Blog #246~DS-ASD at the NDSC Convention 2022
Being a parent of a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), can often feel isolating. The complex needs of speech deficits, sensory and behavior concerns related to co-occurring DS-ASD make parents feel like they don’t fit into the Down syndrome or autism support groups. For the longest time I avoided going to the Down syndrome functions and conferences for this very reason. I know that other families have felt the same about not fitting into the DS groups. It is a lonely feeling. My son Nick is 28 years old and has DS-ASD. What I have since learned is that you have to align yourself with like minded individuals who truly understand this unique journey. In addition, it’s important to process the secondary diagnosis of autism with Down syndrome and get to a place of acceptance in your own time. While this path is different, there is both help and hope now available compared to 15+ years ago when Nick got the secondary diagnosis.
There was much to celebrate at the National Down Syndrome Congress 50th Annual Convention (NDSC) held in New Orleans last month in person. This week, I want to share this experience and why it was so important for DS-ASD families and those wanting to learn more about a dual diagnosis.
Since the publication of my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism in 2020, I have been presenting information about my journey with Nick and providing strategies, tools and interventions to support individuals with DS-ASD.
The Deep Dive presentation was a comprehensive presentation: Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinical Features and Treatment and Intervention Strategies, was led by physician Dr. Nicole Baumer, psychologist Dr. Lina Patel and myself.
This presentation provided valuable information on how to tease out signs and symptoms of what autism looks like in individuals with Down syndrome. In addition, we offered many strategies and interventions to support communication, behavior and sensory needs associated with co-occurring DS-ASD.
The NDSC exhibit hall was a high energy whirlwind of agencies and rock stars of the Down syndrome world. The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection booth was busy with our staff and board of directors answering questions, listening to stories and connecting with others wanting to know more about a dual diagnosis.
Some more of the Rock Stars of the Down Syndrome World at NDSC Convention 2022:
The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection hosted a panel discussion, DS-ASD The Real Deal a Parent Panel, which provided a safe space to ask questions, share ideas and strategies. The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection is the gold standard, national organization serving the DS-ASD community since 2007. More at http://ds-asd-connection.org/
The final presentation that I gave was, a DS-ASD 3-21 Toolkit of Strategies which offered practical ideas, take home strategies and ways to support individuals with a dual diagnosis. These included the three areas impacted by autism in Down syndrome including communication, behavior and sensory needs. One example of a strategy that I suggested, is to teach your child the concept of time and having to wait. How do you teach this?
*Use visual supports like PECS icons/or a clock picture and non-verbal gesture of pointing to your wrist, indicating a wrist watch.
*Pair this with a timer app like Countdown Timer or Time Timer.
* Always introduce this concept by teaching first in low stress environments and build from there. Ex/ Low stress: Waiting for shower water to warm up: “Good waiting” and point to wrist. Then, build to higher stress: Child is hungry and there is extra long line at Taco Bell. You see that they are impatient and showing stress. Point to wrist and/or set the timer app, reinforce “Good listening Nick thank you for waiting, yay”!
This is just one of many ideas from my DS-ASD 3-21 toolkit. 🙂
I would like to commend the National Down Syndrome Congress for including these important DS-ASD presentations at the NDSC convention. It is so critical for families and professionals to see what autism looks like in Down syndrome and how to effectively provide interventions, strategies and support for the additional challenges for DS-ASD individuals and their families.
Thank you NDSC for allowing me the opportunity to share information, help and inspire others who are on this journey. The DS-ASD community appreciates having a representation at the NDSC convention and in your organization.
That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂