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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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 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

Follow Nick:

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Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Mom,are you taking care of yourself?

Mom, are you taking care of yourself?

Pour Cup

Today, I took a page out of my own blog.  I took some extra time to do something that I love.  Last week I wrote about the importance of doing so.  Sometimes as moms, we are busy doing so much for others.  We don’t always carve out the time to put ourselves first.

In case you missed the blog last Monday, click below………

https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=mom

It was a warm, sunny day and just perfect for planting.  Digging my hands is the soil was good for my soul.  Picking out the color palate of flowers and accents, along with some tomato plants is always so enjoyable to me.  It was a nice slice of peace and serenity that helped me to feel restored and energized. 🙂

flowers

I hope all of you moms had a wonderful Mother’s Day.  What are you going to take care of yourself this week?  Give yourself a decadent slice of something sweet that you enjoy, because YOU deserve it!  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

relax

Follow Nick :):

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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:

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Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #171~Rocking the Socks, and Helping Twice

Blog #171~Rocking the Socks, and Helping Twice

wehelptwo

The first part of rocking the funky socks campaign was to promote awareness on World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), held each year on 3/21. The second part was for every pack that we sold, We Help Two donated a pair of warm, thermal socks which we donated to a local homeless shelter in our community.

My son Nick is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  The sock campaign raised $500.00 which we donated to Chicago based, The National Association for Down Syndrome, (NADS) http://www.nads.org.

world-down-syndrome-day

Last week, we took a full box of 59 pair of thermal socks donated by We Help Two, over to the Hesed House in Aurora, IL.  We Help Two partners with schools, organizations, individuals and non-profits to make twice the difference.

Nick Hessed House 2

 “The Hesed House is the second largest shelter in the State of Illinois, and the largest shelter outside of the city of Chicago. With the help of professional staff, alliances with outside agencies and 6,000 volunteers from 70 area churches, almost one thousand individuals (including 188 children) are served each year through Hesed House’s shelter and three housing programs. Hesed House sees 16 newly homeless individuals each week – that’s one new homeless individual every 8 1/2 hours. Hesed House strives to get 16 or 17 individuals out of homelessness each week.” 

hesed house logo

The Hesed House is not just a homeless shelter.  Besides providing shelter and supportive living, they also have employment training and education, along with medical assistance, counseling for substance abuse and mental illness, and offer state legal services.

Nick and I were pleased to pay it forward, with the donation of new thermal socks to Hesed House, courtesy of We Help Two.  For more information visit their website at http://www.wehelptwo.com.

Nick and Mom at Hessed House 2

A special thank you to Bethany from We Help Two, for reaching out to us for WDSD, to host a “Rock the Socks” campaign.  We Help Two is making a difference!   We were very happy to partner with them. Nick and I want to thank everyone who purchased and rocked the funky socks, and helped us make twice the difference.  That’s what is in my noggin this week! 🙂

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blog #169~ I’m Very Aware of Autism and More

Blog #169~ I’m Very Aware of Autism and More

autism ribbon

April is “Autism Awareness Month” – a time to promote awareness, acceptance and attention to those people who are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

Yes, I’m very aware of autism, and more.  So is anyone, who has been around my son.  Nick is 23 years old, and has dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, (DS-ASD).  He does a good job spreading awareness wherever he goes. 🙂  Honestly, it’s hard for me to get on board with the “Light it Up Blue” campaign.  Why is that?  Because my son doesn’t fit in with any of the support groups for autism, due to his is lack of speech, cognitive and developmental delays.

“Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests and activities. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning.”

autism awareness 2016

Since my son has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, I’m going to put my focus on this area.  According to The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) http://www.ndss.org:

“Children who have ASD may or may not exhibit all of these characteristics at any one time nor will they consistently demonstrate their abilities across similar circumstances. Some of the variable characteristics of ASD we have commonly observed in children with DS-ASD include:

  • Unusual response to sensations (especially sounds, lights, touch or pain)
  • Food refusal (preferred textures or tastes)
  • Unusual play with toys and other objects
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
  • Little or no meaningful communication
  • Disruptive behaviors (aggression, throwing tantrums, or extreme non-compliance)
  • Hyperactivity, short attention, and impulsivity
  • Self-injurious behavior (skin picking, head hitting or banging, eye-poking, or biting)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • History of developmental regression (esp. language and social skills)”

NDSS_logo

My son Nick, certainly hits most of the bullet points listed above.  It’s a unique mix having a child with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD.  For many years, I felt isolated from the local DS support group because my child had many of those characteristics.  Eventually, I was put in contact with a small group of parents that also had children with DS-ASD.  This was a group within The National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS), here is Chicago.  Finding this group, made all the difference.  These parents were in the same boat, sharing similar experiences, struggles, and yes funny stories, that I could relate to.  In addition to local support groups, there are many online groups for DS-ASD on Facebook.

photo (26)

During Autism Awareness Month, I would like to see the government and media focus   on more educational, behavioral supports and other treatment options.  What is going to happen to our kids when they age out of the school system?  There aren’t near enough employment opportunities, day programs or group homes for this rapidly growing population.  In addition, I’d like there to be an easier path to obtain funding through the government.

understanding

For the month of April, parents of a child with autism, or a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, need understanding and support. Do you know a parent with a child who has autism?  Consider lending someone a hand, so they can run an errand.   We also need more compassion, and less judgment when we are out in public with our child.   And many of us, could use a good night’s sleep.

autism and sleep cartoon

You can also help by sharing information and stories, to raise awareness on social media. A better informed public will be more empathetic and supportive towards people with autism and a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest- Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram- #nickdsautism

Twitter- @tjunnerstall