Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs, Self-care for special needs parents

Blog #228~DS-ASD: Parenting During the COVID-19 Crisis

Blog #228~DS-ASD: Parenting During the COVID-19 Crisis

How’s everyone doing at home during this COVID-19 Crisis? The new normal of staying at home has it’s challenges, especially when you have a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). My son Nick is 26 years old and usually attends a daily adult developmental day training program. The structure and routine provides meaning to his life. But the Coronavirus has taken that away from him and all of us. So now what? I wish that I could wave a magic wand and show you how to navigate through this quarantine with your kids. I can only offer my perspective on parenting a child with DS-ASD this week. I’ll keep it short, because I suspect we are all overwhelmed.

Last week’s blog provided daily independent living skills ideas to work on at home with your child. Nick did great helping out and I posted daily videos of him in action on our social media sites. We will continue these living skills and also do some activity bins: Home School Activity Ideas: https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/puzzle-and-mathcing-ideas-for-home/

I think it’s important to cut ourselves some slack right now. This is uncharted territory for all of us. 

Here are 5 things I am keeping in my noggin this week, to help navigate thru the COVID-19 Crisis:

*1-Remember to respond and not react when your child gets frustrated, bored and overwelmed. One of the lessons I offer in my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism (forthcoming May 5th and available now for pre-order on Amazon) is the following: “Remain calm and matter of fact. You must be a constant in a sea of uncertainty”

*2-Do what you can and don’t beat yourself up. This isn’t the time to put pressure on yourself to play all the roles of a teacher, OT, PT, speech and behavior therapist. Take this opportunity to have fun with your kids and naturally build in learning and interaction around activities that they enjoy. We’ve been turning off Fox News and CNN and instead, snuggling under a blanket and watching old movies that Nick and his older brother Hank enjoyed growing up.

*3-Get some exercise! As a 35 year fitness professional I promise it will boost your immune system and elevate your mood. Go Noodle learning stations has some fun, free movement videos you can do with your kids: https://www.gonoodle.com

*4-I keep reminding myself that we are all in this together and that gives me comfort. It also helps me to tap into a memory that I’ve personally suffered through a lot worse. In August of 1983, Hurricane Alicia left us paralyzed and without electricity for 2 long, HOT weeks down in Houston, Texas. Oh, and thank goodness for humor and all the funny memes being shared on social media 🙂 

*5-What am I doing today to make things better for myself and others? 🙂

daily quarantine questions

So, these are the 5 things I am keeping in mind to navigate what appears to be a marathon of social isolation during the Coronavirus crisis. I wish each of you wellness and peace in your homes with your family and plenty of toilet paper for all. We can do this, we’re all in this together!

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

~Teresa 

Follow on Social Media:

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest at Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

LOGO TRANSPARENCY (5)

 

 

 

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 🙂

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, Parenting Special Needs, Self-care for special needs parents

Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions:Here’s a Better Idea!

Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions: Here’s a Better Idea!

2020 plan

Happy New Year! It’s time to clear the decks and start fresh.🙂 How many times have you made a new year’s resolution and failed to keep it? As a 35+year fitness professional and mother of a son with special needs (DS-ASD), here is my advice: Ditch the old school resolutions and try a different approach!

Here’s what I’ve got for you to get started:

*Great self-care tips and easy ways to build in healthy habits.

*Quick, easy and  practical ways to get back into fitness.

*Simple approaches to help your child with special needs to gain independent living skills.

Click on this link to read how to make a new plan for 2020: https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/ditch-the-new-years-resolutions/

Let’s do this, 2020 is going to be a great year! That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us on Social Media:

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, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #232~Online Links for Special Needs Parents

Blog #232~Online Links for Special Needs Parents

Support hands

This week, I’ve provided a list of online links, to support special needs parents. These links are for parents of individuals with Down syndrome, autism, a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities:

Down syndrome support links:

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

http://www.ndss.org The National Down Syndrome Society is the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

http://www.ndsccenter.org The country’s oldest national organization for people with Down syndrome, their families and the professionals who work with them.

http://www.nads.org NADS is the National Association for Down syndrome and a solid support group in the Chicago area. There is also more links for dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism here (including a complete list with signs and symptoms for parents wondering if their child has more than just Down syndrome).

http://www.gigiplayhouse.org Down syndrome Awareness Centers all over the Midwest and expanding to New York, NY and Mexico. These centers provide play, fitness and social groups.

http://www.noahsdad.com Support and inspiration for parents who have a baby or child with Down syndrome. There is some great information and useful tips and links and positively focused. Noah’s Dad has also launched Hope Story to raise awareness and provide additional support.

https://hopestory.org Hope Story – Down Syndrome Diagnosis Support and Resources exists to give support, encouragement and hope to parents whose child have received a Down syndrome diagnosis; to provide free resources to the medical community to help them deliver a Down syndrome diagnosis, and to find ways for parents of children born with Down syndrome to use their unique story to bring hope to others.

http://www.futureofdowns.com Run by parents of children with Down’s syndrome. Covers a wide range of topics regarding babies and children with Down’s syndrome, pregnant and in need of advice on screening and tests or have just received a positive diagnosis following an amnio or CVS.

Autism support links:

autism ribbon

http://www.facebook.com/autismdiscussionpage This page was developed by Bill Nason, MS, LLP to discuss tools that help children on the spectrum. This site provides solid information and strategies related to autism.

http://www.autismspeaks.org Autism Speaks provides information and advocacy and good general information and links.

http://www.autism-society.org The Autism Society improves the lives of all affected by autism through education, advocacy, services, research and support.

http://www.tacanow.org Talk About Curing Autism and has a ton of links and articles along with coffee groups.

http://www.myautismteam.com Online support group for parents to share daily trials, triumphs, questions and recommendations.

http://www.mayer-johnson.com Boardmaker software for assistive technology/AAC devices.

http://www.teeach.com Information on TEEACH materials

More links for special needs parents:

https://thearc.org The Arc: For People With Intellectual and Developmental- Information and referral services, individual advocacy to address education, employment, health care and other concerns, self-advocacy initiatives, residential support, family support, employment programs, leisure and recreational programs.

https://www.parentingspecialneeds.org Parenting Special Needs Magazine share information and inspiration for parents of children with special needs.

https://www.woodbinehouse.com/ Publisher of the Special-Needs Collection…books for parents, children, teachers, and other professionals.

http://www.pottytrainingsolutions.com Gathers the most common problems and their solutions to help take the stress out of this major milestone.

http://www.easterseals.com Easter Seals offers programs, training and equipment for families.

wwww.bridges4kids.org Great, practical resources for special needs families.

http://www.specialedadvocacy.org Advocacy site for parents and teachers

Down syndrome and autism links:

DS-ASD Ribbon

https://http://www.nickspecialneeds.com My site provides solid information on topics specific to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), including supports, communication and speech/feeding issues, occupational therapy, behavior/ ABA and much more.

http://www.ds-asd-connection.org Offers good information related to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

http://www.theupsideofdowns.org Provides support, advocacy and information specific to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

Facebook groups for DS-ASD There are several Facebook groups directly related to Down syndrome and autism. These groups are a safe place to share information, ask questions, and help each other. Visit my Facebook page- Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism. You can also type in Down syndrome and autism into the search box to access additional groups.

Online support groups and links provide information, assistance, resources and encouragement, for parents who have a child with Down syndrome, autism, a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a parent, remember you don’t have to navigate the special needs path alone, help is out there!

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

Follow us on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

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

DS-ASD~What To Do When It’s More Than Just Down Syndrome

DS-ASD~ What To Do When It’s More Than Just Down Syndrome

If you are a parent, teacher, caregiver of extended family member of an individual who has Down syndrome, you are aware of how challenging it is to hit those developmental milestones. There are even more speech deficits, sensory integration problems and challenging behaviors associated with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). My son Nick is 25 years old and has DS-ASD. Years ago we suspected that his behaviors and speech delays were perhaps more than just Down syndrome. We got a clinical, medical evaluation to determine that he also had autism. Getting the secondary diagnosis enabled us to receive additional services and support.

DS-ASD Ribbon

Additional Services and Support for DS-ASD:

Speech and Augmentative Alternative Communication

Behavior Support Plan (BSP) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Specialized Training for Toileting

Federal and State Funding for Respite Care and Equipment

Support Groups for DS-ASD families online and on Facebook

Besides the additional services and support, we got validation that our son’s challenging behaviors and speech deficits were more than just Down syndrome. This gave us a peace of mind as a family, that we were no longer alone on this new path.

To read more about additional services, support and links related to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) click here:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2016/09/12/blog-155more-than-just-down-syndrome/

Getting the secondary diagnosis of autism opened up new avenues for our son to get help with communication and tackle the unique behaviors that hindered his progress both at home and school. This made a huge difference in all aspects of his life and ours. It’s a very different path than just Down syndrome, but with support your child and family can navigate it more smoothly.  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

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

Blog #228~DS-ASD and Managing Stress as a Parent

Blog #228~DS-ASD and Managing Stress as a Parent

Let’s face it, parenting is stressful with all the demands that are draining on a daily basis.  Raising a child with special needs compounds this even further.  A child with an intellectual or developmental disability such as autism, Down syndrome or a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) has even more demands, with living skills, communication and behavior.  These additional needs means the parent has to work even harder.  This can drain parents both physically and emotionally.  I have been dealing with this stress for 24 years, as my son Nick has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD.  Here is what the stress looks like for a parent of a child with special needs, and some coping mechanisms to combat it.

stress ball

So what does stress look like for parents raising a child with special needs?  Yes, there are the usual demands of running the household, carpools, extra curricular activities and homework of the child and any siblings, but there is much more.  There are often additional therapy and medical appointments on the calendar each week.  Balancing this with all the other activities can be tricky, with someone feeling short-changed in the family.  As I mentioned earlier, a child with special needs may need additional help with daily living skills, communication and behavior management.  If a child is non-verbal or limited in speech, the parent may have to play the guessing game on what the child needs. Deficits in communication skills can often lead to behavior problems.  Maladaptive behaviors may prevent the family from doing activities, attending outside family gatherings and special events together.  One parent may opt to stay home with the child, which over time, may impact the marital relationship.  This also creates a sense of isolation.  All of this can lead to feelings of guilt by the parent, which is one of the biggest internal stressors.

So, how can you manage stress as a parent of a child with DS-ASD or any other intellectual or developmental disability?  Ideally, a parent would schedule a vacation or spa weekend getaway, right?  But what if you don’t have the time or resources for such an elaborate indulgence?

spa getaway

Stress Management in my opinion, begins with mindfulness.  Carving out a few minutes for yourself is key.  Dedicate a time where you can meditate.  Free your mind of all distractions and breathe deeply.  This will allow the heart rate and blood pressure to lower and reduce stress.  Last week, I had lunch with my niece, who recently returned from a spiritual cycling journey and yoga retreat overseas.  We talked about the concept of truly being present in the moment.  The focus can be as simple as being aware of your senses……..

Step outside notice how the sun and warm breeze feel on your face. 

Quiet yourself and enjoy the texture and taste of each bit while you eat.  Take in the aroma and softness against your fingers, as you bite into the pita bread.

Listen and feel how the snow crunches under your feet, take in the cool air and watch as you exhale, seeing your breath rise up into the blue sky.

Sit silently, maybe with your child or pet, feel the softness and listen to your breaths.  Do nothing,  just be as one.

Put on your favorite music.  Focus on the beat, various musical instruments, vocal tones, and harmonies.  Note the meaning of the lyrics, and how it all  feels to your body, mind and soul.

Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the moment that you are in right now, and freeing yourself from worry.  Spending time in the present and focusing on your senses, will allow you to feel less tense.

Pairing mindfulness with gratitude cancels out negative thoughts and worries.  Some days can be challenging and exhausting.  In those times, remind yourself that there is always something or someone to be grateful for.  Showing gratitude can boost morale for  yourself and others.

Taking time to get physical activity in daily can greatly reduces the effects that stress can take on the body.  Even small bursts of exercise, taking a fitness class or a walk around the block can make a difference on how you feel.

It is also important to reach out and share what is going on with friends, family and support groups.  Isolation can be debilitating.  Sharing your struggles can give you a fresh perspective.  There is much to be gained in finding a support group of like-minded individuals who are on a similar path.  In the DS-ASD world, we share success stories, challenges of our child’s delays, and difficult behaviors.  We offer suggestions on how to find a better way to manage the unique challenges associated with our kids and applaud the milestones they hit.  When you share your struggles, (and do so with a dose of humor), you don’t feel alone anymore.  That can be a powerful thing.

Reducing stress doesn’t have to be a big, fancy trip or getaway.  Taking time to exercise mindfulness, gratitude, doing some type of physical activity, and opening yourself up to others, are all simple ways to reduce anxiety.  Allowing people to come in your life for support, will help make difficulties more manageable. Most of all, it’s essential to take some time and find ways to relax your mind. This allows you to re-charge and lessen the degree to which stress can affect the body and mind.

let yourself rest

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest at Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall