Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #150~A&E’s Born This Way, an Exclusive Interview

Blog #150~A&E’s Born This Way, an Exclusive Interview

A&E’s Emmy nominated series, Born This Way premieres its second season next Tuesday, 7/26/16 at 10pm/9pm (Central).  Born This Way features a cast of seven young adults with Down syndrome.  The show follows each cast member pursuing their real lives with passions, wants and needs the same as any other person their age. It will warm your heart, make you laugh and smile. They shine a wonderful light showing how awesome their lives are. And they’ve got serious swag…..

A&E’s Born This Way premieres, Tuesday July 26th at 10pm/ 9pm (Central)

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Recently, I was approached by the marketing department to partnership with A&E to help bring awareness and promote this show.  My son, Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome as well as autism.  So, I was happy to jump at the chance to do so.  Today’s blog post is an exclusive interview with the mother of Sean, a featured cast member on the show.

Sean McElwee is 22 years old.  He’s a dashing young man, an excellent golfer and gifted athlete. Sean thrived in inclusion in primary school and survived exclusion in secondary school.  He attends community college and works at Home Depot. He is a self-professed ladies man, and has dance moves that own the floor.

Sean with his parents Rick and Sandra……

Sean family pic

Let’s get to the interview with Sean’s Mom, Sandra Assimotos McElwee ….

Sandra Assimotos McElwee is an advocate for unborn babies with Down syndrome and created one of the first websites for parents with a prenatal diagnosis. She’s the author of three books,Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion”. McElwee contributed to the books, Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Our Lives“,  and “You Will Dream New Dreams, Inspiring Personal Stories by Parents of Children with Disabilities.” Married over twenty-two years to Sean’s father, Rick, they enjoy traveling and participating in Sean’s sports activities.  A medical sales professional, McElwee’s most important job is being Sean’s mother.

Interview with Sandra McElwee, Sean’s mom:

1.     What advice do you have for parents with younger children and newborns that have Down syndrome?

—Enjoy your baby, don’t get caught up in the ‘what could be’ although I know it’s hard to not think about a future wedding when you have a baby. The dreams you may have, the dreams that you had that may have been dashed by the diagnosis –they will become new dreams and in my case dreams I could never have imagined in my wildest imagination! 

2.  During the age that Sean was in the public school system, what was the most difficult part of the IEP process for you?  Where you happy with the end result of schooling and his IEP.

—I’ve written a book about this—‘Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion.’

Who's The Slow Learner

Sean was an inclusion pioneer, the first student included with a disability in his elementary school. His inclusion was such a success by the 4th grade the school became an inclusive school and there were no segregated classes and around 40 students with a variety of special needs fully included. The wheels fell off in secondary school. So no, I was not happy with the end result, but the first 7 years were text-book perfect.

The most difficult part of the IEP process was in high school when educators and administrators outright lied to me.  

3.  What advice would you give for new teachers and special education teachers who will be working with students that have Down syndrome?

–Please give your students opportunities. Allow them to express their interests and support them in pursuing their interests. Don’t assume just because someone can’t speak clearly that they don’t have something to say—listen to them. And do not expect a person with Down syndrome to have BETTER BEHAVIOR than the typical students.  

4.  What has been your biggest joy and accomplishment raising Sean?  What has been the toughest time and struggle?

–Seeing Sean grow into a confident, independent adult. The toughest struggles have been dealing with the prejudices of educators who limited his opportunities when he was in high school. 

5.  What would you like to share with the world about Sean, Down syndrome and being on Born This Way?

—I want the world to see that Sean and people with DS are more alike than different, they simply needs support and opportunities to show the world their capabilities. 

6.  As a mom of my son Nick, who is 22 years old and has Down syndrome; what are your biggest fears for your son now that he is an adult? 

—My biggest fears are that he will get his heart broken to the point of not wanting to try again…although he really has a lot of tenacity so like most fears, mine is probably unfounded.

I hope that Born This Way and this interview will enlighten and inspire parents, family, friends and educators who have been lucky enough to be touched by a child who has Down syndrome.  Be sure to set your DVR’s for A&E’s Born This Way.  Please share this blog and the additional social media links below.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

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Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness

Blog #219~ The Faces of Down Syndrome

Blog #219~The Faces of Down Syndrome

The faces of Down syndrome are more prominent in 2018, than they were 24 years ago when my son, Nick was born.  Acceptance and inclusion are two things we advocate everyday, and especially in the month of October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Down syndrome awareness month

This week I want to highlight some of the faces of individuals with Down syndrome who are making a difference, by advocating acceptance and inclusion.  There are more models with Down syndrome in the media, thanks to companies like Target and all the way up to New York fashion week.  In addition, television shows are featuring actors with Down syndrome.  Trailblazers are advocating for job opportunities and making a difference.  Here are some of the faces of individuals who have Down syndrome, and advocates who are paving the way.

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*A&E’s Emmy winning series Born this Way 🙂

“Winner of the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Born This Way follows a group of seven young adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions and lifelong dreams, explore friendships, romantic relationships and work, all while defying society’s expectations.  In their willingness and courage to openly share their lives, through a lens that is not often shown on television, we learn they have high hopes just like anyone else. The series also gives voice to the parents, allowing them to talk about the joy their son or daughter brings to their family, and the challenges they face in helping them live as independently as possible”.

Read my exclusive interview with Sandra Assismotos McElwee (author of Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion & Exclusion) and mother of cast mate Sean McElwee here: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=born+this+way

*CNN’s Hero of the Year Amy Wright of Bitty and Beau’s Coffee 🙂

bitty and beau coffee shop

CNN Heroes is a television special created by CNN to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities. Amy Wright started a grass-roots movement, opening up Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, which is located in Wilmington, NC. National statistics have shown that 70% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are unemployed. Her mission is to provide purposeful jobs that bring the community together, and helps people with and without disabilities to spend time together.

Read my blog about Bitty and Beau’s Coffee: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=bitty+and+bo

*Firestarter Advocating for Inclusion on Capitol Hill David Egan 🙂

Firestarters

One of the featured individuals in the book Firestarters is David Egan.  David is the first person with an intellectual disability to be awarded a Joseph P. Kennedy JR. Public Policy Fellowship, he made history by working on Capitol Hill with the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee. David Egan, born with Down syndrome, is a trailblazer for others who have intellectual disabilities.

David-Egan-Capitol-Hill-2011

Read more about this Firestarter David Egan and co-author Paul Eder in my exclusive interview at this link: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=firestarter

*We are seeing more actors and models with Down syndrome in prominent roles! 🙂

Chris Burke was a trailblazer starring in the TV series, Life Goes On:

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Lauren Potter star of Fox’s hit show Glee:

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Jamie Brewer stars in American Horror Story:

American Horror Story jamie Brewer

Madeline Stuart and Maria Avila are changing the face of beauty and diversity in the world of fashion, both have walked at NY Fashion Week!

madeline stuart    maria avila

*2018 Gerber Spokes Baby Lucas Warren 🙂 

Gerber baby 2018

Read more about 2018 Gerber Baby, Lucas in my blog: https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=gerber+baby

It’s wonderful to see more of these beautiful faces in the media.  How amazing to read about advocates who are opening up doors for employment and being applauded for their efforts!  Individuals with Down syndrome have goals and dreams, and want the same things as everyone else.  They need opportunities and to be included without barriers.  Let’s move beyond awareness about Down syndrome, towards acceptance and inclusion!

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son, Nick where you will find more stories and faces of DS:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness

Blog #181~Iceland and Down syndrome

Blog #181~Iceland and Down syndrome

Last week CBS News ran a story about Down syndrome in Iceland. The CBS report opens like this:
“With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.”

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“On 14 August 2017, CBS News ran a segment for their program “CBSN: On Assignment” in which correspondent Elaine Quijano traveled to Iceland to report on that country’s disappearing incidence of Down syndrome. Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.”

To view the story click here:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/

I’m going to throw my two cents in about this news story. This week’s blog is not a debate about a moral decision of whether to choose to have a baby with Down syndrome. It’s not my place to comment if someone decides to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason.  I can only speak from own experience of having a child with Down syndrome. My son Nick is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.

There are 3 comments that I would like to make regarding this news story:

*1. Expectant parents should first do their research first and get the facts. Doctors often know little about Down syndrome beyond their own medical experience. The delivery of news about the possibility of a baby having Down syndrome is often delivered grimly and with pity. This was the case in my son. I would like to see the medical community and society to become more educated on Down syndrome. When you know the facts, you can make an informed decision that is not based on fear.

Here are a few good places to get the facts about Down syndrome:
http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/Down-Syndrome-Facts/
http://www.ndsccenter.org/new-and-expectant-parents/
*2. Down syndrome in and of itself, is nothing to fear. Yes, there are health issues associated with Down syndrome. Click here to view: http://www.ndss.org/Resources/Health-Care/Associated-Conditions/

A baby with Down syndrome may take a little longer to reach developmental milestones. But, with early intervention with physical, occupational and speech therapy can guide a baby/child with Down syndrome to hit those marks.  Sometimes, we fear what we don’t know or understand.  When you get educated about the facts, it will help to reduce the fear.

*3. Society needs to see more of what Down syndrome looks like. Persons with Down syndrome are people first! “The Emmy winning A&E show, Born this Way follows a group of seven young adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions and lifelong dreams, explore friendships, romantic relationships and work, all while defying society’s expectations.”  I wish the whole world could have access to this great show! Click here for more information: http://www.aetv.com/shows/born-this-way

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Another excellent site I highly recommend is Noah’s Dad!  I’ve had the extreme pleasure of following Noah’s Dad and his journey with his son, who in entering first grade this year. He gives us a view of how full, and rich their lives are having Noah in it. You can find Noah’s Dad-Down Syndrome Awareness on Facebook and at http://noahsdad.com/

You can also follow my son, Nick on Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism, Instagram @nickdsautism and Twitter #tjunnerstall

Nick scuba diving in the Diveheart program……

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Down syndrome is nothing to be feared once you know the facts, and see what the lives of these wonderful individuals are like. It has been a true privilege being Nick’s mom. He has taught me more about life, and made me a much better person in the process. I couldn’t imagine a world without people like Nick and others, who have Down syndrome.  I’m 100% sure that anyone who has been touched by Nick, would say the same.

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

Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs

Blog #156~Is Inclusion For Your Child?

Blog #156~Is Inclusion For Your Child?

Are you raising or involved with educating a child with special needs within an inclusion setting?  Perhaps you are considering  an inclusion classroom for your child.  If so, then THIS is the book you need to read:

whos-the-slow-learner

Who’s The Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion & Exclusion, written by Sandra Assimotos McElwee (Outskirts Press) is a great book and and resource on inclusion.   Her son Sean McElwee was born with Down syndrome.  Sean is now 22 years old and is one of the star cast members of the Emmy Award Winning series, Born This Way on A&E.  

Her goal for writing this book was to educate and inspire, while chronicling her son’s education experiences.  In Sandra’s words, “This is not a ‘How-to’ book, but a ‘How we did it’ book.”

What is inclusion?

Inclusion is a term which expresses commitment to educate each child, to the maximum extent appropriate, in the school and classroom he or she would otherwise attend.  It involves brining the support services to the child (rather than moving the child to the services) and requires only that the child will benefit from being in the class (rather than having to keep up with the other students).  Proponents of inclusion generally favor newer forms of education service delivery.

Full Inclusion means that all students, regardless of handicapping condition of severity, will be in a regular classroom/program full time.  All services must be taken to the child in that setting.  

(From Sandra’s book this information was taken from the Wisconsin Educational Council’s Website)

Inclusion not only benefits the special education student, but also the regular education students in class.  It can be highly successful with the right supports, accommodations, modifications and supportive school staff.  From my own experience, I found this to be the case with my son Nick, who is also 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.

Sandra offers a wealth of information in this book.  Each chapter begins with all Sean’s IEP goals for that school year.  The book is loaded with great ideas on how to navigate the school system and how/when to reach out for outside help using consultants to advocate for your child.  This was the case when Sean transitioned into intermediate school, where they determined a need to put a behavior support plan in the IEP.  Sandra provides this full behavior support plan in the book as well, which is very beneficial.  Getting outside support for communication and behavior also helped greatly during the adolescent years with my son, Nick. Keeping in the loop with staff and volunteering in the school and classroom is another great way to keep up with how your child is doing in school.

There are so many valuable lessons that Sandra learned and shares about her son’s educational journey.  Many of which I can relate to having gone through this with my son, Nick.  You are not always going to have a school team or some of the members supporting inclusion for your child.  Sometimes it’s the school staff that are the slow learners.  In this book, you can see how Sandra had to advocate even harder during the intermediate and high school years. Unfortunately this was not always a success. But these actions set the foundation, to make it easier for other families to follow.

The book not only contains a wealth of education information, but many funny and inspiring stories on how Sean touched so many lives.  In one story, Sandra gets out of the shower and noticed the unmistakable odor of popcorn being microwaved.  She fully expected to smell a burnt popcorn next, so she hustled quickly downstairs.  To her surprise, Sean had just opened a perfectly cooked bag of popcorn.  She asked Sean what number he pushed?  Sean looked at her like she was crazy, and pointed to the control panel and said “popcorn”.  It turned out that the all the site words Sean had been learning in first grade were working. Sandra didn’t even know there was a popcorn button on the panel.  In this case she, was the slow learner.

Who’s The Slow Learner? is not just for parents, but a great resource for educators, future regular & special education teachers, school administrators and advocates.  This is the first book that chronicles a student with special education needs from pre-school to high school graduation.  It’s a very instructive book that shows a mother’s determination to advocate for the best available resources in not always a cooperative educational system.

I’m sure this book will benefit many considering inclusion for their child with special needs, and the education team that will be providing for them. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Catch Sean and his family on the Emmy Winning Series, A&E’s Born This Way, Tuesday nights at 9pm (8pm Central)!

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Follow Nick:

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Facebook and Pinterest: @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram: #nickdsautism

Twitter: @tjunnerstall

 

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

Blog #149~Vacation/Staycation

Blog #149~Vacation/Staycation

How’s your summer going?  Nick had a blast on vacation in Texas, and a staycation here with his cousins. My son Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. We flew down to Texas late June, for a family reunion in the Hill Country.  I managed to knock a few things off my Texas bucket list including Tex-Mex food, tubing, swimming and authentic BBQ.

Nick enjoying the pool with his cousins, Jake and Jenna….

Nick Hill Country pool

A plate of Texas heaven….

BBQ

It was great to see extended family, share laughs, stories, meals, elbow bumps, and get those awesome Overbey family hugs!  Thanks Laura and Scott for hosting a wonderful event.

Texas sunset

We enjoyed a nice 4th of July, and Nick certainly got into the patriotic spirit. I don’t know where he comes up with these things……

Nick flags

Following the 4th of July, my niece and nephew came up for a week.  We had a lot of fun taking them out and spoiling them. They knocked a few things off their Chicago bucket list:

* Chicago White Sox game

*Taste of Chicago

*Millennium Park “The Bean”

bean

* Giordano’s deep dish pizza

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*Portillo’s Italian Beef

*Blain’s Farm and Fleet (not sure that was on the list, but a good laugh between me and Jenna)

Thank you to our respite workers, (Jodi, Kelsey and Lara) for taking Nick out during our staycation. It was fun enjoying Chicago with the kids, and just hanging out (and being the cool aunt).

Elbow Bumps….

Nick and Jenna

So, that’s our summer thus far.  On another note, I’m excited to share a great opportunity with you.  Recently I was approached to be in a partnership with A&E’s hit show, Born This Way!  This series features young adults who have Down syndrome showing everyone the possibilities.  I got an exclusive interview you won’t want to miss. Look for the blog post later this week.  Check the social media sites below  for more information, including a look at the trailer.  Let’s get the word out, and share this on your social media as well.

A&E’s Born This Way premieres next Tuesday, July 26th at 10/9c!

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What a great summer, it’s been.  See you in a few days with my exclusive Born This Way interview! That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

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Facebook @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #130~Documentary “Graduating Peter”

Blog #130~ Documentary “Graduating Peter”

Over the weekend, I watched a documentary on HBO called “Graduating Peter”.   Actually I’ve seen it before many years ago, but have a new perspective on it now that my son is older. My son Nick is 21 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  The original documentary which won an Academy Award in 1992 was “Educating Peter”.  Peter Gwazdauskas, a special needs boy with Down syndrome, was the first student to go into the inclusion classroom in his school district.  Federal law states that special needs students should be educated with regularly developing students in traditional schools. Peter’s first half of the school year was not going well, (due to behaviors such as making loud noises, rolling around on the floor, and being injurious towards other students in class).  But he made improvements and gained acceptance as time went on.

Peter in elementary school in Blacksburg, Virginia….

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In the sequel “Graduating Peter” (2001), the journey continues from middle school until high school graduation.   The adolescence environment was not as accepting of his behaviors (like grabbing another student’s roll at lunch and throwing it at him).  His spoken language skills were limited.  He had no way to express how he feels and it came out in his behaviors.  The isolation from peers led to Peter suffering through depression.  During the school day, Peter had aides with him in school because he cannot function well due to his disabilities.  He also had several jobs during the time (sweeping mass transit buses, dishwashing at a hotel restaurant, doing laundry at school, etc…).  In the summer, his mom hired an aide to continue to work on community interaction and job skills. I loved seeing Peter’s face light up when he rode the roller coaster at a peer buddy program event.   In addition, he becomes the manager of the high school soccer team. He beamed with pride having a deep sense of friendship with his teammates.  Peter makes them understand there are bigger issues in life than just soccer.  In his senior year, he escorts a date to the prom and graduates with his class!

Peter at high school graduation….

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My son Nick would have no part of the graduation hat and tassel……

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Peter’s mom did a great job as his advocate.  She understood her son and realized that his lack of spoken language was his biggest disorder.  Her desire was for Peter to live in the community as independently as possible and to have a meaningful job that he enjoys along with maintaining friendships.  I understand her plight.  My desire for my son is the same.  Nick has the hurdle of autism along with Down syndrome.  This limits his chances of having a paid job in the future and living independently.  Nonetheless, Nick takes pride in the work he does at school and home.

Nick unloaded the dishwasher unsupervised last night. A bit topsy turvy but everything in the proper place…….

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As I posted on the update last Monday, Nick has many jobs and leisure activities in the community thanks to some wonderful respite workers! 🙂  Here’s Nick making a delivery run to a school. In the boxes are home made ice packs they assembled in his STEPS program he attends….

Nick delivery

Keeping those  community outlets open, providing communication supports and a good staff can help a child with disabilities lead a full and meaningful life.  The documentary “Graduating Peter” while showing the struggles of living with Down syndrome also sheds a light on how important relationships are.  Positive peer relationships can help a person with special needs feel accepted and thrive in the community.  That’s what in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa

***IMPORTANT NOTE:  Set your DVR’s for Tues. Dec. 8th 10/9central on A&E don’t miss “Born This Way”–7 Adults with Down Syndrome share their lives.  Check out my Facebook page called “Down syndrome with a Slice of Autism to see the preview!

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #232~Online Links for Special Needs Parents

Blog #232~Online Links for Special Needs Parents

Support hands

This week, I’ve provided a list of online links, to support special needs parents. These links are for parents of individuals with Down syndrome, autism, a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities:

Down syndrome support links:

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

http://www.ndss.org The National Down Syndrome Society is the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

http://www.ndsccenter.org The country’s oldest national organization for people with Down syndrome, their families and the professionals who work with them.

http://www.nads.org NADS is the National Association for Down syndrome and a solid support group in the Chicago area. There is also more links for dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism here (including a complete list with signs and symptoms for parents wondering if their child has more than just Down syndrome).

http://www.gigiplayhouse.org Down syndrome Awareness Centers all over the Midwest and expanding to New York, NY and Mexico. These centers provide play, fitness and social groups.

http://www.noahsdad.com Support and inspiration for parents who have a baby or child with Down syndrome. There is some great information and useful tips and links and positively focused. Noah’s Dad has also launched Hope Story to raise awareness and provide additional support.

https://hopestory.org Hope Story – Down Syndrome Diagnosis Support and Resources exists to give support, encouragement and hope to parents whose child have received a Down syndrome diagnosis; to provide free resources to the medical community to help them deliver a Down syndrome diagnosis, and to find ways for parents of children born with Down syndrome to use their unique story to bring hope to others.

http://www.futureofdowns.com Run by parents of children with Down’s syndrome. Covers a wide range of topics regarding babies and children with Down’s syndrome, pregnant and in need of advice on screening and tests or have just received a positive diagnosis following an amnio or CVS.

Autism support links:

autism ribbon

http://www.facebook.com/autismdiscussionpage This page was developed by Bill Nason, MS, LLP to discuss tools that help children on the spectrum. This site provides solid information and strategies related to autism.

http://www.autismspeaks.org Autism Speaks provides information and advocacy and good general information and links.

http://www.autism-society.org The Autism Society improves the lives of all affected by autism through education, advocacy, services, research and support.

http://www.tacanow.org Talk About Curing Autism and has a ton of links and articles along with coffee groups.

http://www.myautismteam.com Online support group for parents to share daily trials, triumphs, questions and recommendations.

http://www.mayer-johnson.com Boardmaker software for assistive technology/AAC devices.

http://www.teeach.com Information on TEEACH materials

More links for special needs parents:

https://thearc.org The Arc: For People With Intellectual and Developmental- Information and referral services, individual advocacy to address education, employment, health care and other concerns, self-advocacy initiatives, residential support, family support, employment programs, leisure and recreational programs.

https://www.parentingspecialneeds.org Parenting Special Needs Magazine share information and inspiration for parents of children with special needs.

https://www.woodbinehouse.com/ Publisher of the Special-Needs Collection…books for parents, children, teachers, and other professionals.

http://www.pottytrainingsolutions.com Gathers the most common problems and their solutions to help take the stress out of this major milestone.

http://www.easterseals.com Easter Seals offers programs, training and equipment for families.

wwww.bridges4kids.org Great, practical resources for special needs families.

http://www.specialedadvocacy.org Advocacy site for parents and teachers

Down syndrome and autism links:

DS-ASD Ribbon

https://http://www.nickspecialneeds.com My site provides solid information on topics specific to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), including supports, communication and speech/feeding issues, occupational therapy, behavior/ ABA and much more.

http://www.ds-asd-connection.org Offers good information related to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

http://www.theupsideofdowns.org Provides support, advocacy and information specific to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

Facebook groups for DS-ASD There are several Facebook groups directly related to Down syndrome and autism. These groups are a safe place to share information, ask questions, and help each other. Visit my Facebook page- Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism. You can also type in Down syndrome and autism into the search box to access additional groups.

Online support groups and links provide information, assistance, resources and encouragement, for parents who have a child with Down syndrome, autism, a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a parent, remember you don’t have to navigate the special needs path alone, help is out there!

That’s what is in my noggin this week! 🙂
~Teresa

Follow us on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #222~Dear Doctor,A Down Syndrome Diagnosis is a Hope Story

Blog #222~Dear Doctor, A Down Syndrome Diagnosis, is a Hope Story

What is the right way for a doctor to deliver the news that your baby has Down syndrome either pre-natal or at birth?  Over the weekend, I received a link from Nothing Down, called Dear Doctor http://www.nothingdown.org/ The short film link, interviewed parents who shared their experiences with their doctor.  The delivery of the news of a Down syndrome diagnosis was often cold, stoic, and grim.  In some cases, the doctors told the parents what their child couldn’t do, while others were offered the option to terminate the pregnancy.  So how should a doctor deliver the news to parents that their baby has Down syndrome? Educating medical professionals, communities, and advocating for inclusion and acceptance, are some of the goals during the month of October, which is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  The more you understand Down syndrome, the less fear you will have about the navigating the challenges associated with the diagnosis.

DS-Awareness-Month

I’m excited to share a new program that is going to change the way many medical professionals will deliver a pre-natal or birth diagnosis of Down syndrome.  It’s called Hope Story!

Hope Story’s Mission:

“Hope Story exists to give support, encouragement and hope to parents whose child have received a Down syndrome diagnosis; to provide free resources to the medical community to help them deliver a Down syndrome diagnosis, and to find ways for parents of children born with Down syndrome to use their unique story to bring hope to others.”  

Hope Story Helps 3 Main Groups:

*Parents whose child received  a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

*Parents who have a child with a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

*Medical Professionals

Hope Story will be providing kits to advocates who will partner with medical professionals.  Hope Advocates will inform, educate and allow doctors to get to know someone with Down syndrome on a personal level.  Tools in the Hope kit contain valuable information on how to deliver a diagnosis of Down syndrome, and a preferred language guide to help talk about Down syndrome with dignity, respect and hope.  In addition, the Hope booklet addresses concerns a new parent may have about Down syndrome.  Other tools include welcome letters, announcements, business card and  training videos for Hope advocates.

For more information on Hope Story click here:   @https://hopestory.org/about/

I’m looking forward to being an advocate for Hope Story, and the opportunity to work with medical professionals on delivering a positive pre-natal or birth diagnosis of Down syndrome.  Giving hope to other families who have a child with Down syndrome, has been the fuel for my writing for many years.   One thing I wish someone would have told me 24 years ago, when my son, Nick was born is this:

DD are like comas

Babies and children with Down syndrome have to work harder with physical, occupational and speech therapy to hit developmental milestones, and yes it may take longer, but they will and it hit them, and it will be grand!

My son Nick, age 24 🙂

Nick Key West

As we close to the end of October and Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I feel optimistic about the future of  individuals with Down syndrome.  We are moving beyond awareness, to acceptance and inclusion in society.  The future looks much brighter, with more opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome.  I’ve highlighted many success stories all month in my blogs, and social media listed below.  Education and understanding about Down syndrome is the key, and Hope Story is taking charge to help medical professionals and parents.  When you have knowledge and hope, the fear subsides.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick and view more about Hope Story and the Dear Doctor film on social media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan), Parenting Special Needs

Blog #204~ Lessons Learned from the Last Lecture

Blog #204~Lessons Learned from the Last Lecture

Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon and author of the national bestselling book, The Last Lecture.  He encouraged his students to attempt hard things and not worry about failing.  He would give out “The First Penguin Award” to the team who took the biggest gamble trying new ideas and technology, but failed to achieve their goals.  “This award celebrated out-of-the-box thinking and using imagination in a daring way.”  The title of this award came from the way that penguins jump into the water that might contain predators.  Somebody has to be the gustsy, first penguin, and take a bold leap into the unknown.

fail spectacularly

The takeaway is this, it’s important to attempt hard things and  you can expect to hit brick walls.  That is when you gain experience.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

This quote struck me as I was reading The Last Lecture over the weekend.  My son Nick, was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome.  Years later, he recieved a secondary diagnsosis of autism.  I didn’t get the “normal child” that I expected.  My path raising Nick has been very different then I had planned.  But along the way, over the past twenty-four years I’ve gained a great amount of experience in navigating my son’s journey.

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor gave his last lecture after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer, leaving behind a wife and three young children.  His book, The Last Lecture, co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow is a summation of everything Randy believed with some valuable lessons in “overcoming obstacles, enabling others, and seizing every moment.

There are so many lessons offered by Pausch in The Last Lecture.  I want to share a few that resonated with me, as a parent of a child with special needs.  When my son, Nick was born twenty-four years ago, I made some choices on how I was going to manage life.  I was dealt a set of cards, that I didn’t expect.  But soon realized, that I would have to play the hand differently.  This meant getting support to help my son reach developmental milestones and creating a home environment that supported his growth.  I also learned to reach out to parents, therapists and teachers with experience to help me understand how to help my son become the best he could be.

Randy Pausch cards dealt with

Another valuable lesson is in the approach to life when facing adversity.  Randy says, “Make a decision, are you going to be a Tigger or an Eeyore?”  A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie-the Pooh characters are in two different camps.  I’d choose fun-loving Tigger over grumpy Eeyore every time.  Optimism can take you much further in life!

Randy-Pausch-Pooh-Quote

Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom from Randy Pausch, and how they relate to being a parent of a child, with special needs.  I found these lessons to ring true, especially navigating a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism:

“All you have is what you bring with you.”

I understand all too well the need to be prepared for whatever situation the day may bring with my son.  What do I need to bring and what should I anticipate?  This could be anything from an extra set of clothes, spare iPod, PECS book, AAC device, snacks, Kleenex, stim toys and more.  Identify possible trouble spots/ triggers for meltdowns/messess and come up with ways to avoid these incidences.  Also, have a contingency plan in case as Randy says, “All hell breaks loose”.”

“All you have to do is ask.”

Randy tells a story about his Dad wanting to ride in the nose cone with the driver on the monorail at Disney World.  His Dad assumed they didn’t let regular people ride up there.  Randy told his Dad he had a trick and asked if his Dad wanted to see it.  He walked up the driver and asked, and the driver said yes.  You never know unless you ask, and this is true from my experiences working with doctors, therapists, teachers and other IEP members.  Ask for IEP drafts before the meeting, and to be included in your child’s goal planning.  Ask that the parent concerns (that you’ve written ahead of time), be put directly in the IEP at the beginning of the meeting.  These concerns will be a part of what drives the IEP.  Ask the doctor for whatever your child might need for their health like, prescriptions for therapy, nutritional supplements, evaluations for orthotics and to get all test results as soon as they come in.

“Start by sitting together”

This is essential when going to your child’s IEP (Individual Eduction Plan) meetings.  Randy’s approach to working with a group of people is simple.  Lay all the cards face up on the table and say to the group, “Ok, what can we collectively make of this hand?”  He offers a few tips for a successful group meeting like having optimal meeting conditions (make sure no one is hungry, cold or tired).  I’ll add in cramped rooms with  small chairs, as this has happened to me in past IEP meetings. Randy also adds, to let everyone talk, check your egos at the door and praise each other.  Finally phrase alternatives as questions, so instead of saying, “I think we should do A and not B” try saying,  “What if we did A and not B”.  This allows the team members to offer comments rather than defend their choice.  It opens up the discussion to get input from the whole IEP team.

The lessons that Randy Pausch shares in his book, are valuable.  Here are my takeaways as they relate being a parent of a child with special needs:

*Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try something daring.

*If you hit a brick wall, learn from it and gain more experience.

*You can’t change the cards that were dealt, but you can change how you play the hand.

*Your approach in playing that hand can be with a positive or negative attitude, it’s your choice.

*All you have to do is ask.  They might say sure, why not.

*Start by sitting together, when it comes to IEP’s the team should come together to be solution oriented, not problem oriented in collaboration approach.

Thank you Randy Pausch for the valuable lessons you shared in The Last Lecture and for the reminder to take what you have learned so that you can help others who might be starting down the same path.

And as you navigate your path always remember this…..

Randy Pausch spending time

  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism

Instagram #nickdsatuism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #202~ Down syndrome, A New Beginning

Blog #202~ Down syndrome, A New Beginning

So this just happened, I flew back to Texas over the weekend to be with my niece, who is also my God-daughter.  Courtney recently gave birth to twin boys.  Shortly after their birth last December, she called me with the news that one of the babies might have Down syndrome. The first thing I felt was excitement inside, knowing that God has many blessings coming her way.  I told Courtney that everything was going to be okay, and that I’d be there for her every step of the way.  I know this to be a fact, because I have been blessed for the past 24 years with my son, Nick.

My niece didn’t know that one of her twins would have Down syndrome until after she gave birth.  Just as I did, the initial shock can take your breath away and a myriad of emotions come at you in waves.  However, like me she has rolled up her sleeves and embraced this diagnosis fully.  I couldn’t be more proud of her.

The twins Gannon and Greyson 🙂

Gannon and Greyson

Courtney jumped right in becoming an advocate for her son, Gannon.  Last month, she gave a presentation to her older son’s elementary school class on World Down Syndrome Day……

Gannon WDSD

For World Down Syndrome Day, Courtney had special shirts made for her immediate and extended family, as well as friends…….

Courtney and family

Here’s my son, Nick wearing his shirt to support #gannonsjourney and World Down Syndrome Day….

Nick Down right perfect

There is a lot of love felt in their home, along with a load of testosterone, with four boys under one roof.  Her two little dogs and cat lay on the couches close by, seemingly like protectors providing comfort as we sat and visited.

Gannon and me

It was a great weekend holding, feeding and loving on the twins, along with a few games of Battleship, Candyland, Toilet Trouble and snap chat photos with the older boys.  In between all of this, we had a chance to talk about our experiences together.  During the course of these conversations, I flashed back 24 years ago when I gave birth to Nick.  I told Courtney and her husband Patrick, how the pediatrician pointed out the initial markers that might indicate my son could have Down syndrome.  My doctor gently showed me the brushfield spots in my babies eyes, the larger gap space between the first two toes, and the feeling of low muscle tone in his body.  Courtney gasped when I mentioned my pediatricians name, she thought I was joking.  It turns out that they have the same pediatrician as I did!  Not only that, her husband (who also lived in this same area outside Houston) had Dr. K as his pediatrician growing up.  Courtney started to cry as we found the similarities in our lives being so serendipitous.  They were happy tears.

Who would ever predict that this little niece and God-daughter of mine would follow such a similar path?  At the moment this photo was taken, 28 years ago I was just a doting aunt to her…..

Courtney and me

Here we are 29 years later…..

Courtney Gannon and me

In December, after the twins were born, her pediatrician pointed out similar markers of Gannon possibly having Down syndrome.  I told Courtney over the phone, that she had this.  She was already ahead of the game, with her experience having Nick as her cousin.

Courtney and Nick, 1994…..

courtney and nick

Courtney and Nick, 2010………

photo (116)

I handed my niece this journal, on Saturday.  It felt as though I was passing the baton over, as she starts her own journey…..

Journal

The journey will be filled with highs and lows as she navigates her son having Down syndrome.  As the pen moves across each page, her eyes may be filled with tears during the struggles as he grows.  But there will also be many smiles when he triumphs the milestones of crawling, sitting up, walking, feeding and so much more.  Each benchmark will take longer to reach and require much more work.   But that is what makes these victories even sweeter.  My niece is just beginning this new path, and I both smile and take a deep breath inside, knowing what lies ahead.  My son has changed my life forever and filled me with God’s grace.  Like his cousin Nick, Gannon will touch many lives and teach lessons of gratitude in the process.

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

Follow Gannon #gannonsjourney