Blog #179~Down syndrome and Autism-Unlocking Your Child’s Potential
When your child has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, the game changes. Speech may be limited or even non-verbal, which may lead to behavior problems. Sensory issues can be extreme and interfere with social interactions and learning. My son, Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. His speech is limited, and he is a sensory seeker. Over the years, with the help of some amazing teachers, therapists, and autism behaviorist specialists, he has developed skills which have allowed him to contribute both working in his adult day program, and here at home.
So how do you find the key to unlock your child’s potential?
The key lies in identifying your child’s strengths, and working to build upon them. First of all, just because my son’s speech is limited doesn’t mean he can’t communicate. One of Nick’s assets is his receptive language, which is the ability to understand information. Many of his goals in his IEP (Individualized Education Plan), were planned around using this strength when he was in school. Nick was able to develop skills to become more independent in self-help, and other jobs both at home and school. These skills were enhanced by using educational materials and supports that were written into his IEP. Such materials included a PECS book (Picture Exchange Communication System) with training for staff, parents and child, Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, task strips, social stories, a picture schedule, video modeling, and a reward system. All of these supports helped Nick to navigate his routine and built upon his functional and independent livings skills.
Besides his receptive language, Nick’s other strengths are his desire to please and take the initiative. He is a taskmaster! When Nick was younger, his teachers pointed out how good he was at matching. A lot of his goals were structured around this. Nick has always had a keen eye, and notices where everything goes around the house. Anytime the batteries died on one of his musical toys, he would go to the kitchen drawer, pull out the screwdriver and hand it to me with the toy. As he grew older, I recall him nudging his older brother over to help unload the dishwasher. He knew which cabinet every single plate, cup, pot, pan and utensil were stored. Shortly thereafter, I let him take over the chore (with no complaints from his older brother, Hank). 🙂
Nick still takes great pride in unloading the dishwasher today!
Here are some other ways the taskmaster takes initiative:
Nick getting out ingredients and utensils for his salad….
As soon as he saw the pan of water on the stove, he went to the pantry and pulled out the ingredients to make pasta…..
Using his strength of taking the initiative, we have built upon this to create other jobs both at home and in the community. When he was in school, his teachers recognized his sensory seeking needs and channeled them by doing “heavy work”. An occupational therapist can assist with ideas to implement a sensory diet into your child’s routine. Nick likes to throw and swipe things (and still does). It has helped to find activities with heavy work or that mimic this sensory need.
Here are a few of the jobs that does:
*Recycling (replacement behavior for throwing)
*Can crushing (sensory and motor activity and replacement behavior for throwing)
*Carry laundry basket and load washing machine (heavy work/ organizing)
*Put away groceries (organizing activity)
*Empty Dishwasher (organizing and sensory activity)
*Cleaning/ wiping down countertops and windows (organizing activity)
*Vacuuming (heavy work which is calming)
Nick working at a residence facility in high school….
Nick doing volunteer work at GiGi’s playhouse with in his current adult day program…
There is so much your child can learn when you identify their strengths and unique talents. When you find what motivates your child, you can build and expand upon it. Work with your child’s IEP team, therapists and autism specialist, to identify those areas. Then together as a team, create a plan with specific and measurable goals, that will enable your child to grow and be successful. Unlock your child’s potential, and watch them soar! That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂
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4 thoughts on “Blog #179~Down syndrome and Autism-Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”
Teresa, this post addresses something I’ve been wondering since my son was diagnosed with ASD: how does a dual diagnosis change our hopes for our son’s future? For example, we used to hope he would work and live independently someday. Is that an impossibility now? Do we need to readjust our expectations? By the way, my son is like the battery police in our house. He goes to the drawer and gets the screwdriver to change the batteries in his musical toys– it’s one of the few adult behaviors I’ve seen him imitate!
I think you have to prepare for a change in independent living plans and proceed as you see your child grow. It may not be what you hoped for, but every child is different. Keep working on independent living skills, so they can live and function as close to that as possible,but perhaps with assistance from caregivers.
I love your posts! They are informative & bring a smile to my face. My daughters developmental dr loves the phrase Down syndrome with a slice of autism!
I’m so glad you enjoy the posts and please feel free to share. How old is your daughter? Is there anything you would like to know more about? Wishing you all the best and elbow bumps from Nick 🙂