Blog #135~Final Week in School
This is Nick’s last week to be in school. His 22nd birthday is almost here. Then, the little yellow bus stops coming to the door. My son Nick, has Down syndrome and autism. He is aging out of the school system and will enter the adult world. For the past few months we have been working with his current school and the adult day program he will be attending. Nick has been at the new program part time for the past few weeks and the transition is going well. All the pieces seem to be in place.
It’s been an amazing journey watching Nick grow and learn. The times have been joyous and triumphant, while often frustrating and heartbreaking. Today I want to pause and give credit to all of the teachers, case managers, aides, therapists, bus drivers and school district personnel and respite workers that have helped along the way.
Nick started at the Klein School District (in Texas) at just 8 weeks old. This early intervention program had a wonderful staff and therapists. They worked to strengthen his low muscle tone (a trait of having Down syndrome). When Nick was nearly 3 years old and not walking yet I said to his physical therapist, “I don’t think Nick is ever going to walk”. To which she replied, “I have never met a child with Down syndrome who hasn’t walked yet”. And you know what she was right. Nick did eventually walk at age 3 1/2! 🙂
After age 3, Nick attended the early childhood program at the Arbor School in Houston. He made so many gains with the combined co-treatment therapies offered by Texas Children’s Hospital. Not only did he start to walk, he learned how to chew solid food without choking.
We moved outside the San Francisco Bay area when Nick was 4 years old. I can’t begin to thank the Down syndrome Connection support group along with his therapists, Kendra his Kacy at Learning on the Move. I learned ways to incorporate a sensory diet for Nick, and how to become an advocate for my son.
In 2001, we moved outside the Chicago area. During his elementary years Nick was in a full inclusion classroom. This worked because of the excellent help provided by his support teacher, along with dedicated teachers, aides and therapists. It was during this time that Nick’s academic goals shifted to more functional goals in his IEP. While this was heartbreaking, I remember gaining strength in what his support teacher said. At the beginning of his IEP meeting in 4th grade Sylvia said, “Nick has a lot of strengths and we need to focus on those”.
Nick also began to get private speech and OT at Suburban Pediatric Therapies. He has learned so much and developed a great relationship with all the staff at this clinic. 🙂
Nick loves to work with Brian…..
The middle school years were rough for Nick. Having the diagnosis of autism along with Down syndrome was a mixed cocktail with a bad taste of frustration (due to lack of speech). This lead to meltdowns and destructive behaviors. The shift led back to a self-contained classroom. I don’t think we could have survived this time without the support of NADS (National Down Syndrome Association) and Little Friends Center for Autism. I learned how to manage the autism component with their help. Getting support is crucial in a crisis situation as this was. I also give a lot of credit to his support teacher Jess (aka “The Nick Whisperer”). She believed in his capabilities, understood him and made the last years of middle school a success.
High school was a self-contained setting. It was during this time I saw Nick mature and handle his behaviors much better. He took pride in his vocational jobs both in school and out in the community. I appreciate all the staff that worked with him and helped him grow during that time.
Working at Re-Store Habitat for Humanity with Ms. R….
Working at Tabor Hills Residential Community…..
Nick Senior Portrait….
After Nick graduated from high school he attended a post-secondary transition program (STEPS) where he continued to hone his vocational skills, had work jobs and community trips. He has enjoyed this program immensely! A big thank you for the staff at STEPS for helping Nick navigate his jobs, teaching him new skills, working to make his AAC talker device be a success and assisting with the transition to the adult day program he will start full time next week.
Nick on a delivery run job…..
This journey with Nick has been a wonderful and wild ride, 34 fire alarm pulls and all! I am grateful to all who have worked with Nick and touched our lives. Truly, you all have been angels lighting the path along Nick’s way. That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂
@Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism