Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness

Blog #188~Down syndrome Awareness Month-5 Takeaways

Blog #188~Down syndrome Awareness Month-5 Takeaways


As October and Down syndrome Awareness Month, comes to an end, I want to leave you with 5 things takeaways to keep in mind, and share with others about Down syndrome!

1. Babies with Down syndrome have low muscle tone (know as Hypotonia).  This effects motor and oral motor development.  It will take them a little longer to talk, walk, and eat the same foods as others.  Early intervention with physical, occupational and speech therapy play a big part in growth and progress in these milestones.

2. People with Down syndrome aren’t ‘always happy’.  They have feelings just like everyone else.

3. People with Down syndrome will share some common features.  A few of these include low muscle tone, smaller in stature, almond-shaped eyes, tiny white (Brushfield) spots in the iris, a crease running in the palm of their hand, a gap between big and second toe.  But they will more closely resemble their immediate family members.

My son, Nick has low muscle tone.  We propped him in the high chair supported by pillows…..


4. People with Down syndrome can’t be ”more Downs’ than another.  As with everyone else, each person with Down syndrome has their own strengths, weaknesses, talents and abilities.

Nick loves swimming and even tried scuba diving.  He also has many jobs both at home and in his adult day program he attends……..

Diveheart 2013 336     Nick cleaning GiGi's

5. Please use ‘people first’ language, a person has or with Down syndrome. NOT a Down’s child or the Down syndrome kid. Down syndrome does not define who they are!

Actor and advocate, Chris Burke…..

Chris Burke quote

Spreading awareness and information helps others to become more understanding and accepting of individuals with Down syndrome, and their contributions to society.  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, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting

Blog #67~Dear Abby, Down syndrome and Autism Style

Blog #67~ Dear Abby, Down syndrome and Autism Style…

Dear Abby

Advice Columnist, Dear Abby 🙂

It’s comforting to know that as a parent of a child who has Down syndrome and autism I can click the mouse and find support online. When Nick was born 19 years ago, a nurse handed me a couple of brochures on Down syndrome.  That was it!   This is the vision sustained me after hearing of Nick’s diagnosis of Down syndrome. Thank you, Chris Burke…..Actor, advocate, icon, my rock star!

Chris Burke

Ten years later we would meet Chris in person at the National Down Syndrome Congress convention.  (For more information: http:// www.

My older son, Hank with Chris Burke at the NDSC  Convention……


There are several groups that I belong to on Facebook. (Just type in “Down syndrome and autism” in the search engine.) These parents are going through many adversities trying to get through the day and night with their kids.  Most are sleep deprived because their children are up all night turning on lights stimming, banging things against the wall, and opening and slamming doors.  I dedicate this week’s blog to these brave warriors who get up weary, reaching for the Visine and Advil to take on another day.

autism and sleep cartoon

Down syndrome and autism support groups are a safe haven to share war stories, tips, get advice, commiserate and laugh.  No one flinches when a parent writes about a walk on the local nature trail, and stopping to go back to their dawdling child.  The 11 year old stood there having just pooped in the middle of the path. What can I say but, it happens.   Topics last week were varied.  One mom needed help on how to explain and guide her daughter about getting her period.  I added a comment about a great book that tackles puberty and body privacy issues called:  “Taking Care of Myself,” by Mary Wrobel.  There were dozens of helpful tips from other parents who had daughters that had dealt with this issue.  Another parent had just given birth to a baby who has Down syndrome.  I was moved by all the support given to this new mom. Here are just a few of the many offered to her:

  • “Go home and bond and love your baby”
  • “Congratulations you have been blessed.”
  • “Get regular checkups and a heart echogram to rule out heart defects.”
  • “Low muscle tone may make it difficult to nurse your child but don’t give up.”
  • “Focus on the baby, not the Down syndrome.”
  • “Go to it has great information presented positively.”
  • “Check out it has a lot of good information.”

It’s good to know that the struggles of feeding, toileting, hygiene, sleeping, sensory, gross and fine motor issues are felt by so many parents.   For a long time I was alone.  I pulled away from the Down syndrome support groups because I didn’t fit in.  Nick didn’t progress like the kids who just had Down syndrome.  After Nick’s diagnosis of autism I reached out to the Chicago based group, National Down Syndrome Association:  Within NADS, there is a group is called “More than just Down syndrome.”  I found a new home here.  We have a unique bond because these parents get it!

We’ve have been through it all with Nick.  Our days are far from perfect. He still wakes up some nights but at least he isn’t banging the walls or turning on all the lights.  But some things have become easier as he has matured into an adult.  Just yesterday we gave him the best, most cooperative haircut ever!  Miracles do happen. 🙂

photo (5)

As I wrote about in Blog #66, reaching out to a support group has helped me realize that I am not alone on this path. I’m not the only one who has bent down and had to clean up my child’s poop.  Bless these warrior parents for getting up and fighting the good fight!  That’s what is in my noggin this week!


Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Blog #21~ What Is Normal?

Blog #21~ What Is Normal?

What is normal?  To quote Whoopi Goldberg, “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.”  Normal is boring, average right?  So why do I crave normal?  I was driving through my subdivision the other day and I saw a group of high school boys on bikes and skateboards. I found myself thinking, that’s all I really want….to see Nick doing something like regular kids do every once in a while. 

Last Friday, my neighbor’s son came over after school.  I witnessed normal. I handed him the remote and he sat down and watched a Chuck Norris movie.  Later, while he read a book Nick stood by rocking back and forth like he often does. He then asked me, “Why does Nick always stick his hand down his pants when I am over here?”  Oh, I guess that is not normal. 🙂

In Blog #20 I wrote about some of the activities Nick still enjoys and how they are far from being age appropriate.  I want to expand a bit more on it this week.  If you read last week’s post, I bet you are wondering what he is watching right now?  That’s right he is still on a Thomas the Tank Engine kick. I crave normal because there is noise and chaos living in Nick’s world. Let me put a lens on it. The boy pushes buttons all kinds….. of course fire alarms being his favorite. 🙂 Besides the Holy Grail that being the fire alarms, he also enjoys the phone intercom, volume on the remote control, and popcorn button on the microwave. Is it normal to have to keep a cup of water in your microwave so it won’t burn up? Is it normal to hide your car keys up high on the kitchen cabinet so your child doesn’t set off the car remote alarms?   Doesn’t everyone have to hide their cell phone so their child doesn’t send it swimming in the toilet?  Speaking of toilets, is it normal to call the plumber to unclog something your eighteen year old flushed?  Sergio, my plumber had a good laugh.  He told me in his Hispanic accent, “You can still wear theeeese glasses they were in clean water, not poopy water.”

That’s where my readers ended up!

Okay, my mom said I use to take the knobs off the high fi and throw them in the toilet but I was only three.

Over the years strange things have gone on with Nick in our house. I can still remember Nick’s “naked phase” about seven years ago.  It was getting dark outside and his older brother Hank came in from the front yard.

“Mom, I could see Nick from the cul-de-sac.  He was *buck naked at the top of the stairs holding his wang.”  Sure enough I came out of the kitchen to see a prepubescent Nick stripped down with the light of the chandelier illuminating his naked body groping his you know what. I ran over and grasped the dimmer switch and pulled it straight down. We shook our heads. I knew exactly what Hank was going to say. “That boy ain’t right.” Its what we always say when Nick does something strange, call it our defense mechanism.

I am not sure what was going through Nick’s mind at that time or during any of his wacky stunts. I tried to express it with art when Nick was in third grade.  Remember the spoon man project?  The kids mold a clay head and it is attached to a spoon that sits on top of a platform.  It is up to the students and parents to make the spoon man come to life. This won a spot in the school district art show that year.

Note the artful details around the neck line.  Nick use to chew his shirt and it was always wet and mangled……

I wish I could crack open his skull and see what’s inside.  What I figure is that he knows that he is a funny guy. I wonder what it would be like if he just had Down syndrome and what he would bring to the table. I did stumble on a cool quote by actor, Chris Burke who starred in the hit television series, Life Goes On.  This made me smile…. 🙂

“Having Down syndrome is like being born normal. I am just like you and you are just like me. We are all born in different ways that is the way I can describe it. I have a normal life.” ~Chris Burke

It’s hard not to get swallowed up in Nick’s crazy world. Ordinary is welcomed.  “Don’t take normal for granted.” That’s what the mother of a 7 year old cancer patient said on the radio during a children’s cancer fundraiser event last week.  I get that, totally.  But then again, if I had normal I wouldn’t be writing these stories would I?  I wouldn’t have fun pictures like these to share. This is what he was up to this weekend……

I told Nick to get some clothes out and get dressed…..Looks like he is ready for the whole week…. 

For the record that was 11 shirts, 7 pair of pants and 3 pair of undies…..

Nick at the park walking swift and robotically with his arms up like a Bears linebacker….

Move over Brian Urlacher, Nick is poised and at ramming speed.

Nick pretending he is drinking two cans of mushrooms, he just fills up the canvas with silliness…..

When you rock the extra chromosme you can easily sit like this……He’s still very bendy…..

So perhaps normal is just a setting on the washing machine and nothing more.  I have to remind myself to embrace chaos and be content with all the colorful moments that Nick has brought into my world.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.  Have a great one and until next Monday, may your canvas be filled with hues of many brilliant colors. 🙂


*Buck naked.  I always wondered if it was that or butt naked. I guess I’m not the only one. Here’s what Wiki.answers says:

“It is both. The word “buck” or “buff” is thought to be from the color of a buckskin, which is the pale tan color of European skin – this gives you “buck naked” and “in the buff.” “Butt naked” refers to the fact that your buttocks are not covered.”

I have always heard it “buck naked”. I don’t think it refers to any color at all; the phrase was originally meant to compare one to an “Indian buck” as the men were called many years ago in a less politically correct age. They were commonly thought to be “naked savages”, whether they were in fact or not. Thus, “buck naked” implied being without clothing.