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

Special Needs Back to School Tips

Special Needs Back to School Tips

backtoschool1

Kleenex, glue sticks, crayons, and more, are all jotted down on the shopping list.  It’s that time of year to get ready to go back to school.  But what should you be doing as a parent of a child with special needs?  I’ve got 5 great tips to get you started on the right track!

5 Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents:

Click here to view these 5 tips- https://nickspecialneeds.com/2016/08/22/blog-153special-needs-back-to-school-tips/

Make it a great school year, that’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

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Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #180~Special Needs Moms,Let Go of the Guilt

ou Blog #180~Special Needs Moms, Let Go of the Guilt

No Guilt

Am I doing enough for my child?  Should I switch to a gluten-free diet?  Does my child need ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy?  Maybe I should be diffusing essential oils?  These and many other questions swirl constantly, in the mind of a parent having a special needs child.  I should know after 23 years of raising my son, Nick.  He has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  Over the years, I’ve allowed doubt to creep in.  You see other moms talking about intense ABA therapy, up to 20 hours a week.  You hear testimonials of how a gluten-free diet helped to increase speech and decrease problematic behaviors.  Then, there are the success stories and pictures plastered over social media groups.  Compelling accounts of children excelling in Special Olympics, summer camps, recreational programs and the latest programs sure to launch your child new heights.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure to do it all.  So, you begin to question yourself as a parent.  Am I doing everything I can to help my child with special needs?  This is when the guilt begins to seep in.  That’s, when you need to let go of the guilt.

Parenting is a balance act.  The responsibilities of running a household, taking care of children and their activities along with your own personal job and welfare, can be enormous.  At several points over the last 23 years, I’ve hit walls where the pressure is just too much.

At those junctures, it’s important to stop, take a breath, and re-evaluate what works for your child with special needs, and the entire family……

*RE-EVALUATE- Which treatments, therapies, and recreational programs are useful? Where are you seeing growth and enjoyment for your child?  Weigh the benefits against the disadvantages of each program, treatment, and therapies that you are considering.

*PRIORITIZE- What activities are essential for my child and any siblings?  Which of these activities are needs/must haves (like swimming lessons), and which are wants (like a recreational soccer program)?

*STRIP BACK- After you’ve re-evaluated and prioritized, create a new schedule that suits your family.  Listen to the cues of your child, (and yourself).  Is it stressful, time-consuming, expensive or sapping your energy?  Has it become a huge inconvenience and unfair to the rest of your family?

Right now is a perfect time, before school starts, to take a deep look at all the therapies and activities your child and siblings are involved in.  Are these programs enhancing their growth?  How much time are you spending in the car, commuting all over town for these therapies and other programs? Sometimes, it’s just TOO MUCH for you child and other family members.  Consider scaling back, and opt to incorporate learning activities at home. Ask your child’s therapists for suggestions on how to do this.  With their help, create learning (TEACCH) activities that can be done at home.  It really helped me to achieve better balance, when I scaled back, and incorporated a few of the TEACCH activities along with natural occurring jobs around the house, instead of driving all over town each day to therapies.  🙂

TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication is an evidence-based service, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and skill levels with autism spectrum disorders.  

Here are some TEACCH bins we do in our home with Nick…..

Task Strip with a highly preferred reward to work towards. Nick picks out a reward  from his PECs (Picture Exchange Communication book) or AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device).  He usually chooses a Sprite….

Task Two Strip

Nick get’s handed the #1 and matches to the bin and completes the activity.  Once this is done he puts the #1 on the green task strip.  This is repeated for all four bins. The activities range from sorting, matching, assembly, folding, and fine motor.  Bins can be customized to fit the needs of an individual child.  These are just a few of many Nick does.  Be sure to mix in some that have a high success rate, with more challenging activities suitable for your child:

bins 1 and 2   Bins 3 and 4

Naturally occurring activities can also be added around the house throughout the day.  Examples include unloading the dishwasher, garbage/recycling, laundry, putting groceries away, cleaning counters, vacuuming, and gardening.

Nick watering plants

All these activities help to build new skill sets, confidence and independence.  The TEACCH activities are also implemented by respite caregivers, which we’ve hired with the help of state waiver funding.  These caregivers work on goals both in the home and out in the community. Respite workers can also help take your child to afterschool activities such as therapy, Special Olympics/ sports or swim lessons and social groups. Having respite care or hiring a babysitter, allows a parent to get a break and take time to get out and enjoy their own life.

It’s so easy to get bombarded with advice on treatments, diets, therapies and recreational programs related to special needs.  As a parent, you need to decide what is useful and stop feeling guilty about doing everything single therapy and program to help your child.  Do your research, weigh the pro’s and cons, and decide what works best for your child and family.  Don’t allow those guilty thoughts to rob your peace, or make you doubt your parenting skills.

relax boardwalk

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #178~ 5 Behaviors that have Improved with Age

Blog #178~ 5 Behaviors that have Improved with Age

The behaviors associated with autism has made for a very different journey than Down syndrome alone.  My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  I like many other parents, have been in the trenches dealing with some tough, scary and dangerous behaviors.  The good news is that many of these behaviors have improved with age!

Don’t get me wrong, Nick still has behaviors that we continue to work on.  But these 5 behaviors have greatly improved now that he is a young adult:

5 Behaviors that have Improved with Age

1-Eloping/Wandering

2-Haircuts

3-Meltdowns

4-Self-injury

5-Poop Smears

1-Eloping/Wandering

Yes, we have lost Nick a few times and it is one of the most frightening and heart pounding things a parent can experience.  Nick use to think it was funny to take off running.  This behavior has mellowed significantly, with the exception of when he spots a fire alarm.  He’s got a thing for pulling fire alarms, 44 times since third grade!

Big Guy, Nick…

Nick fire alarm shirt

Over the years we have put a few things in place to prevent this from happening.  You can access previous blogs with specific information on how to secure your home and child against wandering in by typing  Blog 142~Wandering and Autism” in the search box.  I still make sure that Nick is arm’s distance from me when out in public.  I also cue him with reminders to “Stay close”, “Big guys keep on walking”, and “Hands to self, Nick”.  Bottom line, now that Nick is older and understands the verbal cues, he doesn’t take off running for the heck of it.

2-Haircuts

There was a time when Nick flailed and put up a fight when getting a haircut.  It was a two-man effort that left us in a pool of sweat with Nick being red-faced and in tears.  Three things that have helped to make haircuts easier are using visuals, immediate rewards and investing in good hair clippers.  The visuals helped him to understand the sequence of events which lessened his anxiety and showed a positive ending to the experience with highly preferred rewards (Sprite and a shower).

haircut visual

Spending the extra money on a quality set of hair clippers helps to make the haircuts go smoother.  In the past several years, what was a two-man operation is easily done by Nick’s Dad, and with no tears or Sprite needed as a reward.

3-Meltdowns

Autism Spectrum Disorder can cause behavioral and developmental problems, one of which is outbursts, called autistic meltdowns.  For many years, especially during puberty, these meltdowns would cause injury such a pinching, bruising and skin cuts to us and those caring for our son.

meltdown

Working with a behaviorist specializing in autism has helped greatly.  Nick has a behavior plan in place that identifies all possible triggers and what to do to prevent a meltdown.  Now these meltdowns are much less frequent and manageable because of learned appropriate coping skills.  More often than not, these meltdowns can be avoided or quickly diffused.

4-Self-injury

Self-injurious behavior can be exhibited by people with developmental disabilities, including autism.  Such behaviors can include, (but not limited to) head-banging, hand-biting, and excessive self-rubbing and scratching.  Having Down syndrome and autism can often limit speech making it frustrating for your child to communicate.  Self-injurious behavior in itself is communicating something, (anger, frustration, fatigue, and  health issues to name a few).

No pinching

Getting a solid behavior plan in place, that identifies triggers that might set off self-injurious behaviors has helped enormously.  This can be done with the help of an autism behavior specialist.  Again, visual supports can help to manage behaviors before they escalate to cause injury.  School or private ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) specialist can customize visual supports and other strategies for your child.

Frustrated and Autism

Over the years we’ve identified the triggers that may cause self-injury, and sensing this frustration (for Nick it’s when he pinches his own cheek).  Using redirection and preventing escalation is the key to keeping self-injury to a minimum.

*Poop Smears

Probably the best news is that poop smears are a thing of the past!  There was a time when we were in the thick of it.  However, “Operation Code Brown” has been shut down. 🙂

poop icon

Toilet training has been by far one of the most challenging behaviors to work on having a child with Down syndrome and autism.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so be patient.  It requires just as much discipline on the parents part, (if not more) than your child.  We used the Azrin-Foxx Method of habit training as the basis of getting Nick fully trained.  This took many years and commitment but it CAN be done!

Things do get better with age.  These 5 behaviors have much improved, now that Nick is a young adult.  Getting support to address the autism piece has made a huge difference.  If you find yourself up against a wall, look for another solution utilizing the help of autism behavior specialist and the school staff.  Finally, try and be patient and rest assured that as your child gets older, these behaviors will improve.

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

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Fun Side of Nick, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #177~Nick’s Vacation Fun 2017

Blog #177~Nick’s Vacation Fun 2017

Each year we take a vacation to the shores of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  This summer we added an extra leg to the trip, spending the first week in Virginia.  Nick’s aunt and uncle own property with old tobacco barns they’ve renovated into beautiful living spaces.  This area is located above the banks of the James River.  My son Nick is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  The quiet country life seemed to agree with him.

Nick Swing VA

Nick enjoyed his time in Virginia, especially the rides on the John Deer “Gator”. 🙂  The renovated tobacco barns were made into living spaces.  They were very accommodating and cozy.

Gator ride

Nick got very relaxed as we did some kayaking on the James River….

Kayaking

Kayaking the James River was very soothing for Nick…..

James River

Gator tour of property with 100+ year old barns

barn va

One of the highlights for me was touring Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello.  Thomas Jefferson has always been my favorite president.  He was a visionary, who had big dreams to expand our country which included exploring science, architecture, paleontology and much more.  Monticello was the center of Jefferson’s world.  When touring his home and plantation high on the mountain top, you can feel the inspiration of his timeless ideas.

Monticello

The second part of the vacation was our annual trip to the Outer Banks, NC (OBX).  We shifted gears from country living to beach life.  When you see these signs, it’s time to relax and turn the knob to Bob, 93.7 FM.  Destination, Duck, NC!

OBX signs

Nick enjoyed his travel companion, Cali who decided to make herself comfortable on his lap on the road trip from Virginia to OBX 🙂

Nick and Cali OBX

Our gracious hosts, Uncle Ron and Aunt Ali also have a beautiful home in OBX.  Nick feels very comfortable staying there for several years.  Cali, their dog seems to be very content as well…..

Ron and Ali OBX

Our backyard view for the week…

OBX crows nest

Nick had a great time, and we even got him on the beach on several occasions.  He’s not a big fan of the texture of sand and heat, due to the sensory issues associated with having autism.  But we pushed his boundaries and he did great sitting under the umbrella with his legs propped up.

Beaching it with his bro…..

Nick and Bro on beach

The house also has a pool that Nick splashed around in each day….

Nick pool obx 2017

Happy hour at the crow’s nest with his “stim” of choice, the tappers!

nick crows nest 2017

Summer 2017 vacation was a great success!  There was not a single fire alarm pull or call button pushed while on the airplane.  Nick stayed on an even keel with his behavior.  The only outburst occurred on my birthday at the Aqua Restaurant, located on the sound side of the island.  Towards the end of our meal, Nick was done and stood up.  His Dad tried to get him to sit back down, but he wanted no part of it.  As Al motioned him back to the chair, Nick yelled “God Dam#*it”, which echoed out, silencing the entire dining area. There was a notable pause with all eyes glaring at our table.  Autism spoke loudly in that moment.  Fortunately, things did not escalate, and we allowed him to remain standing as we finished dessert and settled up the tab.

It was a fun and relaxing two weeks in Virginia and the Outer Banks.  The success of such a trip comes with using picture icons to help him navigate his days and anticipating possible triggers of Nick’s behavior.  We watch his body language for things that might spark a meltdown, and cut it off at the pass or redirect quickly, before things escalate.  Yes, we pushed the boundaries by trying new things like kayaking, riding on the gator on a property tour, and longer & more frequent trips to the beach.  But each was met with praise and rewards (Sprite, iPad, salami) along with elbow bumps.  And don’t forget the tappers, or stim of choice that your child needs to regulate thier sensory needs,

Keep pushing the boundaries with your child, and don’t limit what you think they can handle on a vacation.  It’s worth a try for your child and the whole family.

OBX View

As I post this final picture, I treasure the new memories made on this vacation.  And as Ali told us before departing, “Try to stay in beach mode as long as you can”.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #176~ Special Needs Summer Recreation Programs

Blog #176~Special Needs Summer Recreation Programs

The heat is on!  Are you looking into programs for your child with special needs this summer?  There are many types of programs available including camps, athletic and leisure programs.  A great place to start is to contact your local park district to see if they offer any special recreation programs.  For programs in here in Illinois click on this link: http:// www.specialrecreation.org

Here are some links for special needs summer programs:

Special Olympics- http:// www.specialolympics.org

Buddy Up Tennis- http:// www.buddyuptennis.com

Top Soccer- http://www.topsoccer.us

I Can Ride Bike Camps- https://www.icanshine.org

Easter Seals- http://www.easterseals.com

Gi Gi’s Playhouse- https://www.gigisplayhouse.org

American Camp Association- https://acacamps.org

Very Well has a list of Inclusive Sports Programs- https://www.verywell.com/special-needs-sports-programs-3106922

Friendship Circle List of Camps- http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/13/25-summer-camps-for-individuals-with-special-needs/

Diveheart Scuba program- http://diveheart.org

Diveheart 2013 336

My son Nick (pictured above), is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He has participated in many of these programs over the years.  These include Special Olympics, Challenger Baseball League, Top Soccer, swim lessons, Diveheart and I Can Shine Bike Camp.  During the summer months he also attended ESY (Extended Summer Year) summer school.  These programs helped him to learn new skills, have a structured routine, and develop friendships.

Nick at ESY Summer School…..

 

I Can Shine Bike Camp….

photo (124)

Many of these programs are available for children with special needs throughout the U.S.  My son Nick had great experiences in participating in these programs.  If you know of a program you would like to share, please contact me.  I’m always updating my resource list on this website and sharing them with other support groups.  Here’s to a great summer 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

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Posted in Autism, Doctors and Dentists, Down syndrome

Blog #175~ Dentist Visits for Special Needs

Blog #175~Dentist Visits for Special Needs

teeth emoji

Taking a child with special needs to the dentist can be challenging.  It ranks right up there with hair cuts and blood draws at the medical lab.  My son Nick is 23 years old, and has Down syndrome and autism.  His speech deficits and sensory issues makes it difficult to get a proper dental examination and cleaning.  Now that Nick is an adult, we changed from a pediatric dentist to one that specializes in working with adults with special needs.  The experience for my son went very well, and here’s why it was successful.

Here are 5 tips to help with dentist visits for special needs:

*1- Find a dentist who specializes in working with persons having special needs.  Get referrals from other families and therapists.

*2- Request to schedule the appointment during the quiet time at the office.

*3- Create a social story either with a written checklist or pictures for your child to follow.  For a child with autism, if they can see it, then they can understand it.  This guide will be like a map to follow, and can help to lessen anxiety.

I printed a social story from Google Images and added a highly preferred reward of Taco Bell at the end of the visit:

dentist social story

At home we have a tooth brushing sequence laminated for Nick to follow.  You can print this PDF out for your child to use:  teeth

*4- The dentist should take the time to go at your child’s pace, based on their sensitivity and level of anxiousness.  His new dentist allotted plenty of time to ease into the exam, and for Nick to get comfortable with him.  Nick didn’t want to sit in the chair right away, even with my point prompts to the social story.  First, they put one of his favorite cartoons on the flat screen TV.  Then, the dentist put his gloved hands out for Nick to touch and get use to the feel and texture.  After a few minutes along with a several high-five and elbow bumps, Nick sat down in the chair.  He continued to narrow the gap of proximity, so that Nick was could get use to him being close.

On the first visit, the dentist was able to do brief examination and brush Nick’s teeth counting to 23 (his age) twice.  He took several breaks, giving lots of praise and elbow bumps.  We scheduled another visit three weeks later to try to build Nick’s tolerance level and continue to develop their relationship.  On the second visit, he was more at ease, sitting down in the chair right away.  The dentist completed a deeper examination, as Nick was able to tolerate even more this time.  He was able to clean, floss and even brush fluoride on Nick’s teeth!

Nick dentist two

*5- The key to having success on these visits was allowing time for Nick to feel more relaxed and establishing trust.  The dentist worked slowly to desensitize, picking up on any verbal or non-verbal cues.  He adjusted his pace accordingly, to match what my son could handle.  His dentist understood the importance of building this trust and relationship, thus earning the right to provide more clinical care.

The tips of *1-finding the right dentist, *2-scheduling appointments during off times, *3-providing a social story, *4-breaking down the examination slowly and *5-establishing a trusting relationship, all helped greatly to lead to successful dentist visits.

If your child has sensitivities, you may also want to see if they can tour the office before the appointment.  If need be, ask if the lighting can be adjusted and whether they offer the use of a weighted vest (which provides deep pressure which can be calming).  In some cases, it may be necessary to sedate a child that is uncooperative or needs more advanced care.

At this time with my son, we will continue to build on the solid foundation we’ve begun with his new dentist without the use of sedation for as long as possible.  These baby steps helped to lessen Nick’s anxiety for dental visits in the future.  I appreciate the time, care and concern for my son’s best interests in providing such a positive experience.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa

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Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Nick~Spring Update

Nick~Spring Update

dandelion two

At last, spring has arrived in Chicago.  Here’s what Nick has been up to this spring at his adult day program.  My son is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  Each day he engages in a variety of activities at this program.

Nick continues to have both in-house and community vocational jobs.  These include stocking shelves at a local food pantry, stuffing church bulletins and cleaning at GiGi’s playhouse.  He recently got a paid job in-house, crushing and recycling cans.

nick-vacumme-gigis

Other community activities in Nick’s day program include visits to the library, shopping, and local parks.  In house, the adult day program has many enrichment activities such as art, work bins, cooking, fitness, and gardening.  They have taken the carrot and broccoli pods which were started indoors this winter, and planted them outside.  His group also bought and spread mulch on the outdoor beds.

In cooking, they’ve made shepherds pie, fruit pizza, hot dogs & sloppy joes with fries, and biscuits with gravy.  They have so much fun playing bingo and having holiday theme parties.  For St. Patrick’s Day they made shamrock shakes, and for Cinco de Mayo they made burrito bowls.  Recently, the moms were invited to his room for a Mother’s Day tea.  Nick was very excited to have me visit.

Mother's Day Tea

Outside of Nick’s adult day program, he keeps busy with his respite workers.  He enjoys going to local parks,  the library, movie theatre and restaurants.  He’s a regular at Culvers and CiCi’s Pizza each week.  We are very fortunate to have such dedicated caregivers with Lara, Jodi and Kelsey, who he loves very much.

I’ve painted a pretty and serene picture of Nick’s world this spring.  But it’s not all dainty flowers and colorful rainbows.  There are quite a few dandelions scattered in the mix.

dandelions

He continues to challenge us all with undesirable behaviors, like button pushing, throwing objects, blowing snot rockets and wiping them all over the place along with a lot of tapping and stimming.

Nick got a hold of a gargantuan tapper to stim on last week 🙂

Nick gargantuan tapper

There have been some milk thistles popping into the picture as well.  Last week he managed to add to his tally of fire alarm pulls, getting one at his day program.  So the alarm count stands today at 44 pulls.  OUCH!

milk thistle

The mix of cold weather and rain has led to some serious cabin fever this spring.  Here’s to warmer weather and getting my “one man wrecking crew” outdoors.  I’m grateful that Nick has a wonderful day program to go to, along with awesome respite workers that he loves.  He has a fulfilling life, and I get some peaceful time to myself.   Cheers to an abundance of flowers this spring, with fewer thorns.

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

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #173~ IEP’s and Advocating for Your Child

Blog #173~ IEP’s and Advocating for Your Child

IEP-Picture

It’s the merry month of May, or IEP season for parents who have a child with special needs.  How do you advocate to get what your child is entitled to?  IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. The IDEA law, ensures that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.”

This purpose should drive the needs of your child, because it is neccessary for them to be prepared for further education, employment, and independent living”.  In the case of my son, Nick having Down syndrome and autism, he is unable to work and live independently.  However through the years, his IEP goals, and supports have focused on his abilities to do everything possible to work towards this purpose and what is realistic for him upon completion of school at age 22.

scan0016

So back to my first question….. How do you get what your child is entitled to?

There are three things that you can do as a parent to advocate for your child.  These include providing parent input, examine & evaluating your child’s current IEP, and building goals based upon your child’s strengths.

Parent input should include what you want to see your child doing towards the purpose of “preparing them for further education, employment and independent living”. 

*What academic goals can you put in place now that will drive them to be more independent in the future?

*How will your child interact with other peers and staff in social situations?

*How will your child do with social skills when out in public?

*What methods of communication will be used for your child to express themselves?

nick aac

The second way you can best advocate for your child is to evaluate their current IEP.  Take a hard look at each section including your child’s level of functioning, academic achievements, goals, special education & related services and accommodations.  The focus should be on what your child CAN do with measurable goals.  What supports and modifications are needed to assist your child?  Does your child need a visual schedule?  Is there any equipment or sensory related items that are needed to help with learning and navigating the building?  Will their be a shared or 1:1 aide provided for your child if they need additional support?

If your child is not making any progress on a goal, then it needs to be looked at.  For instance a goal of tying shoes may need more support and visuals from the occupational therapists.  Then again, is the goal of tying shoes going to be important in another 5 years, or can you make another accommodation, move on and work on a different goal?

shoelaces

Once you have re-evaluated your child’s current IEP, schedule a meeting with the support teacher/ case manager to review your findings and decide on what goals would be best for your child moving forward.  I would also suggest sending an email to the classroom teacher, therapists, and social worker to get their input on re-vamping the goals.  This should all be done at least a month before the scheduled IEP meeting.

Be sure and request the proposed draft of the new IEP, including all reports from each team members, along with the goals proposed for your review BEFORE the actual meeting.  This will insure that you are an informed member of the team, and be a vital part of the decision making process.

goals

Goals should always build upon their strengths.  My son was never interested in writing  Any marker or pen given to him ended up with scribbles all over his clothing and skin.  Nick was just not motivated by any goal to write.  But what he was really good at matching.  Many of his academic goals were driven by using supports that involved matching.  So instead of writing Nick, the support teacher made a worksheet where he would cut out the letters N-I-C-K and glue them under a template.  This allowed Nick to work on name recognition and cutting skills.  This is a great example of modifying the curriculum to suit the level of student functioning.

Another example is money handling skills.  Nick’s goal in elementary school was to work on the “dollar over” method.  If an item was $1.49, he would count out two dollars (one dollar + one more dollar for change back).

dollar bills

Later in high school, the goal was changed to using an ATM card (which is what most people use in society today).

Taking on the role of advocate for your child insures that they your child will get what they are entitled under the IDEA law.  Preparing yourself with vital parent input, examining & evaluating their current IEP, and working with the teacher to build goals that promote learning and independence will result in a solid education plan for your child, and their future success.  In closing I will add this last point, that your child’s IEP should be constructed on your child’s unique needs, and NOT what the school district says they can offer and afford.   That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

IEP2

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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 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