Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #239~ Back to School Tips for DS-ASD Families in 2021

Blog #239~Back to School Tips for DS-ASD Families in 2021

As the 2021-2022 School year approaches after a lengthy Covid-19 lockdown, many families feel anxiety about returning to school. Families who have a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) have additional challenges and needs to consider.

My name is Teresa Unnerstall, I am a DS-ASD parent, consultant and author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism. My son Nick is 27 years old and my passion is to help families, educators, therapists, medical professionals and anyone interested in supporting individuals with co-occurring DS-ASD.

Order your copy on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

This week, I want to offer some practical tips to help families ease back to school. Whether you are in person or remote, the goal should be a smooth transition for students.

Here are my 10 Back to School Tips:

1. Prepare the student with a visual countdown calendar, and re-instate morning/evening routines before school starts.

2. Tour the school with your child. Then, create a social story or video social story of the school settings and staff that the student will be interacting with. Review this several times before school starts.

3. At the tour, whether it’s in person or virtual, ask the teacher to show you the Covid-19 safety precautions, accommodations and equipment that is listed in the IEP to make sure everything is in place.

First Then Visuals

Nick using the Smart Board

4. Prepare a student “About Me” profile sheet. There are many templates available online. You can include different sections such as, Things I love, My Strengths, What Works Best for Me, How to best support me, What Doesn’t Work for Me, and Interests. Make several copies to share with the staff.

5. Determine the modes of communication back and forth with the teacher and school staff. Examples include texting, email, communication logs/notebooks and daily report sheets. This is very important as many students with DS-ASD who have language deficits or may be non-verbal.

Daily Report Sheet

6. Review the child’s IEP to insure that all goals and accommodations are still relevant. Note any additional needs or concerns you have coming off of the summer break and remote learning. Share these with the staff at school.

7. If the student has a behavior support plan, check to see if this has been shared with all staff and is ready to put in place on day one. Make a list of any new target behaviors that may need to be addressed.

8. If the student uses AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) make sure the teacher and aides are familiar with how to use the program, whether it’s high tech or low tech like a picture exchange system (PECS). You can request a training for staff and parents on how to program devices, navigate tabs and get trained on how to utilize PECS with the school speech and language therapist or school district AAC specialists.

AAC Touch Chat Program

9. Students may have lost skills or experienced regression due to summer break and remote learning due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Evidenced-based practices help students regain lost skills and develop new ones. Some examples are using visuals, schedules, task strips, task analysis, first-then prompts, visual timers, choice boards and sensory breaks.

Sensory Break PECS Icon, Is there a sensory break area for students in your school?
Time Timer App
Choice Boards

10. Show your commitment by staying on top of your child’s progress. Ask for data within the first quarter. Data drives decision making for future conferences and IEP meetings. If possible, volunteer at school, (room parent, field trip chaperone, art awareness presenter, book fairs, picture day and assisting with making learning materials like laminating and making copies).

Being prepared, invested and aware of your child’s needs will help them reach their full potential for the new school year. As students re-enter school after a long break, let’s also remember to extend each other some grace, be flexible, and give time and space to establish the new normal, whether you are heading back into the classroom or working remotely.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Special Needs Summer Program Ideas

Special Needs Summer Program Ideas

This week, I’ve provided a list of some summer program ideas and links for children with special needs. My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years he has participated in a variety of programs.  Here is a blog I wrote a couple of years ago, highlighting some great programs for individuals with special needs:

Click here to view:
https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/06/12/blog-176-special-needs-summer-recreation-programs/

Honesty, I was uncertain about attempting some of the programs, given Nick’s dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. It’s important to at least try new things and keep expanding your child’s horizons. As the saying goes, “you never know, until you try it”. 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 Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Government/Legal Matters Related to Special Needs

Blog #194~ Firestarters

Blog #194~ Firestarters

What is the difference between those bold enough to pursue their dreams and others who never get comfortable enough to ignite their lives? The doers are “Firestarters” and, because of them, the world is a much different, and often, better place.

Recently, one of the co-authors of a new and powerfully motivating book, Paul Eder reached out to me to do an exclusive interview about Firestarters- How Innovators, Instigators and Initiators Can Inspire You To Ignite Your Life.

Firestarters

There is a big difference between people who MAKE things happen and those who only THINK about making an impact.  So many people have dreams, yet few are willing to take action.  The authors of Firestarters set out to find the “secret sauce” providing pragmatic advice for readers to ignite the qualities from successful entrepreneurs, CEO’s, organizational leaders, advocates and forward thinkers from a variety of professions.  Co-Authors Raoul Davis JR., Kathy Palokoff and Paul Eder did extensive research interviewing and studying hundreds of people who have all been a catalyst for change.

In my interview with co-author Paul Eder, he states that a Firestarter is someone who makes an impact, someone who presses forward in the face of challenges that would cause others to run the other way.

There are 3 types of Firestarters in the book:

*Innovators create things.

*Instigators disrupt things.

*Initiators start things.

All three types are bonded together by the great impact they have on other people and the world by creating, disrupting and starting things.  So, how do you know if you’re an Innovator, Instigator, or an Initiator?  The book provides a quiz that you can take, but the short answer is to investigate both what motivates you and how you interact with others.

*Do you like to explore new ideas for the sake of exploring them? Do you come up with your own pet theories of how the world works? You may be an Innovator.

*Do others always call you out for debating too much? Do you strive to be different and do things in a way no one has done? You may an Instigator.

*Are you constantly moving? Do you have the energy of 10 thoroughbreds and need to sleep only 4 hours a night to be fully effective? You may be an Initiator.

Firestarters aren’t constrained to one type. Different situations may require you to act more like an Innovator. Others require you to be an Initiator and just get things done. Firestarters are amazing in that they are flexible to tap into all three types as needed – when most people would be more likely to stick to their default type, according to Paul.

From early on, Paul Eder wanted the book to be inclusive. He has a 6-year old son, Brady who has Down syndrome and believes his potential is limitless.  The Firestarters concept  applies to CEOs of mega corporations as well as PTA moms. There are interviews John Sculley, a former CEO of Apple and present his profile at a similar level of prominence of David Egan, who has Down syndrome and is a self-advocate who has single-handedly re-defined the perceived capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities.

David Egan is the first person with an intellectual disability to be awarded a Joseph P. Kennedy JR. Public Policy Fellowship, he made history by working on Capitol Hill with the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee.

David-Egan-Capitol-Hill-2011

In my interview with David Egan, he showed great passion about being an advocate with an ongoing commitment that never ends. His dream is to help people with intellectual disabilities.  All of his jobs and activities have been very important. However, being  selected as the first person with intellectual disabilities to serve as a JP Kennedy JR. Public Policy fellow was an honor and a breakthrough.  Previous fellows were doctors, professors, parents, educators or with physical disabilities but David made history and is proud to follow in the vision of Eunice Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics. She believed that we belong and we have the same rights as any other citizen.

Paul Eder feels his 6-year old son Brady, who has Down syndrome will follow the path forged by David Egan, in not allowing a label to define his future. A diagnosis is not a destiny.  Down syndrome isn’t a determinant of his son’s potential.  This is a powerful message on never setting limits!  This message has resonated with me for the past 23 years in raising my son, Nick- who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

Next week, I will share more of my interviews with Paul and David with their great insights on being a Firestarter.  Here is a review of this book from Forbes magazine: https://goo.gl/eznjQx  If you are looking for a way to set your goals in motion and take action for 2018, I highly suggest reading Firestarters!  

This book will be released tomorrow, January 9th, click here to learn more: 

https://goo.gl/4VmHKo

Fire

Is this the year you are going to MAKE things happen, or just think about it?  What things or people threaten to extinguish your fire?  Set your goals and be a Firestarter, that’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa