Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #229~DS-ASD Winter Update

Blog #229~DS-ASD Winter Update

Chicago winter 2019

This winter weather has been bitter and harsh, here in Chicago.  Fortunately, we missed the plummeting temperatures last week, while vacationing in Vail, Colorado.  My son, Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  Here’s an update on what Nick’s been up to this winter and the highlights of our trip to Vail.

The weather in Vail was mild, with temperatures in the 35-40 degree range and plenty of sunshine.  There is something to be said about sunlight and how it can elevate your mood.  The clear blue skies, warm sun, fresh air, and beautiful mountain views, can do wonders for the soul.

Vail sunset 2019

Nick enjoyed his time with our friends in Vail.  The village is always a fun place to visit.  Here’s Nick at lunch and with his Dad, Al :)…..

 

The highlight of the week, for Nick was dog sledding.  This is the second year we’ve done this with Mountain Mushers, who offer the best dog sledding rides in the Vail Valley.  Nick was happy to see his buddy, Cameron who was our dog sled musher last year.  He always gets such a kick seeing all the happy dogs, who bark with excitement as the sleds loaded up.

All bundled up in the sled and ready to go, and guess what, he actually kept his hat and gloves on this time.  Yay Nick! 🙂

 

The scenic trail was packed with alot more snow this year, making the ride faster. His favorite part is when the sled goes over the bumps and flies down the hills. Nick is a thrill seeker, who always signs “more” when a roller coaster ride is over.  He also loves the Disney movie Snow Dogs, so this was a perfect blend of his favorite things.  Towards the end of the ride, his Dad got to try his hand at mushing.  Check out the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter links below to see videos of them dog sledding in action all this week. 🙂 

Today it’s a balmy 50 degrees here in Chicago, and Nick has returned to his adult developmental training day program.  It’s hard to believe the turn around in temperatures……

Chicago temp difference

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Nick attends a day program that he truly enjoys.  The adult developmental training program curriculum includes functional and academic work activities, crafts, exercise, cooking, entertainment, and community outings.  The staff reports that Nick has so much potential and does awesome at the learning centers and work choices.  They have a lot of fun, especially over the holidays. Activities included a big Christmas lunch, wearing ugly sweaters, listening to a local high school choir and making wreaths, gingerbread houses and pillows.

Here’ s a no sew pillow that Nick made…..

nick pillow

If you look closely in the picture above, you might notice a stop icon on the dishwasher.  There are many of these stop signs on the start buttons around our house.  Individuals with a diagnosis of autism can benefit from the use of icons, to better guide their days.  Nick has a thing for pushing buttons and fire alarms.  His behavior support plan (BSP) addresses the fire alarm pulling.  Twice each day, the staff at his day program take him on a walk down the hallways.  They encourage and cue him to “keep walking” with “hands to self”.  Before these walks, the staff reads his social story that contains pictures of how to  navigate these hall walks.  Upon successful completion, Nick earns a reward.

Click on this link to learn more about the BSP and his social story: https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/social-stories/

That wraps up Nick’s world and what he’s been up to this winter.  Navigating a dual diagnosis of  DS-ASD has it’s good and bad days.  Fortunately, the good days now outweigh the bad.  I think it’s both maturity on Nick’s part, along with the wisdom and understanding gained from being his parent.  Big guy has a milestone birthday coming up, I look forward to sharing more with you next Monday!  What is one thing that Nick has taught you over the past 24+ years?  I’d love to hear your feedback. 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

Follow Nick on Social Media to see more pics and videos:

Nick head shot in vail

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism and more on dog sledding #mountainmushers

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blog #225~Autism and Holiday Stress Tips

Blog #225~Autism and Holiday Stress Tips

Let’s face it, holidays are stressful.  Navigating the Christmas season with a child who has autism is even more demanding on families.  My son, Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  We’ve had our share of challenges, as do many families who care for an individual with special needs.  But, here are 10 ways to ease holiday stress and manage the upcoming weeks of festivities.

Keep Calm Christmas

10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips:

1.Start early, get as much done ahead of time with holiday preparations.

2.Pare down where you can, whether it’s decorations, presents, or parties. It’s okay to   say no or bow out early.  Flexibility is key!

3.Don’t rush, allow enough time to get from point A to point B. Give more notice when it is time to transition. This will help to avoid meltdowns.

4.When possible, try to stick to routines.

5.Avoid surprises, prepare your child ahead of time.  Make social stories using visuals or written words (depending on your child’s level of comprehension). This will act as a script for your child to follow. If they can see what’s expected, they will understand the plan and lessen anxiety levels.

IMG_3865

6.Provide pictures of family members and friends that you don’t see that often prior to visiting them.  Notify family and friends of sensitivities and sensory behaviors your child may exhibit.  Nick makes vocal stim sounds and taps objects which helps him to self-regulate.  Some individuals with autism do not like hugs or fail to make eye contact.  Family members might engage instead with a special handshake, high-five or Nick’s favorite, the elbow bump 🙂

Nick and jenna elbow bump

7.When traveling or lodging outside your home, pack comfort items like toys, music, movies, electronic devices and snacks.  Have these readily available.

8. Give your child opportunities to help out. Heavy work activities provide sensory input that is calming.  Here are a few Nick enjoys…..

 

9.Know your child’s limits.  There is so much sensory overload this time of year with excessive crowds, noises, lights and cramming too much into a day. This can be very overwhelming.  So, watch for signs of distress (Nick will pinch his own cheeks, yell and say I’m mad).  Redirect with a break icon, and seek out a quiet spot before activities begin.  It may be necessary bailout here before behaviors escalate, to avoid a meltdown.

10.Allow for down time, to kick your feet up and relax.  Weighted blankets are great for deep pressure that can help to calm the sensory system.  I recently found out these blankets are available at Target.  Hmmmmm……that sounds like a good excuse to go to Target. 🙂

Disruption in routines, schedules, and stimulating environments make for a holiday filled with fraught for individuals with autism and other special needs.  But preparing your child and having a bailout plan, will help keep the stress levels down, making the Christmas season more merry and bright.  How do you to keep calm this time of year?  Please share your secrets to surviving the holidays in the comments!

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

~Teresa 

Follow Nick:

017

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blog #211~50 Years of Special Olympics

Blog #211~50 Years of Special Olympics

Special Olympics 50 years

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” 

This is the motto of the Special Olympics, encouraging athletes to find the courage to give it all you got.

“The torch was first lit on July 2, 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver ushered in a new era for people with intellectual disabilities, when — with 1,000 athletes from three countries — she opened the very first Special Olympics International Games at Soldier Field in Chicago.”

Two weeks ago, the torch returned here to Soldier Field here in Chicago, where it all started.  Fifty years later, the games have become a global movement reaching more than 5 million athletes.  Sport events include track and field, basketball, bocce, cycling, figure skating, soccer, power lifting, gymnastics, judo, tennis, swimming, skiing and bowling to name a few.

“Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.”

My son Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  Over the years, he has participated in Special Olympics competing in track and field, bocce and bowling.  The spirit, camaraderie and dedication of volunteers made the experience very rewarding for Nick and our family.  Watching the determined athletes is awe-inspiring.

Nick competing in the 50 yard dash at North Central College….. 

Nick backside special olympics

Nick special olympics podium

Nick showing off his gold medal earned at bowling…..

Nick special olympics bowling

Nick taking a bow at the top of the podium as they played the olympic theme song.  He won the State Special Olympics gold medal for the softball throw competing in down state Illinois…..

Nick Special Olympics

Nick competing in Bocce with his volunteer peer partner, Bobby.  Incidentally, Bobby (who is Nick’s brother’s best friend), has since gone on to become a Special Education Teacher in the north suburbs of Chicago…..

Nick special olympics bocce     nick special olympics bocce two

As my son entered high school, we had to put Special Olympics on the shelf.  Having a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism made it difficult for Nick to participate without having a 1:1 aide at all times. This just wasn’t feasible.  As a parent, you can only do so much for your child.  I made the decision to put speech and occupational therapy first, rather than Special Olympics practice events, after school.  However, there were other inclusion opportunities for him in high school, which included Peer Partners and community trips with his respite workers.  Nick also participated in a wide range of P.E. programs with peer volunteers to assist and encourage him in high school.

Special Olympics has impacted the lives of athletes and volunteers for 5 decades.  Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision has grown from a flicker of the first torch flame, to an international movement.  “Special Olympics is dedicated to use the power and joy of sports to impact inclusion and respect – one athlete, one volunteer, one doctor, one teacher at a time.”  Congratulations to Special Olympics for 50 years of making a difference in the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities!

eunice_dennedy

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #tjunnerstall

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

DS-ASD Nick’s Summer Update 2018

DS-ASD Nick’s Summer Update 2018

We have a lot to share after a three-week blog break.  Nick’ been flying the friendly skies and having a blast on vacation!  My son Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  This week, find out what Nick’s been up to this summer.

Vacation started with a family reunion in Branson Missouri.  I haven’t flown solo with Nick in quite a few years, so I was feeling a little anxious.  I checked the flight status on my phone, while in the taxi heading to the airport. My jaw dropped, our flight got canceled due to aircraft maintenance.  This was the last thing I needed.  We were directed to United Airlines Additional Services line.  The gentlemen in front of me, smiled at me and Nick, saying “This is the line you don’t want to be in.”  I was nervous and saying prayers as we waited for nearly 30 minutes…….

Nick airport additional services

Fortunately, we got re-booked on another flight that was leaving at the same time.  Nick and I navigated the corridors  of O’Hare as we have done multitudes of times as a family.  We made it to the gate with 10 minutes to spare.  There was no time for a quick bite to eat, as I had alloted in my timetable.  So, I had to buy the most expensive bag of Cheez-Its to make do.

Airport Cheez-Its= Cha-ching $5.00  I should have taken my own advice from Blog #208~ https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/06/11/blog-208vacation-tips-for-parents-of-a-child-with-special-needs/and packed some snacks.

cheezits

The family reunion was a great time and opportunity to catch up with everyone.  My mom’s side of the family has a reunion every two years.  This year was hosted by Uncle Jackie and Aunt Karen with over 100 members attending.  The resort and accommodations were wonderful.  Best of all the Overbey family give the warmest hugs.  Nick had a great time and got a couple of special gifts from his aunt and uncle.

Autism awareness bear from Aunt Mary…

NIck Autism Bear

Fire alarms from Uncle Robert…

Nick fire alarm at branson

A few weeks later, we made our annual trip to Virginia and the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  Nick’s uncle and aunt have property in both places.  Here are the highlights from VA and OBX….

Vacation in VA started out in Nick’s happy place….

nick pizza in va

The views in Virginia are breathtaking.  This property sits overlooking the James River. Uncle Ron was a gracious host on our visit here.  Time spent here is about unplugging, relaxing and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere…

VA view

Nick swing VA 2018

We did a few tours while in Virginia.  One was Blenheim Vineyards, established in 2000 by owner, singer and artist Dave Matthews.  The venue is laid back, with a deck overlooking the vineyards with a nice wine tasting offered.  On another day, we toured the Virginia Distillery.

VA whiskey

Uncle Ron and Nick’s Dad, Al sampling whiskey….

whiskey al and ron

Nick is not so much of a fan 🙂

Nick whiskey

Our second part of the trip was in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, also known as OBX.  Here are some of the highlights:

When you see this sign, it’s time to exhale, let go of all your worries and chill….

OBX signs 2018

Currituck Lighthouse…..

Curriteck Lighthouse

Floating on the lazy river pool…

Nick lazy river in obx

Nick standing guard at the crow’s nest…..

Nick ruling crows nest

Nick always manages to find the vacuum at Uncle Ron and Aunt Ali’s beach house.  He’s practicing his independent living and job skills……

 

For the first time in many years of coming to OBX, Nick wanted to spend a lot more time on the beach.  He’s never been a fan of the sand, however this year he put on his socks and shoes and came out almost everyday.  Wearing tennis shoes and socks, along with sitting in the higher beach chair, helped him cope better with the sensory issues associated with sand!

View of Duck, OBX beach…..

obx view 2018

Nick’s Dad and Brother……

Al and Hank obx 2018

Nick and his brother Hank, taking in the sunset at OBX….

Hank obx 2018    nick and hank obx 2018

Nick flirting with his brother’s girlfriend, Kristin on the crow’s nest 🙂

Nick and Kristin OBX

Cheers from me and Kristin, beach hair, don’t care….

k and me obx

The vibe in the Outer Banks is calm, family oriented and chill on the beach.  You take in the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves hitting the sandy shores and feel the tension melt from your body.  Turn the knob to Bob, FM 93.7 radio and sip on a cool beverage, leaving your worries behind.  Nick feels very comfortable here.  We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to vacation here each year, at Ron and Ali’s beach home.  This year was not the same, without Ron, Ali, Sam and Anna.  We send our love and best wishes to the family and wish Ali a speedy recovery.  Cheers to making more memories with EVERYONE together, sharing laughs and lives at VA and OBX, next summer.

Beach Fixes Everything

It’s been a great summer for Nick and our family, along with extended family.  Vacations are great to unplug, relax and restore the body and soul.  We hope that you get a chance to enjoy a nice vacation.  What’s everyone doing this summer?

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

~Teresa

For more pictures of Nick follow on social media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

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

Winter Update: Nick DS-ASD

Winter Update: Nick DS-ASD

Here’s a look at Nick’s world, and what he’s been up to this winter.  My son Nick, is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  He attends an adult day program which provides a variety of enrichment activities.  These include work time, communication and learning, recreation, cooking, gardening and crafting.  There are monthly theme parties and game time playing Bingo and Yahtzee.  His group enjoyed a variety of community trips to the grocery store, dining out, library and PetSmart.

Nick relaxing at his adult day program….

Nick AID new chair

Turtle time…..

Nick AID turtle

Crafting, Nick made some awesome pillows…..

Bingo Prize Winner!

Nick bingo prize

Community trip to PetSmart……

Nick Petsmart 1              Nick Petsmart 2

Each week, Nick goes on community outings with his respite caregivers, Jodi and Miss R.  They take him out to the movies, library, mall and to restaurants…..

Over the holidays, Nick celebrated with family here in Chicago and in Key West……

Nick Christmas 2017

Fun in the Florida Keys, including a trip to The Hemingway House……

In February, we celebrated Nick’s birthday in Vail.  Did you read last week’s blog #198, about his adventures in Colorado?

It’s been a busy winter packed with loads of fun for Nick!  Seeing all his smiles in the adult day program, community outings and on vacations assures me that he is having a wonderful life.  Having a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism shouldn’t limit a family from getting out and having fun.  I hope these updates bring inspiration to other families who have a child with special needs.

That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

To see more of Nick’s world check out these social media sites:

Facebook: @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

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

Blog #198~ Nick’s Adventures in Vail

Blog #198~Nick’s Adventures in Vail

Last week, Nick celebrated his 24th birthday in Vail, Colorado.  Nick has Down syndrome and autism, but this doesn’t limit his ability to enjoy life to its fullest.  My son loves the Disney movie, Snow Dogs.  We made reservations for a dog sledding tour with Mountain Mushers, located in Beaver Creek.  Upon our arrival, the dogs were loud and super excited.  They barked and howled expressing their eagerness to run.  Our guide and musher, Cameron led Nick to Sara, an affectionate dog that would be on our team.  Normally Nick gets shy around dogs but he took a liking to sweet Sara.

Nick, Cameron and Sara…..

Nick petting sara dog

The dogs are a mix of Alaskan Huskies, all happy, friendly and truly loved by the staff.  They were certainly ready to race, as they jumped with eagerness.

Here’s Nick and I, with his Dad posing briefly in the musher position, before we started the tour…..

Sled pic

Our musher, Cameron made sure Nick was comfortable.  Before takeoff, he yelled, “Hike” and the dogs took off quickly.  Nick loved it, as he is such a thrill seeker.  Anytime we ride on a rollercoaster and it ends, he always signs “more”.  So, I knew dog sledding would be right up his alley. Once the tour starts, the dogs quiet down and get into a rhythm.  At this point you hear their paws hitting the ground in unison, and the sound of the snow crunching under the runners.  Mountain Mushers runs the tour on private property, with many hills.  We flew up and up and down them, at a rapid pace.  On occasion we would hit bumps on the trail.  Nick loved that part, laughing and saying “Oh $h*t” each time 🙂

dogs in motion

There is something about being in the mountains amongst the Aspen and Pine trees, that is both peaceful and reverent.  The views are spectacular, and it was interesting to see the large bear claw marks scraping up several Aspen trees.  Halfway through the tour, the dogs get a rest.  The staff provided us with a treat of hot chocolate and homemade pumpkin bread.

dogs resting

One of the dogs on our team is blind, and he is paired with his brother, who helps to guide him.  Even though this dog couldn’t see, he was right in the mix.  Each time our musher called him by name, the blind dog leaped in the air kicking up one leg in elation.  It was an amazing experience that Nick and I will never forget.  He’s been watching the movie Snow Dogs everyday since.

Vail is beautiful, and the views are serene.  Nick enjoyed being with his aunt, uncle and our friends last week.  He got such a kick out of being in the hot tub, while snow flakes flew around us.  Nick smiled, blinking them off of his eyelashes as the blustery breeze gave us a jolt of coolness while we soaked in the steamy bubbles.

We celebrated Nick’s birthday with pasta and his favorite, chocolate cake!

Nick 24 Birthday cake

We wrapped up the week, with a trip to the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass.  The resort overlooks the Sawatch Mountains, with many groomed trails to ski, hike and snow shoe, along with other Nordic adventures.  Our group took the one mile trail via snow shoeing, cross-country skiing or riding up in a snow mobile.

Nick totally loved riding up the hill, zoom-zoom……

snow mobile

At the top of the hill, we took in a spectacular view, watching the sunset with hues that painted a beautiful canvas in the sky…..

Continental Divide Sunset

Tennessee Pass provides a unique, fine dining experience inside a yurt.  A yurt is a circular domed tent of skins or felt stretched over a collapsible lattice framework and used by pastoral peoples of inner Asia.  The resort offers yurts both for dining and sleeping.  The yurt is rustic and toasty inside, with an exceptional four course dining menu.

Tennessee Pass Cookhouse Yurt……

Yurt

Dining in the yurt…..

After dinner, we took a fast pace ride down the one mile trail back to the Nordic center.  The stars and constellations shined vividly in the night sky.  Nick giggled with delight as we flew swiftly through the darkness, on the snow mobile.  It was peaceful and exhilarating all at once.

yurt at night

Our vacation and adventures in Vail were remarkable.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity for these unique experiences, and seeing the joy through Nick’s eyes.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

*Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

*Instagram #nickdsautism (I will be posting some video footage of our dog sledding experience, here this week).

*Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

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

Fall Update: Nick DS-ASD

Fall Update: Nick DS-ASD

Time flies when you are having fun, and Nick is having a blast this fall.  My son, Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  He attends an adult day program which provides a wide variety of activities.  Community outings this fall included volunteer jobs, bowling, visits to local parks, fire station, grocery shopping and going out to eat.  His group also works in-house doing gardening, cooking, skill along with communication building using their Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.  Nick uses a program called Touch Chat on an iPad for communication.

Nick cooking at his day program…..

Nick cooking meatballs

Nick was very excited to visit the fire station 🙂  He wasted no time buckling up right away….

Nick fire truck

Outside his adult day program, Nick enjoys community visits to the library, mall, parks, shopping, the movies and eating out.  He continues to have “date nights” meeting up with his buddy, Christopher.  We are very grateful to have such caring respite workers, to take him out several times each week.

Fun at the Halloween Store…..

Nick crown

Buddy Up Tennis, see Blog #190 to read all about it @https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=buddy+up

Nick buddy tennis 2

Nick relaxing at the library.  Make yourself at home there, Big Guy….. 🙂

Nick library

That’s Nick’s world and update for this fall.  I would like to take a moment to thank our respite workers, Lara, Jodi and Kelsey for all they do for Nick and our family.  My son has a full and rich life, and we are grateful to have these supports in place to make this possible.

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

~Teresa 🙂

Want to see more pictures of Nick?  We have a lot more on social media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

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

Blog #190~Nick & Buddy Up Tennis

Blog #190~ Nick & Buddy Up Tennis

I took my son Nick, to the Buddy Up Tennis program over the weekend.  Buddy Up Tennis is a high-energy, adaptive tennis and fitness program for children and young adults with Down syndrome.  They provide fun and rewarding 90-minute clinics on a weekly basis.  The program currently serves 550 individuals ages five to young adults with Down syndrome across the country.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure how cooperative Nick would be given that he has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  I am happy to report that he participated and followed directions fairly well, for his first time out.

Nick buddy tennis 2

This 90 minute Buddy Up Tennis-Naperville clinic, is held at Five Star Tennis Center.  Athletes are paired with a buddy and start off with a warm up.  Each participant gets to toss the dice and perform a variety of calisthenic exercises like toe touches, push-ups, jumping jacks and sit ups.  Nick needed some prompting on these.  I had to laugh when everyone got down to do push ups and Nick was still standing.  Then about the time he got down on all fours, the rest of the group was up doing jumping jacks. 🙂

fitness dice                Buddy Up Tennis Logo

After the warm-up, the participants break up into groups.  The younger kids use modified equipment and balls on a separate court.  The teens and young adults move to circuit training.  Stations are set up focus on balance, agility, hand-eye coordination and upper body movements that mimic tennis strokes and serves.

Nick navigated each station with prompts, praise and elbow bumps, from his buddies and coaches.  He moved at a slower pace than his peers, and there were a few stations he was less interested in.  But overall, did a good job!

Nick Buddy Tennis balance

After circuit training, the athletes worked on volleys and ground strokes.  Nick needed more prompting and hand over hand assistance, to move through these drills.  But he remained patient and compliant.  It really helped to have a peer partner and the coaches cheering him on, as well as the other athletes modeling appropriate behavior.

Nick buddy tennis

Towards the end of the clinic, Nick did begin to lose interest in hitting tennis balls.  I grabbed a ball hopper, and he and his peer buddy collected balls.  Nick is good at putting things away, so this kept him perked him up and engaged.  For the last 10 minutes, all the groups come together, and play a few rounds of duck, duck, goose. Then, the coaches present certificates to the top awesome athletes for that week.  Nick was awarded one of these for working hard.  Yay Big Guy! 🙂

Overall, I feel the experience was a success for Nick.  I was a little nervous going in, because he can be loud and distracting with the stimming behaviors associated with autism.  However, these behaviors were quite diminished during the clinic.  It reminded me of when Nick was in a full inclusion classroom, when we first moved into the Chicago area, 15 years ago.  Positive peer role models is one of the benefits of placing your child in full inclusion classroom.  When Nick was in a full inclusion classroom, the loud noises, tapping and other stimming decreased.  That alone, makes it worthwhile to enroll him in the next session coming up in January.

I plan on making a few visuals of the calisthenic exercises, circuit stations and sequence of moving through the drills will help with transitioning.  For individuals with autism, it helps to have a picture schedule to assist them in understanding what is expected of them.  If they can see it, they can better understand it.

Buddy Up Tennis is a wonderful program, and I’d like to thank the coaches and volunteers for the opportunity to have Nick be a part of group.  For more information about Buddy Up Tennis, visit their website at http://buddyuptennis.com/

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook & Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #189~Buddy Up Tennis

Blog #189~Buddy Up Tennis

Buddy Up Tennis Logo

I had the pleasure of observing the Buddy Up Tennis program over the past weekend. Buddy Up Tennis is a high-energy, adaptive tennis and fitness program for children and young adults with Down syndrome.  They provide fun and rewarding 90-minute clinics on a weekly basis.  The program currently serves 550 individuals ages five to young adults with Down syndrome across the country.

The program I visited was Buddy Up Tennis Naperville in Illinois, located at Five Star Tennis Center.  Athletes are divided into 3 groups according to age and ability.  They kick off the morning with a warmup and fitness component.  Each participant is paired with a volunteer buddy.  Everyone gets a chance to throw the dice and perform a variety of exercises together like toe touches, arm circles, sit-ups, jumping jacks and push-ups.

fitness dice

After the warm-up and calisthenics, the participants move to circuit training.  Stations are set up focus on balance, agility, hand-eye coordination and upper body movements that mimic tennis strokes and serves.

Balance Work Stations…..

Buddy Up Balance

The tennis serve motion is mimicked by throwing a football through the hoops.  Balls are thrown from the hip on both sides of the body into a basket to work on the forehand and backhand movements……

Buddy Up Hoops

Other stations include using an agility ladder, cones, balance beam and tug of war.  All of these work on each component of fitness, as related to playing tennis.

Following the fitness segment, the groups work on tennis strokes and games.  The younger players used smaller nets and foam transition balls which are easier to hit.

gamma-tennis-revolution-ball.jpg

The player’s ages 10 and up, worked on forehand and backhand volleys.  Coaches use the cues,  “Squash the bug”, No swinging” and “High five it” to teach proper form on volleys.  The athletes had fun trying to win a prize by hitting a target on the court.  After volleys, the group worked on overheads, with the coaches using cues like, “Point the left arm to the ball, and hit the ball at the highest point”.

It was wonderful to see the players working hard and enjoying the experience with their fellow teammates, buddies, and coaches.  The staff and volunteers were so encouraging and positive.  There were lots of high fives, smiles, cheering and laughter.  Buddy Up Tennis helps players build fitness, tennis skills, friendships, and cooperation.  These life skills are valuable both on and off the court.

For more information about Buddy Up Tennis visit their website: http://buddyuptennis.com/

tennis racket

I highly recommend this program and look forward to taking my son, Nick next week.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

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Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

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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