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

Blog #237~Autism Acceptance Month

Blog #237~Autism Acceptance Month

There is a shift occurring this April with Autism Awareness Month. Let’s face it autism awareness doesn’t mean much without acceptance too. It’s not just a shift in the terminology of “autism awareness” to “autism acceptance”, you may notice new symbols like the rainbow infinity taking the place of the puzzle piece imagery (as many believe that the puzzle symbol evokes a negative connotation as a problem that needs to be solved). To keep you in the loop, the rainbow infinity sign represents neurodiversity, here’s more:

Rainbow Infinity Sign represents neurodiversity

“Neurodiversity is the idea that autistic people add diversity to the world, and that disability is part of the human experience. Neurodiversity advocates oppose the idea of an Autism “cure,” and want to focus more on helpful and respectful therapies. They believe that Autistic people should be accepted in society.” Autism Acceptance Month Call to Action: Commit to Being Inclusive. – Key Assets Kentucky

Whether it’s promoting with rainbow infinity symbols or puzzle pieces I think the emphasis should be on the movement from autism awareness to acceptance. My son Nick is 27 years old and has a co-occurring Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). According to Autism Speaks, “Over the next decade, an estimated 707,000 to 1,116,000 teens (70,700 to 111,600 each year) will enter adulthood and age out of school based autism services.” That is a staggering statistic as autistic children grow up to become adults in need of safe housing, medical care insurance, family (inclusive and accessible) public restrooms, meaningful employment and adult day program opportunities. Acceptance requires understanding along with providing supports and accommodations.

We need to accept the fact that 1 in 54 children born in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism and they along with their families need support and opportunities to be fully included in society. What if we celebrated differences and became more understanding of individuals with autism? For my son Nick, it would mean respecting his need for routine, sameness and space, to be accepting of his need to rock, sway, flap his hands and make verbal stimming sounds to help keep himself regulated. It would also mean looking beyond these self-stimulatory behaviors to see his unique abilities and strengths.

This Autism Acceptance Month I challenge you to do more than just be aware of autism. Here are a few suggestions:

*Read and share books about autism like my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism available on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

*Follow The Autism Discussion Page on Facebook where you will gain a better insight some of the challenges associated with autism. Bill Nason has a series of books that are toolkits to individuals with autism feel safe, accepted and competent: Autism Discussion Page on the Core Challenges of Autism: A Toolbox for Helping Children with Autism Feel Safe, Accepted, and Competent: Nason, Bill: 9781849059947: Amazon.com: Books

*Read and share books with your children and local libraries: 30 Best Children’s Books About the Autism Spectrum (appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com)

*Donate and join autism support groups like The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection which has been in operation since 2007, and is the only non-profit in the United States dedicated solely to co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. They have given over 2,000 families around the world a place to belong. This month you can donate to my team @ https://givebutter.com/xrKt9I. Learn more about the connection at http://www.ds-asd-connection.org.

*Show kindness and respect for how autistic individuals need to process the world around them and understand that they shouldn’t have to conform to the norms when expressing themselves.

This April for Autism Acceptance Month and moving forward, I encourage you to learn more about understanding autism. Understanding leads to acceptance. Let’s celebrate unique personalities and abilities and also show compassion for the challenges and struggles faced by individuals with autism and their families.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us at Down Syndrome with A Slice of Autism on Facebook and Instagram and @tjunnerstall on Twitter

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.

https://www.catherinewhitcher.com IEP Coach Catherine Whitcher works with families and educators, provides IEP coach training, blogs and podcasts to help navigate IEP’s.

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 Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #155~More Than Down Syndrome,DS-ASD

Blog #155~More Than Down Syndrome, DS-ASD

My son, Nick has Down syndrome. There came a point when I felt like we didn’t fit in with the Down syndrome support groups. We stopped going to the local support group holiday parties, play groups and other fundraising events. My son, Nick lacked speech and displayed unusual and repetitive behaviors. These stimming behaviors included tapping, shaking and throwing objects. Vocal stimming and yelling was another behavior that he exhibited. His speech delays and inability to communicate, resulted in frustration on his part, which led to behavior problems and meltdowns. It became apparent that this was more than just Down syndrome, when he hit puberty.

photo-26

We approached the elementary school IEP team about these outbursts, where he would throw things, trash the classroom along with pinching and scratching staff. It didn’t seem like any of us, could get a handle these problems both in school or at home. The school IEP team was reluctant about getting an autism evaluation done, as they stated; “We have a primary diagnosis of Down syndrome we can work from”. Rather than push the matter with the school, we chose to have an independent evaluation done and paid for it (with some help from our private insurance), out-of-pocket.

It was money well spent. Nick got the new diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). If you suspect that your child’s behaviors might be related to more than just Down syndrome, I would strongly suggest that you get a referral from your primary care physician to get an evaluation for autism.

The diagnosis of autism, was like getting the magic key, that unlocked the door to more services for our son...….

magic key

Here are the additional services we received with the secondary diagnosis of autism for our son Nick who also has Down syndrome. Obtaining these services took some time, but the effort to get them, has been well worth it. These services were provided in part, by the school district and outside agencies:

*Behavior Support was requested from the school district, A BCBA certified autism specialist did a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). This lead to the development of a Behavior Support Plan (BSP), specifically targeting all triggers, and how to prevent & handle crisis situations during meltdowns. BSP’s can also target skill development in a variety of areas like toilet training which is very challenging. After the BSP was put into the IEP, we collaborated as a team. We built in specific visual supports and sensory breaks into his day, which helped him to stay focused and regulated.

*Speech Support and training on how to properly implement a Picture Exchange System (PECS), along with an Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) device.

ipad touch chat.JPG         photo (123)

*Toilet Training and workshops for home support  This included coaching on how to develop and implement a timed toileting schedule and use visual supports to promote independent living skills inside the home.

*Additional State Funding (In-Home Family Support Child Based Waiver)  This is funding for respite care, behavior support and safety/ health equipment to support the child at home.

*Federal Funding (Supplemental Security Income-SSI)  A federal  income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and it provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

Getting the secondary diagnosis label of Down syndrome and autism (DS/ASD), helped the school staff, therapists, medical professionals, family and friends get a better understanding of Nick’s behaviors and additional needs. By getting access to these additional supports, we’ve been able to change the strategies needed to help Nick. It’s important to note that with co-occurring DS-ASD, the autism symptoms often supersede over those related to Down syndrome. Behaviors and additional needs associated with DS-ASD are complex.

DS-ASD Ribbon

As a result of obtaining these supports, Nick’s communication improved, allowing him to feel understood, respected and less frustrated. As a family, we felt better assisted with the training provided from the BCBA and our local autism center. Applying for the state waiver and securing the funding for respite staff took some of the burden off us.

If you suspect your child with Down syndrome may have autism, read this link by the National Down Syndrome Society for the signs and symptoms: https://www.ndss.org/resources/dual-diagnosis-syndrome-autism/

Additional resources for navigating a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism:

*When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect-A Guide to DS/ASD for Parents and Professionals and Supporting Positive Behavior in Children and Teens with Down Syndrome books:

down-syndrome-and-autism-intersect

Book Supporting Positive Behavior DS

*The Kennedy Krieger Institute- https://www.kennedykrieger.org

*Down Syndrome Association (UK)- http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/for-families-and-careres/dual-diagnosis/

*National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS)http://www.nads.org/resources/down-syndrome-and-autism/

*Facebook Support Groups:

-Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

-Autism Discussion Page (Bill Nason)

-The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection http://www.ds-asd-connection.org

The challenges of having a child with co-occurring Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) are unique. So many parents say that they no longer fit in with the Down syndrome support groups and can’t relate to the autism groups either; they feel isolated. You as the parent, know your child best.  If you suspect that your child with Down syndrome may have symptoms associated with autism, I strongly suggest that you take action to get a clinical, medical evaluation. The autism label doesn’t change who your child is as a person, it gives you a better understanding how to meet the child at their own level.

That’s what is in my noggin this week 🙂

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism 

Twitter @tjunnerstall