besides providing shelter and supportive living, they also have employment training and education, along with medical assistance, counseling for substance abuse and mental illness, and offer state legal services.

Nick and I were pleased to pay it forward, with the donation of new thermal socks to Hesed House, courtesy of We Help Two.  For more information visit their website at http://www.wehelptwo.com.

Nick and Mom at Hessed House 2

A special thank you to Bethany from We Help Two, for reaching out to us for WDSD, to host a “Rock the Socks” campaign.  We Help Two is making a difference!   We were very happy to partner with them. Nick and I want to thank everyone who purchased and rocked the funky socks, and helped us make twice the difference.  That’s what is in my noggin this week! 🙂

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @ #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting

Blog #170~Teaching Independent Living Skills

Blog #170~Teaching Independent Living Skills

Brushing your teeth, bathing, dressing, and doing household chores, are all a part of what a parent teaches their child.  But what if you are a parent of a child with special needs?  How do you teach these independent living skills?

Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3)

My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  He has learned many self-help skills, and assists around the house with several chores.  These independent living skills give him a sense of accomplishment and pride.  It also takes the burden off me as his mom.

So how do you get started?  First, identify areas that you want to work on with your child.  Pick just one skill, that your child can do with assistance.  This skill should have value and interest to them.  Take for instance the task of washing your hands.  This was something my son liked to do because he enjoys running the faucets. 😉  The next step is to break down the task into simple steps.  Take these simple steps and determine what supports are needed to teach this skill.  For a child that has autism, it helps greatly to provide visual supports.  This can be written instructions, using picture sequences, or video modeling.

Picture sequence for washing hands….

handwashing routine

When using picture sequences, determine with your child’s teacher, if it’s more effective to use the style above, or actual photographs of the sequence.  Each child is different in how they can understand pictures. You can find many picture sequences on Google Images, or ask your child’s support teacher to make you some.  Another option is to use an iPad, and download apps that show these sequences.  There are tons apps available, here is just one of many:

iPad App called iDo Hygiene (free app)….

iDo hygiene

Once the visual supports are in place, you can guide your child step by step, using “hand over hand technique” to teach the motor skills.  As your child develops these skills, begin to fade back, by point prompting to each picture.  Be sure to use lots of praise and cheer them on their successes.

Here are a few examples of other self-help skills that you can work on with your child around the house:

*Hygiene skills like brushing teeth, showering, washing face and hands, brushing hair, toileting, shaving.

*Recycling and can crushing

*Shredding

*Help with laundry

Nick laundry

*Unload the dishwasher

*Set the table

*Make the bed

*Fold and put away laundry

*Water plants

Nick watering plants

*Cleaning windows and countertops

*Dusting

*Unload groceries and put them away

Nick toilet paper

*Cooking

*Vacuuming

Many of these household chores provide great sensory input.  Push and pull activities like carrying laundry baskets and vacuuming, are excellent examples.  Heavy work provides proprioceptive input to the muscles & joints.  This can be very calming, organizing, and regulating, decreasing stress and anxiety.

Not all of the skills above are Nick’s favorites to do.  As a parent,  you can determine which activities are more motivating for your child.  Focus on those first.  Nick really enjoys vacuuming.  Another strength Nick has is matching, and remembering where things go.  So for him, unloading the dishwasher and putting groceries away were both easier and motivating for him to do.

Teaching your child independent living skills, will strengthen their abilities to hold a job in the future.

Nick doing volunteer work at GiGi’s Playhouse…

nick-cleaning-gigis

It also fosters a sense of fulfillment and gratification for them, as well.  So, pick one task, roll up your sleeves and get to work. That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #169~ I’m Very Aware of Autism and More

Blog #169~ I’m Very Aware of Autism and More

autism ribbon

April is “Autism Awareness Month” – a time to promote awareness, acceptance and attention to those people who are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

Yes, I’m very aware of autism, and more.  So is anyone, who has been around my son.  Nick is 23 years old, and has dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, (DS-ASD).  He does a good job spreading awareness wherever he goes. 🙂  Honestly, it’s hard for me to get on board with the “Light it Up Blue” campaign.  Why is that?  Because my son doesn’t fit in with any of the support groups for autism, due to his is lack of speech, cognitive and developmental delays.

“Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests and activities. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning.”

autism awareness 2016

Since my son has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, I’m going to put my focus on this area.  According to The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) http://www.ndss.org:

“Children who have ASD may or may not exhibit all of these characteristics at any one time nor will they consistently demonstrate their abilities across similar circumstances. Some of the variable characteristics of ASD we have commonly observed in children with DS-ASD include:

  • Unusual response to sensations (especially sounds, lights, touch or pain)
  • Food refusal (preferred textures or tastes)
  • Unusual play with toys and other objects
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
  • Little or no meaningful communication
  • Disruptive behaviors (aggression, throwing tantrums, or extreme non-compliance)
  • Hyperactivity, short attention, and impulsivity
  • Self-injurious behavior (skin picking, head hitting or banging, eye-poking, or biting)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • History of developmental regression (esp. language and social skills)”

NDSS_logo

My son Nick, certainly hits most of the bullet points listed above.  It’s a unique mix having a child with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD.  For many years, I felt isolated from the local DS support group because my child had many of those characteristics.  Eventually, I was put in contact with a small group of parents that also had children with DS-ASD.  This was a group within The National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS), here is Chicago.  Finding this group, made all the difference.  These parents were in the same boat, sharing similar experiences, struggles, and yes funny stories, that I could relate to.  In addition to local support groups, there are many online groups for DS-ASD on Facebook.

photo (26)

During Autism Awareness Month, I would like to see the government and media focus   on more educational, behavioral supports and other treatment options.  What is going to happen to our kids when they age out of the school system?  There aren’t near enough employment opportunities, day programs or group homes for this rapidly growing population.  In addition, I’d like there to be an easier path to obtain funding through the government.

understanding

For the month of April, parents of a child with autism, or a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, need understanding and support. Do you know a parent with a child who has autism?  Consider lending someone a hand, so they can run an errand.   We also need more compassion, and less judgment when we are out in public with our child.   And many of us, could use a good night’s sleep.

autism and sleep cartoon

You can also help by sharing information and stories, to raise awareness on social media. A better informed public will be more empathetic and supportive towards people with autism and a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest- Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram- #nickdsautism

Twitter- @tjunnerstall