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

Follow Nick:

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Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

Posted in Behavior/ ABA, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #179~Down syndrome and Autism-Unlocking Your Child’s Potential

Blog #179~Down syndrome and Autism-Unlocking Your Child’s Potential

When your child has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, the game changes.  Speech may be limited or even non-verbal, which may lead to behavior problems.  Sensory issues can be extreme and interfere with social interactions and learning.  My son, Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  His speech is limited, and he is a sensory seeker.  Over the years, with the help of some amazing teachers, therapists, and autism behaviorist specialists, he has developed skills which have allowed him to contribute both working in his adult day program, and here at home.

So how do you find the key to unlock your child’s potential?

padlock-unlocked_318-40940The key lies in identifying your child’s strengths, and working to build upon them.  First of all, just because my son’s speech is limited doesn’t mean he can’t communicate.  One of Nick’s assets is his receptive language, which is the ability to understand information.  Many of his goals in his IEP (Individualized Education Plan), were planned around using this strength when he was in school.  Nick was able to develop skills to become more independent in self-help, and other jobs both at home and school.  These skills were enhanced by using educational materials and supports that were written into his IEP.  Such materials included a PECS book (Picture Exchange Communication System) with training for staff, parents and child, Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices,  task strips, social stories, a picture schedule, video modeling, and a reward system.  All of these supports helped Nick to navigate his routine and built upon his functional and independent livings skills.

APE swimming 006 (4)

Besides his receptive language, Nick’s other strengths are his desire to please and take the initiative.  He is a taskmaster!  When Nick was younger, his teachers pointed out how good he was at matching.  A lot of his goals were structured around this.  Nick has always had a keen eye, and notices where everything goes around the house.  Anytime the batteries died on one of his musical toys, he would go to the kitchen drawer, pull out the screwdriver and hand it to me with the toy.  As he grew older, I recall him nudging his older brother over to help unload the dishwasher.  He knew which cabinet every single plate, cup, pot, pan and utensil were stored.  Shortly thereafter, I let him take over the chore (with no complaints from his older brother, Hank). 🙂

Nick still takes great pride in unloading the dishwasher today!

Nick dishwasher two

Here are some other ways the taskmaster takes initiative:

Nick getting out ingredients and utensils for his salad….

Nick dinner prep

As soon as he saw the pan of water on the stove, he went to the pantry and pulled out the ingredients to make pasta…..

Nick past cooking

Using his strength of taking the initiative, we have built upon this to create other jobs both at home and in the community.  When he was in school, his teachers recognized his sensory seeking needs and channeled them by doing “heavy work”.  An occupational therapist can assist with ideas to implement a sensory diet into your child’s routine. Nick likes to throw and swipe things (and still does).  It has helped to find activities with heavy work or that mimic this sensory need.

Here are a few of the jobs that does:

*Recycling (replacement behavior for throwing)

*Can crushing (sensory and motor activity and replacement behavior for throwing)

*Carry laundry basket and load washing machine (heavy work/ organizing)

*Put away groceries (organizing activity)

*Empty Dishwasher (organizing and sensory activity)

*Cleaning/ wiping down countertops and windows (organizing activity)

*Vacuuming (heavy work which is calming)

Nick working at a residence facility in high school….

Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3)

Nick doing volunteer work at GiGi’s playhouse with in his current adult day program…

nick-cleaning-gigis

There is so much your child can learn when you identify their strengths and unique talents.  When you find what motivates your child, you can build and expand upon it.  Work with your child’s IEP team, therapists and autism specialist, to identify those areas.  Then together as a team, create a plan with specific and measurable goals, that will enable your child to grow and be successful.  Unlock your child’s potential, and watch them soar!  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

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Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

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

Follow Nick:

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Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

Posted in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Uncategorized

Blog #155~More Than Just Down Syndrome

Blog #155~More Than Just Down Syndrome

There came a point when I felt like we didn’t fit in with the Down syndrome support groups. We stopped going to holiday parties, play groups and other fundraising events. My son, Nick lacked speech, displayed unusual and repetitive behaviors (like tapping and shaking objects along with making loud noises).  His speech delays resulted in frustration on his part, which led to behavior problems and violent meltdowns.  It became apparent that this was more than just Down syndrome, when he hit puberty.

photo-26

We approached the school team about these outbursts, where he would throw things, trash the classroom along with pinching and scratching staff.  It didn’t seem like any of us (both at school and home), could get a handle these problems.  The school was reluctant about getting an autism evaluation done, as they stated; “We have a primary diagnosis of Down syndrome we can work from”.  Rather than push the matter, we chose to have an independent evaluation done and paid for it (with some help from our private insurance), out of pocket.

It was money well spent. Nick got the diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  If you suspect that your child’s behaviors are more than just Down syndrome, I would strongly suggest getting a medical evaluation done by a clinician.  The diagnosis of autism, was like getting the magic key, that unlocked the door to more services for our son. These services were provided in part, by the school district and outside agencies:

*Behavior intervention by the school district, autism specialist resulting in a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA).  This lead to the development of a behavior plan, specifically targeting all triggers, and how to prevent & handle crisis situations during meltdowns.

*Speech support and training using a Picture Exchange System (PECS), along with an Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) device.

ipad touch chat.JPG

*Toilet Training and workshops for home support.

*Additional State Funding (In-Home Family Support Child Based Waiver) which funds respite care, behavior support and safety/ health equipment to support the child at home.

*Federal Funding (Supplemental Security Income-SSI)

The formal, dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS/ASD), helped professionals, family and friends get a better understanding of Nick’s behaviors.  By getting access to these additional supports, we were able to change the strategies needed to help Nick navigate his world.  His communication improved, allowing him to feel appreciated, understood and less frustrated.  As a family, we felt better assisted with the autism training and having respite staff take some of the burden off us.

If you would like more information on dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism check out these resources:

*When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect-A Guide to DS/ASD for Parents and Professionals:

down-syndrome-and-autism-intersect

*The Kennedy Krieger Institute- https://www.kennedykrieger.org

*Down Syndrome Association (UK)- http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/for-families-and-careres/dual-diagnosis/

*National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS)http://www.nads.org/resources/down-syndrome-and-autism/

In addition, there are many support groups on Facebook when you type in Down syndrome and autism in the search engine, (including my Facebook page- Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism)For behavior support, the Facebook page-Autism Discussion Page (Bill Nason).

The challenges of having a child with Down syndrome and autism are unique.  So many parents say that they no longer fit in with the Down syndrome support groups and can’t relate to the autism groups either; they feel isolated.  You as the parent, know your child best.  If you suspect that your child has more than just Down syndrome, take action to get a clinical, medical evaluation and find the additional support to help your child.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Blog #122~Parent Stress and Autism

Blog #122~ Parent Stress and Autism

Research has clearly shown that mothers of children with autism experience more stress, depression and poorer health than is typical of mothers in general. Autism Research Review (ARRI) reports this editorial, “Parental Stress in Autism Spectrum Disorders: In a survey of 219 parents of children with autism, Sharpley, et al. (1997), found that more than 80% reported sometimes being “stretched beyond their limits,” with mothers reporting higher stress levels than fathers.   The authors commented that the three most stressful factors are “(a) concern over the permanency of the condition; (b) poor acceptance of autistic behaviors by society and, often, by other family members; and (c) the very low levels of social support received by parents.”

I know of this stress too well. My son, Nick is 21 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. His impulsivity is at an all-time high. In the 5 minutes I stepped out to roll the garbage bins to the curb, he cleared out a desk drawer and threw the contents all over place. A few days before, he was up at 4am and proceeded to take two bottles of salad dressing and dump them all over the kitchen and laundry room floors.

At least he put the empty bottles in the recycle bin 🙂

dressing

According to an article written in Disability Scoop (www.disabilityscoop.com):

“Mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue and work interruptions, new research finds. These moms also spend significantly more time caregiving than moms of those without disabilities.

Researchers followed a group of moms of adolescents and adults with autism for eight days in a row. Moms were interviewed at the end of each day about their experiences and on four of the days researchers measured the moms’ hormone levels to assess their stress.

They found that a hormone associated with stress was extremely low, consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat, the researchers report in one of two studies published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Such hormone levels have been associated with chronic health problems and can affect glucose regulation, immune functioning and mental activity, researchers say.

autism war girl

Now, I would never compare my level of stress to that of a combat soldier. But I do have to remain on point to keep up with Nick. I must jump out of my skin dozens of times a day when he pushes the ADT keypad, microwave, garbage disposal, and phone intercom buttons, runs upstairs to run the faucets full blast, or empties a full basket of folded laundry and the basket off the second floor.  Mix in sleep deprivation and dodging potential meltdowns situations, topped with a constant barrage of stimming sounds all of which send tension levels skyrocketing.

autism and sleep cartoon

The stress of parenting a child with autism is high for many reasons. Parents cope with grief, worries about the future, struggling to find resources and support for their child on top of handling the behavior and communication issues associated with having autism.

A child with autism may display unpredictable and disruptive behaviors have meltdowns that can be of danger to themselves and others and have trouble sleeping through the night. Deficits in speech and communication can contribute to behavior problems as well. In addition, parents may be dealing with seizure disorders related to autism.

A child’s autism diagnosis affects every member of the family in different ways. Parents must now place their primary focus on helping their child with autism. This may put pressure on their marriage, other children, work, finances, and personal relationships and responsibilities. Much of the focus shifts to finding resources and spending money towards treatment and interventions for their child. These needs can complicate family relationships, especially with siblings.

So what coping mechanisms help a parent dealing with anxiety and drained of energy?

*Get involved with support groups locally and online

*Obtain respite care and apply for funding for supportive services.

*Get your child/young adult into programs and social groups specifically tailored to autism.

*Carve out time to enjoy leisure activities like exercise, massage, meditation and self-relaxation techniques.

These can go a long way towards improving mental health and reduce the strain caused daily. While I try and do most of things, there are some days that push me close to the edge. Ask any parent raising a child with autism and they will tell you that some days you just can’t combat the stress.  That’s what is in my noggin (and heart) this week.

~Teresa

 

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Autism and Meltdowns

meltdown

Autism and Meltdowns

April is Autism Awareness Month.  This week I want to focus on autism and meltdowns.  Here is a not so pretty portrait of one of Nick’s meltdowns that I have deconstructed for you.  Nick at the time was 19 years old.  He has Down syndrome and autism.  This will give you an idea of the triggers and behaviors that can occur during a meltdown.  It will also show you what I learned to try and prevent this in the future.

Click here to read @ https://nickspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/blog-77autism-and-meltdowns/

That’s what is in my noggin this week.  Thank you for reading and sharing the reality of autism.

~Teresa

 

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Blog #112~Regression of Behaviors

 

Blog #112 Regression of Behaviors

Christmas 2014 was anything but merry.  The swimsuits, flip flops, suntan lotion and pool toys sat in a pile on the chasse in my bedroom.  We never made it to the Florida Keys for our vacation.  A member of our extended family came down with pneumonia and then a snowball effect of more health problems that included a 12 day stay in the hospital.  Nick wasn’t sure what to make of things.  He is 20 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  All he saw was his Dad or me taking off all day on hospital visits which were an hour away.  Nick picked up on the fact that something was very wrong.  He was sad and angry and missed being with the extended family.  We spent that two week break unsure of the outcome and shooting from the hip.  In 20 years of raising Nick, I have NEVER seen such a spike in regressive behaviors.

When daily routines are interrupted a child with autism can feel anxious and behaviors regress.  Strict routines, normalized school or work schedules without any unexpected occurrences enable a child with autism to progress best.  However, because the holidays are busy, stressful and filled with the hustle and bustle of foods, gifts, and family; a parent can expect to see behavioral changes.

Back to Nick and those behaviors that spiked, which included the following:

*Increased stimming with objects and louder vocal stimming

*Pushing microwave fan, phone intercom and now house alarm system much more

*Throwing objects and dumping things like a one man wrecking crew.

*Spitting and rubbing snot on flat screen TV, windows, on our clothing.

*Squirting liquid soap in his eyes, rubbing lotion all over himself

nick lotion

*Multiple, violent meltdowns

*Peeing his pants several times

And to top it off, I left a bottle of Febreeze out by accident………Oh nooooooo!

febreeze

FYI, Febreeze and a flat screen TV don’t mix well.  So, we had to purchase a new one……..

IMG_4203

By the way if you Google search “Febreeze on a flat screen TV” there are several entries of other kids doing this.  Nice to know we’re not alone. 🙂

I reported all of this in the school/home communication book.  The school staff wrote back that Nick was definitely not himself. He was trying to pull fire alarms, pinching his cheeks hard as well as a staff member.  To make matters worse, just as Nick was back in his school routine we had two snow days.  On top of that, the kids were off two more for the end of semester and MLK Day.  Oh, and there was a full moon over the holiday break.

autism and full moon

The house is quiet now, and I can focus on writing again. Yesterday, I did a little research on regression of behaviors and holiday breaks.  As I reflect on Christmas 2014, a couple of things stand out.  First of all, Nick’s behavior was magnified because his parents emotional fatigue and lack of emotional availability.  For over two weeks we were back and forth at the hospital.  Nick picked up on the stress.  Secondly, as a family we should have communicated in private about medical updates.  I think back on one particular day.  As I briefed Al on the hospital visit, Nick came over crying and wanted a hug. I had to remind myself that he understands much more of what we are talking about.  He also picks up on the negative vibes of conversations. Finally, one tip I read in my research was so obvious.  But when you are in the thick of things it can be overlooked.  That is, don’t let your kids be aimless.  It’s essential to find ways for them to occupy your child.  When kids are on a school break, they have less structure in their day. Bottom line, they’re going to get into more trouble and conflict because they have the opportunity to do so.

While there was no kayaking, bike rides, beach and pool time or key lime pie over Christmas we did make it through.  Things are slowly on the mend. The cousin’s presents and white elephant gifts are tucked away for now.  The Hormel Cure 81 Ham sits in the refrigerator awaiting a belated Christmas celebration at a later date. The gift of Christmas 2014 is being reminded of how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.  In addition, I have a new perspective of how important it is to respect Nick’s needs when there is a school holiday break. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

 

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Re-Blog~One of My Favorites

Re-Post~ One of My Favorite Blogs

No school today, it’s “Building Articulation Day” (whatever that is).  I was going to try and write but Nick is on a mission to drive me bonkers this morning.  So I decided to re-post one of my favorite blogs.  You will get a real sense of Nick’s world living with Down syndrome and autism.

Here’s a hint 🙂 ………. Splat!

photo (20)

That wasn’t part of the recipe, Nick…….. Poor Woody

 

photo (40)

Now that I have your curiosity, see what else Nick has done and what we do about it @https://nickspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/blog-3-getting-your-goat/

Hope you enjoyed Nick’s world, the rest of us are just trying to keep up. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Blog #94~Advice for Special Needs Moms

Blog #94~Advice for Special Needs Moms

I’ve been raising a child with special needs for 20 years. My son, Nick has Down syndrome and was later diagnosed with autism. Being a parent is rewarding but also challenging and stressful. Having a child with special needs amplifies things even more. I’ve felt ashamed, exhausted, and frustrated piling on mounds of guilt along the way.  With Mother’s Day coming up I’ve been thinking about a few things. What advice would I give to that 33 year old mom back in 1994?

Joleene Pic

Advice for Special Needs Moms- 5 Things I’ve learned

1.  Let go of being the helpless victim. Take back control and commit  yourself to action. Ask for help and accept help from family, friends, teachers, therapists, support groups and special needs agencies.

2.  Adopt a new attitude when you feel bogged down.  How about this mantra? “Today I will do just one thing to move me forward to where I want to be.”

3.  Learn from others but set your own course. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when you see other moms trying gluten free, casein free, organic dietary programs, experimenting with essential oils, driving all over town to ABA behavior/OT/PT/Speech therapy programs and recreational activities. Forgive yourself, let go of those feelings of inadequacy.

4.  Which leads right into GUILT!  Society’s expectations don’t have to be yours. Don’t let anyone pack your bags for a guilt trip.

pintrest cartoon

5.  Take time to breathe, pray, meditate, exercise and feed your soul. A rested mind, body and spirit will help you navigate those rough, rocky roads.

zen

Do I follow this advice every day? Hardly, this morning I procrastinated  waiting until Nick ran out of his meds before making  a doctor appointment. I also threw out a package of moldy hot dog buns buried in the pantry. The floor hasn’t been mopped in two weeks and I sat around like a slug watching this movie for the umpteenth time with Nick yesterday….

The other guys

Do I feel guilty about it? Not near as much as I use to. The mounds of guilt have been reduced to a few, small piles I step in from time to time. poop icon

So, to all the special needs moms out there I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Slow down and do something you enjoy.  Go have a glass of wine with your girlfriends. Take a day or at least an afternoon to do nothing but fun things you enjoy. Please carry that with you each day as you make your way down that rocky road. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Nick Sox game

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Uncategorized

Blog #93~Down Syndrome & Autism and Getting Help

Blog #93~Down Syndrome & Autism and Getting Help

Last Saturday was the National Down Syndrome Association (NADS) Retreat. NADS serves families in the Chicago area.  This retreat is specifically for families that have a child with Down syndrome and autism. There is a children’s program that includes play time and swimming where respite workers are provided by NADS. Nick loves going to the retreat.

Nick enjoying pool time at the NADS Retreat a few years back……

Nick 2 (2)

The children’s program also has music therapy.  Here’s Nick jamming last Saturday……..  🙂

nads retreat music therapy

The parent agenda this year was to tackle some of  areas that we’ve all been struggling with.  Dr. Louis Weiss, Ph. D. lead a guided discussion of the top five topics chosen by the families attending the retreat. The five areas of discussion included:

  1. Getting respite care and funding for it.
  2. Teaching
  3. Behaviors
  4. Parental and family stress
  5. Dealing with systems.

One family posed the question about their child and regression of behaviors. Dr. Weiss made a comment which resonated with me. He said that regression can happen during periods of transition. Regression is a way to prepare oneself to move forward. If a person doesn’t feel safe they will pull back first before they can launch themselves forward.

I had as Oprah says an “Ah-ha moment”.  Last fall, my son Nick (19 years old) out of nowhere began to wet his pants repeatedly at school. I figured it was stress because he was starting the new transition program. But after hearing this comment it all made sense now. He was trying to deal with a new setting and a crowded bus. Nick didn’t feel secure and his behavior reflected just that.

Speaking of stress, there is a great deal of it for families raising a child with Down syndrome and autism. Let me put a lens on what we talked about. Imagine having to wash the sheets every day after your 14 year old wets or soils them.  Or how about this?  The constant worrying that your 12 year old may take a dump in the neighborhood pool and shut it down. Picture a 15 year old getting off the bus and plopping down in the middle of the street.  He won’t  budge for a solid hour.  You have to stand there and direct traffic around him because no one stops to help out, and you forgot your cell phone.

Here is the takeaway that I got from this session. Dr. Weiss suggested that we need to figure out what causes us to suffer. Then look at re-framing the story, in essence figure out a way to fix it. Maybe it’s hiring a sitter to come in and wash those dirty sheets. Perhaps counseling could help with the stress.  In addition, just getting  a new set of eyes on the problem may help.  This can be done by contacting an advocate or behavior support specialist.

We spent the afternoon building a resource list, networking, sharing our struggles and offering advice to support each other. By the end of the day, parents walked away loaded with more power in their arsenals. I am grateful to have the support of NADS and the retreat. It’s good to share struggles, successes and get help.  Plus, no one in our group bats an eye if a kid is tapping shoe insoles against their mouth, stimming on a karate belt or plopped right in the middle of the corridor.  These guys remind me that I’m not alone on this road navigating Down syndrome and autism. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

🙂 One last thing, Did you notice I changed the title of my blog to Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism? (Though some days I think it’s the other way around) 🙂

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I also have a new Facebook page with this title. You will find some new things here including weekly videos of Nick being silly. If you are on Facebook,  please take a look at this page: Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism and I’d appreciate it if you would like the page!like button