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

World Autism Awareness Day-April 2nd

World Autism Awareness Day-April 2nd

Autism Awareness Day

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day.  “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. More than 3.5 million Americans currently live with ASD, and 1 in 68 children are born with a variation of it.”  With this staggering statistic, it’s likely that you have encountered an individual on the autism spectrum.

Not just today, but the entire month of April is National Autism Awareness Month. During this month advocated seek to raise awareness,  understanding, acceptance, inclusion and self-determination for all individuals with ASD.

autism awareness 2016

One of the most famous and influential individuals with autism is Temple Grandin. “Temple Grandin is an American professor of animal science at Colorado State University, consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, and autism spokesperson. She is one of the first individuals on the autism spectrum to publicly share insights from her personal experience of autism. She invented the ‘hug box’ device to calm those on the autism spectrum.”

Temple Grandin quote 2“Based on personal experience, Grandin advocates early intervention to address autism and supportive teachers, who can direct fixations of the child with autism in fruitful directions. She has described her hypersensitivity to noise and other sensory stimuli. She claims she is a primarily visual thinker, and has said that words are her second language. Temple attributes her success as a humane livestock facility designer to her ability to recall detail, which is a characteristic of her visual memory. Grandin compares her memory to full-length movies in her head, that may be replayed at will, allowing her to notice small details. She also is able to view her memories using slightly different contexts by changing the positions of the lighting and shadows.  Her insight into the minds of cattle has taught her to value the changes in details to which animals are particularly sensitive and to use her visualization skills to design thoughtful and humane animal-handling equipment.”  (Wikipedia)

On April 2nd and throughout this month, advocates ask that you promote autism awareness and acceptance on social media, and encourage community support and understanding for individuals and families living with autism.

World Autism Awareness Day and National Autism Awareness Month is a great time to advocate for understanding, acceptance and inclusion, it’s essential to advocate for children, and adults, with autism year-round.

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 Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #184~ Addressing Problem Behaviors in Individuals with DS/ASD

Blog #184~Addressing Problem Behaviors in Individuals with DS/ASD

Problem behaviors in individuals with Down syndrome and autism (DS/ASD), are very common.  Speech deficits, make it difficult to communicate wants and needs.  Often individuals with DS/ASD, may exhibit problem behaviors to communicate something.  Last week I participated in a webinar about addressing such behaviors, led by Sam Towers (http://sam@towersbehavior.com), that was hosted by The Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota.  Here is a summary of this webinar on addressing problem behaviors in individuals with DS/ASD.

First of all, it is important to build rapport.   Establish a friendship with kindness, and positive activities that the individual enjoys.  This will provide the basis for teaching the person, that there are other ways, besides problem behavior, for achieving goals.  Sam suggested a 10:1 ratio of praising good behaviors.  Praise encourages the individual to do it again.

Why do people use problem behaviors?

1.Get attention

2.Get something

3.Escape or avoid something unpleasant

4.Get a pleasant sensation

All behaviors allow a person to achieve a goal, because the payoff is reinforcement.  You get what you pay more attention to.  The idea is to avoid letting problem behaviors have a payoff.  So, focus ALOT more on addressing the good behaviors.  This can be done by building skills, through teaching replacement behaviors.  If a child is throwing things to get attention, the replacement behavior could be to teach them to tap you on the shoulder or use their communication device.

My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS/ASD.  He has many behaviors that are used to get attention or something, and provide a pleasant sensation.  Part of the autism piece is sensory related.  Flushing the toilet repeatedly, pushing the microwave fan or phone intercom buttons are ways that he stims, which is a form of self-entertainment.  One suggestion, for this would be to teach other ways for him to entertain himself.  Some supports that I recommend, are to use social stories, redirect to an AAC (Aumentative Alternative Communication) device, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication) book, or create a choice board.

Choice Boards:

choice boards

If an individual is trying to get out of an activity, they may exhibit behaviors like self-injury, yelling, or stop-drop and plop.  In these cases, it’s important to provide supports like, a first-then charts, “take a break” card, noise cancelling headphones, a visual schedule, or a timed timer.

timer app    first then  1,2,3,4 Sprite

Bottom line, you can’t let the problem behavior become the payoff.  The single most effective way to get rid of a problem behavior, is to arrange things so that there is no payoff (reinforcement) for the behavior. Completely withholding reinforcement can be difficult, and often leads to an increase in the behavior.  This is called an extinction boost.  But if you stick to your guns, this will result in the behavior decreasing.  The key is to be consistent in not rewarding the undesirable behavior.  If it is reinforced intermittently, it will cause the behavior to be more long-lasting, because there is still some payoff for the individual.

Understanding the reasons people use problem behaviors, building skills and supports to teach replacement behaviors, praising 10:1 good behaviors, and arranging things so that there is no payoff for the problem behavior are all great tools for addressing problem behaviors in individuals with DS/ASD.  Here are a few resources which may also help:

Edward Carr Book    Social Story Book  visual strategies book

When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect,
edited by Margaret Froehlke and Robin Zaborek:  

down syndrome and autism intersect

A special thank you to the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota and Sam Towers of Towers Behavior Services for an informative webinar.  Now, it’s time to make a new choice board for Nick.  Have a great week, everyone.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism on Facebook and Pinterest

#nickdsautism on Instagram

@tjunnerstall on Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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, 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 a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS -ASD). During the month of April, 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 you to open your mind and heart to individuals with autism, along with their families and caregivers.

photo (26)

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

*Open your heart, give a smile to a family struggling out in public with a child or adult who has autism. Offer up good thoughts and prayers , for compassion, strength, patience and tolerance.

*Reach out, pay a compliment or offer help, to a family who might be dealing with a difficult situation 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 and often feel isolated.

*Teach your child about inclusivity.  Invite a classmate with autism, over for a play date or 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. Some people may not understand the unusual behaviors exhibited by individuals with autism. Some of these behaviors are sensory related. For example rocking and hand flapping is a coping mechanism that helps organize the brain.  Some individuals with autism become overwhelmed in stimulating environments. This may lead to a person shutting down or having a meltdown. Better understanding of such behaviors and their causes, leads to  You can help advocate by sharing information about autism on your social media.

Awareness and acceptance means allowing yourself and teaching others 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 during Autism Awareness Month.

~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