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

DS-ASD~ Summer Vacation Highlights

DS-ASD~ Summer Vacation Highlights

OBX flags 2019

We are back after a two week vacation from Virginia and the Outer Banks, NC. It was so relaxing to be off the grid and enjoy time with family. My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). As a family, we have always made a commitment to travel with our son. It can be challenging for a child with special needs to navigate airports, hotels and unfamiliar venues. But there are things you can put in place to make vacations go smoother…..

In my last blog entry you can access my top 7 vacation travel tips for families: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2019/06/17/ds-asd7-vacation-tips-for-special-needs-families/ 

Here are some of the highlights from our summer vacation in Virginia and the Outer Banks (OBX):

In Virginia, we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Nick’s Aunt Ali and Uncle Ron with beautiful views, kayaking on the James River, great food and relaxing in the peaceful country…..

 

Highlights from the Outer Banks, in Duck, OBX:

At OBX we enjoyed beach and pool time, great company, delicious meals and a nice birthday celebration dinner on the sound side of OBX. Nick did well tolerating the sandy beaches this year, and spent more time than ever with us as a family!  We put Nick in tennis shoes to make his way out on the hot sand, with a texture that tends to bother him from a sensory standpoint. He did well hanging out both under the umbrella and out at the water’s edge……….

Nick and Dad OBX beach 2019   Nick and Anna OBX 2019

Dinner on the sound side of OBX at Aqua Restaurant and Spa, including Nick with his Dad & Mom, Uncle Ron & Aunt Ali, Cousins Anna & Sam and Nick’s brother and girlfriend Hank & Kristin…..

Aqua Restaurant and Spa features excellent food, wine, spa treatments and sunsets. Thank you both- to my son Hank for treating me to a pedicure overlooking the sound, and to Ali for the relaxing (and much needed) Swedish massage. As a mother of a child with special needs, it’s crucial to take time for some TLC and pamper yourself. Moving forward, I’m going to make it a priority to do this more than once a year on my birthday. It is good for the soul! 🙂

Sunrise at Duck, OBX….

OBX sunrise 2019

We are very grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to spend vacation each summer with Ali and Ron hosting in Virginia and OBX. Anna, thank you for cooking and introducing us to some wonderful & tasty vegan dishes. The familiar venues help Nick feel secure in his surroundings. This predictability helps him to be less anxious on vacations and makes for a more relaxing experience for all of us.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

To see more pictures of the trip and Nick click below to follow on social media:

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/nickdsautism/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/tjunnerstall

Facebook Page and Pinterest- Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

 

 

 

 

 

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

DS-ASD~7 Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families

DS-ASD~7 Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families

My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). We’ve had our share of family vacations traveling across the country and overseas.  It’s not always easy and breezy, but with some planning and preparation, your vacation can be less stressful and fun for everyone.

7 Vacation Tips for Special Needs Families:

1. Prepare social stories and visual schedules including the mode of travel, and what is expected from your child. Review the vacation destination venue online with your child. This will give them an idea of where they will be going, and what they will be doing. Print pictures of the vacation venue to create a daily activity schedule. Visuals will provide a blueprint for your child to understand what will be happening, this will lessen their anxiety.

2. When booking accommodations, look for a comfortable and quiet retreat for your family. This may mean a separate living area from the rest of your family or friends in some cases.

3. Bring medications, snacks, comfort items and highly preferred toys/sensory objects in your carry on bag. In addition, it’s wise to pack an extra set of clothes for your child.

4. Plan short, flexible and open-ended adventures on your vacation. Build in time for breaks as needed.

5. Work in at least a few activities that your child will love.

6. Eating familiar foods will help your child feel more at home in a strange place. Check restaurant menus online beforehand, especially in the case of any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Once on vacation, we forgot to buy Ranch dressing, this lead to my son having a meltdown.

7. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. As much as you can, try to watch for the triggers that may cause your child to have a meltdown. See what you can do to cut these off at the pass before things escalate.

Vacations while fun, can be challenging for a child with special needs. Prepare in advance with comfort items, visuals, and look for possible triggers that may cause anxiety and discomfort for your child. Build in as much predictability as possible. Keep a relaxed and flexible attitude when approaching daily activities. It’s okay to cut things short, if it gets to be too much. Being prepared, planning ahead and staying flexible will help families have a smooth and enjoyable vacation this summer.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Instagram @nickdsautism

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With a  Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

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

Special Needs Books and Resources from a Father’s Perspective

Special Needs Books and Resources from a Father’s Perspective

Father’s Day is this Sunday. Here is a list of books and resources from a father’s perspective. Click here to view:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=blog+%23147

Wishing all the Dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day!

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick, age 25 with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD):

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Special Needs Summer Program Ideas

Special Needs Summer Program Ideas

This week, I’ve provided a list of some summer program ideas and links for children with special needs. My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years he has participated in a variety of programs.  Here is a blog I wrote a couple of years ago, highlighting some great programs for individuals with special needs:

Click here to view:
https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/06/12/blog-176-special-needs-summer-recreation-programs/

Honesty, I was uncertain about attempting some of the programs, given Nick’s dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. It’s important to at least try new things and keep expanding your child’s horizons. As the saying goes, “you never know, until you try it”. 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, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

DS-ASD~Mom,Take Care of Yourself

DS-ASD~ Mom, Take Care of Yourself

It’s May and the school year is almost done. This month is busy, and parents get pulled in many directions. Being a mom of a special needs child for 25 years, I know first hand the guilt associated with not doing or being enough for my family. My son Nick is 25 and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years, I’ve learned how to cope with the stress and guilt, which can be debilitating. You are no good to your family if you don’t take care of yourself.

Mom quote first step

My advice to moms out there is this- Cut yourself some slack and take care of yourself.  Life is not perfect, none of us are; just let go of that notion. 

Here is a blog I wrote a couple of years ago with 3 tips on how to take care of yourself:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/05/08/blog-174-momtake-care-of-yourself/

mom quote body, mind soul

You can’t pour from and empty cup, so remember to keep yours filled. Your family needs you at your best and you will have more to offer them. Make it a priority to carve out some time each day to take care of yourself.

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, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

DS-ASD~IEP’s and Advocating for Your Child

Do you have an IEP coming up for your child? Are you currently having concerns about your child’s IEP? Click on the following link to learn how to advocate for your child and collaborate with the school IEP team more effectively:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/parent-input-in-iep/

Parents are an equal and vital part of the IEP process and team. Remember you know your child the best. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick, age 25 with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD):

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

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

Blog #230~Special Needs Moms, Advice from the Front Lines

Blog #230~Special Needs Moms, Advice from the Front Lines

autism war girl

I feel like I should be doing more.

My child isn’t reaching his IEP goals.

Will my child ever get toilet trained?

I’m not spending enough time with my other kids.

I can’t keep up, I’m exhausted.

Parenting a child with special needs brings on additional challenges and stress. As a mom of a special needs child for 25 years, I’ve had negative feelings of uncertainty, resentment, frustration, sadness, inadequacy and loneliness. Such feelings lead to the worst of all; guilt. We are only human, and it’s understandable to have those emotions as a mom.

mombie

My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  I  tried my best not to compare his growth and milestones to other children.   Nick had very low muscle tone, which is a trait associated with Down syndrome:

*He didn’t sit independently until well after age one.

*Nick didn’t walk or chew hard textured foods until he was 3 1/2 years old.

*Worst yet, he wasn’t independently toilet trained until age 13.

There were many times where those feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty creeped in over the years.  I questioned myself often, about what more I could do for my son. You try your best, but feel like you are coming up short.  I’ve been there many times, I get it! Take a breath and forgive yourself. There is no such thing as a perfect mom.

Nick, age 2 and his brother Hank age 4…….

AIOtmp (19)

So here is my advice from the frontlines.  First of all, remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When you feel like you are alone, seek out a support system.  There are many  Down syndrome support groups across the country, online and on Facebook that are specific to the diagnosis of your child. Find that group of parents, going down a similar path as you are; they are the ones who “GET IT”.

sign support

When you feel lost, inadequate and overwhelmed, ask for help. Find the experts, and ask other parents, They will give you information and strategies to better equip  yourself to deal with the unique challenges of raising a child with special needs.

help button

Another struggle and dialogue that plays inside our heads as moms is, “But I don’t have time for me.”  Taking some “me time”, when the laundry is piled up, dishes to be washed and a myriad of other chores on the list, leads to feelings of guilt. But, it’s important to pull away, and re-charge your battery. Take time to do something you enjoy. Go have a cup of coffee or take a walk with a girlfriend, exercise, garden, go to Target and walk every aisle; do that thing  that will help restore you.

Pour Cup

Take care of yourself, Mom! When you feel overwhelmed find a support system, ask for help, and remember  it’s okay to disengage and recharge yourself. There is no such thing as being the perfect mother, so take it easy on yourself.  That’s my advice for special needs moms, on the front lines and what’s in my noggin this week.

Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Autism Awareness Month: Final Thoughts

Autism Awareness Month: Final Thoughts

autism awareness 2016

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I’ve written all month how awareness is not enough. Individuals with autism and their families need understanding, acceptance and inclusion in society. Individuals on the autism spectrum (ASD) need various levels of support to become as independent as possible. This type of support can’t be provided without funding.

Here’s a sobering fact- “In the documentary, Autism: Coming of age it is reported that in the next 10 to 15 years, an estimated 800,000 children with autism will age out of the school system and transition into adulthood. Then, they will look to ill-prepared state and federal governments for the support services and resources to meet their many needs — a situation autism experts refer to as the “coming tsunami.

tsunami

Slapping an autism awareness ribbon on a car, isn’t enough anymore. Individuals with autism need various levels of support, and a person centered planning (PCP) to prepare for adult life.

person centered planning

“Wikipedia defines person-centered planning (PCP) as a set of approaches designed to assist an individual to plan their life and supports. It is most often used for life planning with people with learning and developmental disabilities, though recently it has been advocated as a method of planning personalized support with many other sections of society who find themselves disempowered by traditional methods of service delivery, including children, people with physical disabilities, people with mental health issues and older people. PCP is accepted as evidence based practice in many countries throughout the world.”

Person Centered Planning (PCP) is individualized. It can help identify opportunities for employment, community participation/enrichment activities and living arrangements for adult life.  PCP can be done with the school IEP team, to prepare the student for a bright future based on their strengths and needs.

Autism is not going anywhere, the wave is coming in hard. There is a staggering amount of families on waiting lists for state funding who are aging out of the school system. My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). He required a high level of support. Currently, Nick attends an adult developmental training program that is covered by funds through a state waiver. All across the country thousands of families are on long waiting lists, to seek such funds to support their child with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The conversation to advocate for individuals with autism must continue well past April before that tsunami wave hits the shore!

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Follow Nick on Social Media:
Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism Check 4/27 Facebook post to watch the documentary, Autism: Coming of Age
Instagram @nickdsautism
Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

100 Facts About Autism

100 Facts About Autism

autism did you know

April is Autism Awareness Month, but it’s much more than promoting awareness. Individuals with autism, their caregivers, and advocates want to encourage better understanding, inclusion and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Here is a quick and easy read of 100 facts about autism, that you can finish in less than 10 minutes:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/04/23/blog-203-100-facts-about-autism/

When we have a better understanding about autism, we can help to promote acceptance and inclusion for individuals with ASD. Much can be gained in our society when we begin to accept people for who they are, and understand and embrace their differences.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick (dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, DS-ASD):

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism
Instagram #nickdsautism
Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

Posted in Autism, Autism Safety and Wandering, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Wandering and Autism: 7 Prevention Strategies

 Wandering and Autism: 7 Prevention Strategies

April is National Autism Awareness Month.  According to the National Autism Association, “Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior. Wandering occurs across all settings, under every type of adult supervision”.

Eloping picture and definition

There are safety precautions and prevention strategies families can put in place to secure a child that may run, bolt or wander.  I’ve had a few scares with my son over the years.  My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Nick has no concept of the danger, and he can be fast; so we are always on high alert both at home and in the community.

A few years back, I wrote a blog addressing elopement which includes 7 prevention strategies. Here is our story of a scary day when Nick went missing, and what we’ve put in place to avoid wandering since then.

Click to read 7 Prevention Strategies for Wandering and Autism: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2013/07/01/blog-60wandering-and-autism/

Wandering and autism

Wandering is a real risk for individuals with autism and other special needs. Putting a plan with prevention strategies in place at home, school and in the community can reduce the risk of your child to elope and provide security for you as a family.  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