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

Blog #232~Special Needs Parent and Educator Help During Covid-19

Blog #232~Special Needs Parent and Educator Help During Covid-19

As a dual diagnosis DS-ASD writer and consultant, I’m scratching my head on how to help special needs families faced with the daunting task of implementing remote distance learning. This is an unprecedented time we are in facing with Covid-19. It’s like a continuous Ground Hog Day with no end in sight. My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). He normally attends an adult developmental training program. His program has been closed since March. The focus at home has been to work on independent living skills. So what advice can I offer? What would I do if my son was still in school?

My short answer is this………

As an IEP team you have to collaborate together and think outside the box on how to navigate distance learning. That means asking for support, visuals, making addendums to the IEP, finding outside resources and therapies. Always lead with the child’s interests and strengths when implementing lessons and goals both at school and home.”

I am going to stay in my lane and introduce you to one of the top experts in navigating IEP’s. Catherine Whitcher’s podcast is packed with great advice on how parents and educators can work together to make education successful during the Covid-19 crisis. You won’t be disappointed and you will learn ALOT!!! 🙂 Click here to listen:

https://www.catherinewhitcher.com/blog/podcastcriticaliepdecisions

In this podcast, Catherine Whitcher explains that you can’t do an IEP meant to be implemented at school in the home. Here are a few key bullet points of her podcast:

*Keep track of what is being tried, what is working and not working.

*Collaborate together to come up with solutions, make adjustments and addendums to the IEP.

*Redefine what is appropriate for this current situation, then come up with a new plan.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Instagram where you will learn so much as I have over the years at https://www.catherinewhitcher.com/ She offers up to date, practical information in her blogs, podcasts and live feeds on social media.

Don’t wait for your child to get back into school to make up for lost time. Take action now to make the best out of distance learning by thinking outside the box, collaborating with the IEP team and working with your child’s strengths and interests. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow on Social Media:

Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #231~A Book Launch During Covid-19

Blog #231~A Book Launch During Covid-19

May 5, 2020 was going to be one of the most important days of my life. This was the date I planned to launch my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism.

A New Course Book Cover multiple books

(Order your copy of A New Course) @ https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X 

Read chapter one of a New Course for FREE @ https://teresaunnerstall.com

May 5th was the perfect date, tying in Cinco de Mayo and Taco Tuesday to the launch party and book signing. I had a beautiful venue lined up complete with a taco bar and cocktails. I chose this date because it was just a week or so before Mother’s Day and at the height of  the IEP season. Two days later, we had plans to fly to Arizona where I would speak at the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) Adult Summit.

Then everything we planned came to a screeching halt……..

covid 19 pandemic

My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). His adult developmental day training program like all the schools, shut down in March. Across the country we all sheltered in place. There was no break–no respite care–no where to go and no way out. The lockdown was a moveable line that just kept pushing further with each passing month. Nick didn’t understand why he had to stay home, he became frustrated with the lack of structure and limitations. You can read about this experience with Nick and sheltering in place, by clicking below:

This is an article I wrote for The Mighty about this experience with my son, Nick: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/navigating-covid-19-lockdown-son-173142879.html

So, I rolled up my sleeves and focused on marketing. A hybrid publisher does the bulk of the leg work, taking the pressure off the author and ensuring that the particulars are taken care of properly.

Here’s a breakdown of the book marketing plan:

*Identify key influencers and offer an advanced reader copy of the book in return for promoting and endorsing the book.

*Create and build followers on A New Course Book Launch Party group on Facebook.

*Do consistent posts on social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (links listed below).

*Closely follow the marketing plan outlined by my publishing team using the Trello Board.

*Submit articles to magazines in related field and to Bublish.

*Find podcasts in the field that may be interested in DS-ASD and the book.

*Visit my author page at https://www.teresaunnerstall.com to view all the News/ Events including virtual events, promotions, podcasts and accolades.

As for the actual launch date on May 5th we had to go to plan B.  Here is what that looked like:

*Go live on Facebook three times doing author Q&A’s and reading chapter excerpts.

*Promotional giveaways of swag bags– prize drawings for friends who share & tag posts and pictures of themselves (or their pets) with my book.

*Small gathering of seven people outside, socially distant at 6 feet apart–with  a parade featuring the local fire department. (Nick has a thing for fire alarms–all 55 pulls since 3rd grade).

*Zoom Cinco de Mayo parties with margarita toasts.

Here are some pictures highlighting book launch day 🙂

As you can see, a book launch can be done even during a Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown. Like so many other major events in 2020 such as graduation ceremonies, proms, sporting events, birthdays and other special occasions–you find ways to make the best lemonade out of lemons–or margarita’s on Cinco de Mayo. 🙂

I would like to thank Alexa Bigwarfe and the publishing team at Kat Biggie Press, https://katbiggiepress.com for laying out an excellent blueprint on the Trello Board. This board carefully organized media materials, a marketing plan and submissions from the publishing team. My publisher also lent support with social media and guidance through all phases of publishing journey. One lesson I learned from Alexa Bigwarfe and my dear friend and best-selling author, Lisa McCubbin is this:

The marketing and outreach doesn’t stop after your book is published. Keep pushing to find new avenues to promote and market your book, because if you stop–your book sales will die. 

It’s been three months since my book came out and I am pleased to announce that A New Course has 56 Five Star Amazon reviews and it was a top non-fiction book on Library Bub in July. It is being well received by parents, extended family & friends, educators, therapists and physicians across the country and globe. Top leaders and authors in the field of Down syndrome and autism are endorsing A New Course! Best of all, my book is getting into the hands of readers and helping families understand how to navigate a dual diagnosis, validate their feelings, struggles and offering hope for the future with their child.

Finally, I want to thank my family, friends and launch team who supported me through this writing, blogging and publishing journey.  I appreciate the pep talks, shares, tags, pictures and book reviews submitted on Amazon and Goodreads. The BEST way to thank an author is to leave them a BOOK REVIEW on Amazon or Goodreads! The more reviews I get, the better chance my book can get into the hands of more readers–Please keep submitting your reviews, they are critical for book sales! You can still join in on the action, get the inside scoop, backstories and a chance to win reader appreciation prizes on our Facebook group: A New Course Insiders Book Club. 

So that’s how we managed to launch a book with success during the Covid-19 Pandemic and make the most out of an impossible situation here in 2020. That’s what is in my noggin this week. Be well and thank you for being a part of this journey with Nick and my book A New Course.

~Teresa 🙂

LOGO TRANSPARENCY (5)

Follow Nick:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/downsyndromewithasliceofautism/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/downsyndromewithasliceofautism/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tjunnerstall

 

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

Blog #230~Book Review: Scoot Over and Make Some Room

Blog #230~ Book Review: Scoot Over and Make Some Room 

My recent summer read– Scoot Over and Make Some Room: Creating a Space Where Everyone Belongs, by author and Instagram star, Heather Avis is a must read. She is the mother of 3 adopted children, two with Down’s syndrome and one of color.  Here is one review from her book that speaks volumes:

“In a world of divisions and margins, those who act, look, and grow a little differently are all too often shoved aside. Scoot Over and Make Some Room is part inspiring narrative and part encouraging challenge for us all to listen and learn from those we’re prone to ignore.”

Each chapter in the book Scoot Over and Make Some Room extends the challenge to make room for not only individuals with Down syndrome but way beyond to all individuals with different abilities, ethnicities, race, viewpoints and perspectives. Heather’s book is filled with humorous stories, challenges and lessons she has learned raising her 3 children, navigating IEP’s, inclusion and acceptance. But this book dives down much further, by challenging the reader to look into their own lives and broaden your understanding and compassion towards people who may be different from you.

My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). In my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism @ https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X  there are many stories about times where I would brace myself in public. Countless times I would apologize for my son’s seemingly inappropriate behavior, and yes like Heather have a moment where the pants have gone down, 🙂

Heather tells about the “pants down in the park” episode that was highly inappropriate (and a one-time occurrence) with her daughter Macyn. I can attest to the need to be on high alert and cringing at times. Macyn is a very spirited and outgoing girl who likes to engage with strangers by waving and sometimes asking “WHATCHA NAME?” This happened once at a hip LA restaurant. This raises a good question: Is this behavior inappropriate or just different than the social norm? Why are we so fearful to interact with individuals who have an intellectual or developmental disability? Often it is fear of the unknown and being uncomfortable around someone who may speak or act differently.

Heather writes this powerful message in her book:

“We fear the unknown. And unfortunately, until we create space for people with physical and intellectual disabilities to show up exactly as they are and give them permission to interrupt our social norms, they will continue to be unknown and we will continue to be fearful,”–Heather Avis

What a profound message this is to society and lesson about acceptance. Personally, I feel that the world could use more kind interactions like saying “hi” and “WHATCHA NAME.”  Obviously, we can all agree that “pants down in the park” is an inappropriate behavior. But as Heather writes in part:

“all of us have a responsibility to shift the way we react when faced with uncomfortable social situations. All of need to scoot over and make some room for people to respond in a way we’re not use to.”–Heather Avis

One of my favorite parts of this book is the chapter entitled “Make room for the Wildflowers.” Much of what we do in life is like a garden– planted in nice, neat rows. Take for instance inside school classrooms where the desks are all lined and in sync. Is there any space for the wildflowers to grow in these tidy rows? This metaphor opens up the dialog about inclusion and different abilities working alongside in the same classroom. Can we scoot over and make some room to let the wildflowers grow amongst the seamless rows and see the value of inclusion and all abilities?  I can speak from experience that my son, Nick brought great value and taught lessons of patience, compassion and unconditional love to his peers while in the inclusion classroom setting. He continues to do so as a young adult with his interactions out in the community and at his adult developmental day training program.

There is so much more to this book and you will have to read it to find out for yourself. Scoot Over and Make Some Room is a call to action to shout the worth of people who are left out and misunderstood. Every parent, extended family member, physician, educator, pastor and others will gain a deeper understanding of how to do a better job to adjust, sit and listen in order to learn how to find a way to make room for everyone to be valued, accepted and included in our society.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

 ~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook-Instagram-Pinterest @Down Syndrome with A Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather Avis writes from the heart about all the things she wishes the every day person knew about inclusion. This book applies to teachers, parents, siblings and simply everyone who wants to change the way we see inclusion in the world around us.

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

Blog #227~Daily living skills you can work on at home with your kids during the COVID-19 Crisis

Blog #227~Daily living skills you can work on at home with your kids during the COVID-19 Crisis

So, your stuck at home with your kids during this COVID-19 crisis, now what? This is actually the perfect time to work on daily living skills with your kids. Why are these skills important to know?

Let’s go back to the purpose of the Individual Education Plan (IEP):   To promote further education, employment and independent living skills.

Often, in our busy lives it’s easier to skip over teaching daily living skills on a consistent basis with our kids. So now that time has slowed down, why not take a few of these skills and hone in on them? Not only will this help your child become more independent, it will also promote confidence, family teamwork and as a bonus– many skills provide sensory input. My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years we have built in many daily living skills into his routine at home.

Here are a few of the jobs that Nick does around the house and how they provide sensory input:

*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)

 

The following link below is a full list of daily living skills in the areas of self-care, personal hygiene, kitchen skills, home management skills, to name a few. Focus on one or two skills at a time. You can access visuals and task strips off of Google Images and videos on YouTube:

https://learningforapurpose.com/2019/09/01/the-best-functional-life-skill-resources-for-individuals-with-autism

This is a time of uncertainty and anxiety levels are running high for all of us. First of all breathe, our kids take cues from how we are reacting during this crisis. Next, cabin fever is a real thing, so try to enjoy each other and find ways to work together at home. This will benefit the whole family. Give you kids a sense of purpose and foster new skills to bolster their confidence. This will help them grow to become more independent. Be well and don’t forget to keep those iPads charged 🙂

My book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism is packed with more strategies and story about navigating a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD @https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

TU_5-5x8-5_WPS_ebook

One last thing– World Down Syndrome Day is this Saturday 3/21– Here are 3 easy ways that you can help promote awareness, acceptance and inclusion: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/03/19/blog-200world-down-syndrome-day/

That’s what is in my noggin this week,

Teresa 🙂

LOGO TRANSPARENCY (5)

Follow Nick to see even more daily living skill activities and videos:

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest @Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

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

Blog #231~Special Needs Tips for Making Accommodations in the Classroom

Blog #231 Special Needs Tips for Making Accommodations in the Classroom

Last week, I focused on 5 back to school tips for special needs parents. For today’s post I want to put a lens on what accommodations look like and their importance in the classroom setting for a student with special needs.

Accommodations are changes that remove barriers and provide a student with equal access to learning. As a parent, it is essential to make sure that agreed upon accommodations and supports are written into your child’s IEP, and in place before the first day of school.

My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years he had many accommodations to support his learning and navigation in the school environment. Nick didn’t walk until age 3 1/2 years old due to low muscle tone (a trait of having Down syndrome). In pre-school, the IEP team made an accommodation to transport Nick from point A to B in the building, and in/out of the car line.  Accommodations can come in many forms to support intellectual and developmental disabilities.

visual support ring

Here are some examples of accommodations that can be used in the classroom:

*Communication Notebook and daily reports sent back and forth from school to home

*Classroom Schedule,  Individual Visual Schedules and Social Stories

Nick fist bump AID                   social story working desk

*Alternative Media Tools- Flash cards, board games, computer programs, learning apps/games, AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) and assistive technology devices, PECS (picture exchange communication), sign language, etc.

nick aac

*Sensory Tools help with self-regulation- Figits, stress balls, pencil toppers, tangle puzzles, weighted vests or lap pads, nubby sit cushions, stability balls, etc.

alternative seating

*Motor Breaks and Sensory/Quiet Corners– Build breaks into a student’s schedule. Some can be motor breaks or a sensory/quiet break depending on the need. Equip with items such as rocking or bean bag chairs, mini-trampolines, swings, weighted blankets, noise cancelling earphones, need a break icon etc.

*Visual aids, worksheets and paraprofessionals/aides to assist to accompany lesson objectives and test taking.

*Transition tools- Early hall passing before the bell rings, transition objects, visual schedules, visual timers, etc.

transition timer

*Choice boards to encourage decision making and independent learning skills.

*Work and Reward Charts:

working for chart   first then work

Building in accommodations and supports into your student’s IEP and classroom setting help enhance learning in a positive school environment. Often, individuals with autism and a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, like my son, thrive with the use of visual prompts to navigate their days more smoothly. The right accommodations make it possible to have a successful learning environment that is less stressful.

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, Education and Special Needs

Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Back to school helpful tips

It’s the time of year when parents get busy preparing their kids for the new school year. There is added stress and things to consider when you have a child who has intellectual and developmental disabilities. You can help your child by planning ahead, getting organized and putting visual supports in place before school starts.

Here are 5 tips to ensure a smooth start to the new school year for your child with special needs: https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/haircuts-and-special-needs-child/

Navigating the new school year, which may include changes in staff, venues and classmates can be challenging. But with careful preparation, parents can guide their child to have a successful start, with less anxiety and more confidence!

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, Education and Special Needs

DS-ASD~Evaluating Your Child’s Progress Mid School Year

DS-ASD~Evaluating Your Child’s Progress Mid School Year

progress report

Spring is right around the corner. This is a good time to check in and see how your child is progressing with IEP goals and behavior. A child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), may have additional deficits in speech and challenging behaviors.

Mid-year is a critical time to re-evaluate the teaching methods and current goals set in place, to help your child succeed. Here are five things parents can do now, to take action before the school year ends: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/03/12/blog-199take-action-before-the-school-year-ends/

Keep the lines of communication open with school staff, review IEP goals and progress and collaborate with the IEP team to ensure supports are in place so your child will have a strong finish to the school year.  Checking on your child’s progress will help you and the school staff be on the same page at the next IEP meeting.

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 Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Education and Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #221~Inclusion in a General Education Classroom for Students with Down Syndrome

Blog #221~Inclusion in a General Education Classroom for Students with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  An individual with Down syndrome can be included in a general education classroom with the right support, accommodations and curriculum modifications.  This requires collaboration with the school team and understanding the needs of the student.  Inclusion education happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes.  How can you advocate for an inclusive education environment for a student having Down syndrome?

*Inclusion in a general education classroom starts with a school team who is aware and understands what the experience can look like.  If the school does not support inclusion, the parent (and bringing an advocate on board) can help to educate the staff.  There is no one size fits all on inclusion, as each student is individual and unique in their needs. Inclusion is not a place, but rather an experience. Finding the right teachers, who are willing to set an open environment in the general education classroom is also a key ingredient to the success of inclusion.

Here are some examples of how inclusion can work:

http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2014/02/05/10-examples-of-inclusion-for-those-who-need-to-se

Educate your school and community by hosting a screening for Inclusive Schools Week.  “Inclusive Schools Week is a proud partner with INTELLIGENT LIVES, the groundbreaking new documentary by Dan Habib. Narrated by Academy-award winning actor Chris Cooper, the film stars three pioneering young adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. The film can now be screened in every community across the USA – host your own screening for Inclusive Schools Week! Intelligent Lives can help you advocate for change, raise funds for your organization, and open doors to inclusive education and employment for people of ALL abilities.” Go to http://www.intelligentlives.org to watch the film trailer and to learn how to host a screening in your communitye-it-to-believe-it/

Watch the trailer:  https://intelligentlives.org/trailer

*Create a one page profile sheet of your child to share with the school team and class.  There are many great ideas on Pinterest to create this.  

Here are some suggestions with examples on what to include:

-Picture of student

-Strengths (counting, matching, visual learner, receptive language, funny, wants to work)

-What works for student (visual schedule, patience, positive reinforcement, reminders before transitions)

-What doesn’t work for the student (sudden changes in schedule, taking something away, saying no or talking to firmly)

-What the student enjoys (music, making friends, Starfall computer game, dancing)

What the student needs (checklists, visual schedules, motor breaks, sensory break area, etc.)

*Inclusion works best with a solid Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and when the student is supported with a classroom aide/paraprofessional.  

Nick work aid

*Inclusion works best when the IEP includes all needed accommodations and modifications in the curriculum.  Accommodations are the tools needed for the student to succeed in the classroom.  Some examples might include a special pencil grip, nubby seat cushion, visual timer, calculator, built in motor breaks, communication device or picture exchange system (PECS) book.  Modifications to the curriculum allow the student to learn the grade level material , but simplified.  This helps the student learn at their own level what is most meaningful for them.  Goals in the IEP should be driven to promote further education, independence and future employment skills.

Here are two books that I recommend for learning more about how inclusion works for individuals with Down syndrome:

Inclusion in ActionWho's The Slow Learner

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, Woodbine House also has many books about teaching reading and math skills for individuals with Down syndrome.  This month Woodbine House is offering a 30% discount on these books:

Click here to view the selections https://www.woodbinehouse.com/

Inclusion in a general education classroom can work for individuals with Down syndrome.  It benefits all students, and promotes a since of community and acceptance, that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities desire.  With the right attitude, support, accommodations and modifications, inclusion in a regular classroom setting can be a rewarding and successful experience for individuals with Down syndrome, their peers and the school staff.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick who is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blog #215~DS-ASD Independent Work Activity Ideas

Blog #215 DS-ASD Independent Work Activity Ideas

Task bins and binders are a great way to teach academic, vocational and independent living skills.  The sky is the limit when creating activities to develop fine motor skills, letter, number and object recognition, sorting, assembly and sequencing.  My son Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  I’ve created many TEEACH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication Handicapped Children) inspired activities for my son.  The TEEACH method is a structured learning environment that is visual based to help cue a student to working independently.

When introducing task bins and binders, begin with one or two at a time.  Create a visual schedule that you can build upon that includes something to work for (a highly preferred reward).

First-Then Visual:

first then work

Once your child or student is successful with the First-Then schedule, begin to increase the time on task and introduce new task bins and binder activities.

Expanded Work Schedule:

working for chart

So, what type of work activities should you include for your child or student?  My first suggestion is to look at their strengths and build around those.  My son, Nick is good at sorting and sequencing.  Over the years in his IEP’s (Individual Education Plan), we have built goals and jobs around this strength.  Secondly, pick activities that the child or student can do with success and minimal prompts.  This will help them stay motivated and be less frustrated.  Finally, once skills are mastered independently, begin to add in new tasks one at a time.  The new tasks should always be paired with the mastered skills, to encourage confidence and minimize frustration.  Note that point prompting and hand-over-hand may be necessary to assist them in the new task.

Examples of Fine Motor Skill Development Activities:

Wooden Beads on a String making a Colorful Toy Necklace                                  Fine motor stringing Nick

fine motor animals             fine motor clips

Puzzles and Matching games can foster academic and speech development:

 

Be sure to include puzzles and activities that your child or student enjoys, whether it’s Thomas the Tank Engine or Disney’s movie Frozen; this will peak their interest in working. 🙂

These binder activities were made by a speech therapist, grouping like sounds together to work on articulation in addition to matching:

matching

Color matching binder activity:

matching pies

Teaching matching and pairing them with holidays and season changes binder activities: 

 

matching fall          matching weather

Teaching emotions matching binder activity:

(Does the child or student respond and understand better to actual photos or icons?  Build the activities around what works best for them)

emotions2             emotion icons

Assembling and sequencing activities can build skill development for future vocational work:

assembly shapes      assembly school supplies    assembly nuts and bolts     Nick packaging door knobs_Habitat_4 (2)

Silverware sorting and rolling could lead to a job in a resturaunt:

silverware sorting     silverware rolling

Currently, my son Nick is working for 30-45 minutes on task bins and binders.  Here’s how I’ve set it up at home:

Task Two Strip     bins 1 and 2     Bins 3 and 4     nick folding washcloths

Depending on how he is feeling, I gauge what to put in each work bin.  On this particular day, he was not moving as swiftly through the tasks; so I only put one in each bin.  However, there are other times when he flies through the work, so I’ll put in a several in each bin.  Bottom line, listen to your child or student, and look for cues if they seem tired or frustrated and ease off on the demands you are placing on them.

School support teachers/case managers, speech, occupational and ABA therapists are great resources to ask for ideas and materials.  There are plenty ideas on Pinterest.  Many of the materials can be bought at dollar or Five Below stores as well as garage sales and resale shops.

Task bins and binders help children, students and adults like my son, Nick to develop academic, vocational and independent living skills.  Be consistent in the delivery with visuals, task and rewards, introducing the work in small increments.  Alternate the activities with easier or personal interests, (EX/ Disney’s Frozen or Thomas the Tank engine puzzles and matching).  New activities and skills may require hand-over-hand assistance and point prompting.  If the child or student becomes distracted, or bored remind them what they are working for by pointing to the reward (which has been pre-selected).  During the work session, listen to signs and cues of distress or frustration.  Offer encouragement (good job, you got it, yay, uh oh-try again) and back off on the amount of work and time spent before behavior escalates to anger.  Choose activities that promote academic, future employment (whether it’s paid or volunteer work), and functional living skills.

Task bins and binder activities done both at home and school,  will help your child or student become confident, more independent and productive in society.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa 

Follow Nick on Social Media and view videos of Big Guy in action:

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, Education and Special Needs, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #213~Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Blog #213~Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

There are a few more areas to consider when sending a child with special needs back to school.  Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities may not be able to understand change and transitions related to school.  The student’s language skills may be limited and they might have difficulty expressing emotions.  This can all lead to anxiety which can result in behavior problems.  You can help your child by planning ahead, getting organized and putting visual supports in place for the new school year. Here are 5 tips to ensure a smooth start to the new school year for your child with special needs.

backtoschool94

5 Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents:

1. Look over your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before school begins. The IEP outlines academic and functional goals, supports needed, accommodations and services. Reach out to your child’s case manager/IEP coordinator or Support Teacher, and ask specifically how these will be implemented, and how data will be tracked.  If there is a Behavior Support Plan (BSP), review it, and make sure that all staff members working with your child have as well.  Note anything that might need to be tweaked in both plans, and share with the school staff. Summer and holiday breaks can often lead to regression in behaviors that may need to be addressed.

2. Arrange a visit to the classroom before school begins.  Provide a profile/resume sheet about your child for the staff, containing any information that will help them understand their likes, dislikes, behavior and communication concerns.  Look for visual supports and a schedule posted in the classroom to enhance learning and understanding.  You can request that a social story (pictures or video); be made of the settings that your child will be in at school, (classroom, lunch room, gym, sensory area, etc.).  It also helps to include pictures of support staff and classroom peers (if possible), in the social story. If a child with autism can see it in picture and/or written form, they will better understand it.  Visual supports, social stories and schedules all act as blueprints to help your child navigate their day.  This will help them understand what is expected and occur, leading to reduced anxiety levels for your child.  The support teacher/ case manager can make these for you to read with your child before school starts.

Social Story for Back to School:

 

 

3. During the classroom meet and greet, arrange a mode of communication with your child’s teacher.  In the past I have used both email, texting and a communication notebook which goes back and forth.  My son, Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  His verbal language skills are limited.  The communication notebook gives the child a voice that describes what their day has been like at school, and how they are doing at home.  This is especially helpful, if your child didn’t sleep well, and you can give the teacher a head’s up, to incorporate more breaks in the day if needed.  In addition to a communication notebook, the teacher can create a custom daily report to share with parents.  Depending on the skill level of your child, words or pictures can be used and looked at together at home after school each day:

Daily Report Charts:

4. Start Early! Get school supplies, clothes and shoes shopping done and haircut at least a week before the start of school.  Having a child with special needs often means a lot of angst over haircuts. For Nick the stress of getting a haircut use to affect him for several days afterwards.  Fortunately, now that my son is older the haircuts are much easier.  Maturity and a good set of clippers have made haircuts successful.  I’m super excited to share with you the new hair clippers that are a GAME CHANGER!  The Remington Short Cut Pro Self-Haircut Kit is cordless, smooth, quiet and quick as it takes more hair in a single pass.  It’s the most sensory friendly clippers we’ve ever used on our son.  5 Minutes and no tears!

 

The night before school starts, have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices.  This will help to set the tone for  a smooth start to the day and this helps especially at six o’clock in the morning. One thing that was NEVER EARLY; the school bus. Make sure you have carved out your schedule accordingly and have something for your child to do while you wait. On average, we’ve waited 30-45 minutes for the bus to get to our house the first few days of school.

5. Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school. It is fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing in the classroom.

Here are a few school volunteer ideas:
*Holiday Parties
*Art Awareness Presenter
*Chaperone Field Trips
*Field Days
*Picture Day
*Work book fairs
*Library aid
*Special Olympics Practices
*Assist Case Manager/ Support Teacher- Making copies, laminating, helping to create classroom supports.

Taking a few extra steps to get organized, familiarizing yourself with the IEP/ Behavior  support plan, visiting the classroom, and providing visuals for your child will lead to a smooth start to the new school year.  Getting involved as a classroom volunteer is rewarding and a great way to interact with student peers and school staff.  Careful planning, organization and providing visual supports will make things easier for your child starting back to school.  Do you have any back to school tips or tricks for your child with special needs? I’d love to hear them.

That’s what is in my noggin this week!
~Teresa 🙂

back to school bus

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