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

Blog #247~DS-ASD Back to School Tips

Blog #247~DS-ASD Back to School Tips

This week I have 10 back to school tips and strategies specifically geared to individuals with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and their families. 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 28 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

10 Back to School Tips for DS-ASD Families:

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

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 story regularly for the first few weeks of school.

3. At the tour, ask the teacher to show you the safety & hygiene precautions, accommodations and equipment that is listed in the IEP to make sure everything is in place.

First Then Visual Accommodation
Teaching feelings visual accommodation
Nick using the Smart Board

4. Prepare a student “About Me” profile sheet. There are many templates available online that you can Google or try Canva for free. You can include different sections such as, Things I love, My Strengths, What Works Best for Me, How to best support me, What I struggle with 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 and unable to share how their day went.

Daily Report Sheet

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

7. If the student has a behavior support plan (BSP), 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 need to be addressed and added into the BSP.

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 over the summer break. 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 IconIs there a sensory break area at your child’s school?
Time Timer App
Countdown Timer App
Choice Boards
Work Station Accommodation

10. Show your commitment by staying on top of your child’s progress. Ask for data at each 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 and invested in your child’s needs will help them reach their full potential for the new school year. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #246~ DS-ASD at the NDSC Convention 2022

Blog #246~DS-ASD at the NDSC Convention 2022

Being a parent of a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), can often feel isolating. The complex needs of speech deficits, sensory and behavior concerns related to co-occurring DS-ASD make parents feel like they don’t fit into the Down syndrome or autism support groups. For the longest time I avoided going to the Down syndrome functions and conferences for this very reason. I know that other families have felt the same about not fitting into the DS groups. It is a lonely feeling. My son Nick is 28 years old and has DS-ASD. What I have since learned is that you have to align yourself with like minded individuals who truly understand this unique journey. In addition, it’s important to process the secondary diagnosis of autism with Down syndrome and get to a place of acceptance in your own time. While this path is different, there is both help and hope now available compared to 15+ years ago when Nick got the secondary diagnosis.

There was much to celebrate at the National Down Syndrome Congress 50th Annual Convention (NDSC) held in New Orleans last month in person. This week, I want to share this experience and why it was so important for DS-ASD families and those wanting to learn more about a dual diagnosis.

Since the publication of my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism in 2020, I have been presenting information about my journey with Nick and providing strategies, tools and interventions to support individuals with DS-ASD.

Click here to order:  https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

The Deep Dive presentation was a comprehensive presentation: Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinical Features and Treatment and Intervention Strategies, was led by physician Dr. Nicole Baumer, psychologist Dr. Lina Patel and myself.

This presentation provided valuable information on how to tease out signs and symptoms of what autism looks like in individuals with Down syndrome. In addition, we offered many strategies and interventions to support communication, behavior and sensory needs associated with co-occurring DS-ASD.

The NDSC exhibit hall was a high energy whirlwind of agencies and rock stars of the Down syndrome world. The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection booth was busy with our staff and board of directors answering questions, listening to stories and connecting with others wanting to know more about a dual diagnosis.

The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection: A Lifeline for a Lifetime more at http://ds-asd-connection.org/
The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection’s Rock Stars: Executive Director Charlotte Gray and President, Jeanne Doherty fielding questions and networking at the NDSC Exhibit Hall booth.

Some more of the Rock Stars of the Down Syndrome World at NDSC Convention 2022:

Heather Avis author, podcaster and advocate with The Lucky Few more at https://www.heatheravis.com/about
Noah’s Dad and Hope Story Advocates Rick and Abbie Smith more at https://hopestory.org
Advocate and author Tim Harris more at https://www.globaldownsyndrome.org/news-community/quincy-jones-exceptional-advocacy-award-recipients/tim-harris/

Sophia Sanchez, actress, model, author, advocate and influencer more at http://www.sofia-sanchez.com/bio
Trailblazer, advocate and author David Egan more at https://davideganadvocacy.com
GiGi and Nancy Gianni of Gi’Gi’s Playhouse. More at https://www.gigisplayhouse.org/
Ruby’s Rainbow provides scholarships to individuals with DS for higher education. More at https://rubysrainbow.org/about/

The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection hosted a panel discussion, DS-ASD The Real Deal a Parent Panel, which provided a safe space to ask questions, share ideas and strategies. The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection is the gold standard, national organization serving the DS-ASD community since 2007. More at http://ds-asd-connection.org/

The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection Parent Panel at NDSC 2022

The final presentation that I gave was, a DS-ASD 3-21 Toolkit of Strategies which offered practical ideas, take home strategies and ways to support individuals with a dual diagnosis. These included the three areas impacted by autism in Down syndrome including communication, behavior and sensory needs. One example of a strategy that I suggested, is to teach your child the concept of time and having to wait. How do you teach this?

*Use visual supports like PECS icons/or a clock picture and non-verbal gesture of pointing to your wrist, indicating a wrist watch.

*Pair this with a timer app like Countdown Timer or Time Timer.

* Always introduce this concept by teaching first in low stress environments and build from there. Ex/ Low stress: Waiting for shower water to warm up: “Good waiting” and point to wrist. Then, build to higher stress: Child is hungry and there is extra long line at Taco Bell. You see that they are impatient and showing stress. Point to wrist and/or set the timer app, reinforce “Good listening Nick thank you for waiting, yay”!

This is just one of many ideas from my DS-ASD 3-21 toolkit. 🙂

Teresa Unnerstall, author, speaker and advocate at NDSC presentation

I would like to commend the National Down Syndrome Congress for including these important DS-ASD presentations at the NDSC convention. It is so critical for families and professionals to see what autism looks like in Down syndrome and how to effectively provide interventions, strategies and support for the additional challenges for DS-ASD individuals and their families.

Thank you NDSC for allowing me the opportunity to share information, help and inspire others who are on this journey. The DS-ASD community appreciates having a representation at the NDSC convention and in your organization.

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

~Teresa

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

Blog #245~DS-ASD Update

Blog #245~DS-ASD Update

What does life look like now for Nick since the pandemic hit over 2 years ago? It’s very different, uncomplicated and often redundant. Sometimes it feels like the movie Ground Hog Day, with the same thing happening over and over. It’s not a sad life, it’s just a different life. My son is 28 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). This week, I want to paint a picture of what life is like for Nick and our family these days and how we make his days meaningful so he knows his value and worth.

For 10 years I wrote diligently and posted a blog each Monday. Then the pandemic hit and Nick’s adult developmental day training program shut down. Well over 2 years later, he still sits idle on their waiting list hoping to get back in. Part of the reason my blogs have been sporadic is due to taking care of Nick at home, while I continue to work. This is no easy feat when you are trying to tune out the many sounds of autism. Since my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism, was published in May of 2020, many doors have opened up to presentations, workshops, webinars and podcasts. It has been very rewarding doing these projects and sharing strategies on how to navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. Later this month I will be presenting in person at the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) in New Orleans!

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

So, here’s a look at our new normal for the past two years. For most of us, this has been remote work, Zoom presentations and meetings which has been a great vehicle to reach a large audience across the country. Creating these presentations doesn’t feel like work, it’s exciting and creative. But, it can be difficult to concentrate when your son is constantly tapping, verbal stimming, pushing the microwave fan button, throwing things and running the water faucets. Nick also goes down some interesting YouTube rabbit holes. Lately he’s been diving down to find some real “gems”. This includes finding Thomas the Tank Engine the dark side, (picture Thomas with a black eye and goatee and guns blazing). Another gem has been fire alarm testing. Despite our efforts to clear the history on YouTube, he keeps finding those blaring alarms. It’s obviously fulfilling a sensory need he craves. Better on his iPad and not on a real fire alarm. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, Nick’s day program has been a no go due to staffing shortages. It’s devasting to see that individuals with disabilities who are the most vulnerable, can’t get into day programs. Despite hefty signing bonuses being offered, many day programs continue to struggle with staffing. We have done our best to create some structure at home and provide him with personal support workers who assist him at home and with community activities outside the house. Structured teaching activities benefits include developing and maintaining educational and fine motor skills.

Structured Teaching Activities
Activities include matching, sorting office supplies and puzzles

Nick also has several jobs around the house which include unloading the dishwasher, recycling, vacuuming, and helping to prepare meals. These jobs along with the structured teaching activities are meaningful and bolster his confidence.

Nick unloading the dishwasher
Working at home

In addition to in home activities, Nick also enjoys going out into the community with his personal support workers. Having respite care is important for families, so each member gets a break and can go out and enjoy time on their own.

Fun at the Park
Lunch date with personal support worker

The new normal at home with Nick is working largely due to having wonderful personal support workers and offering meaningful activities. We have looked into other day programs, but most have waiting lists or lack the staffing to accommodate Nick’s needs. So, we just keep leaning into the new normal and doing the best we can to find balance in both our work and Nick’s needs. As a mom, it gives me comfort to hear him say “happy” and lean into life at home. Even if it does include those trips down the YouTube rabbit hole.

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

~Teresa

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism
Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #244~ Kicking off Autism Awareness Month with Forever Boy

Blog #244~ Kicking off Autism Awareness Month with Forever Boy

April is Autism Awareness-Acceptance Month. I want to kick it off with the book release of Forever Boy by Kate Swenson, creator of Finding Cooper’s Voice.

Available on Amazon https://amzn.to/3K8nw8N , Barnes and Nobles, Target and more

Forever Boy is a memoir of Kate Swenson’s journey as the mother of Cooper, who was diagnosed with severe, non-verbal autism. There were many resonating stories in her book I related to and wrote candidly about in my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism (https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X). My son Nick is 28 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). It’s very hard to open up about some aspects of life with autism, I applaud Kate for her honesty and beautiful writing style.

There have been many obstacles to overcome in order to support my son Nick. Autism is a spectrum disorder and when your child is profoundly disabled, the barriers can be many. Imagine not being able to speak verbally and how frustrating it would be. Communication and behavior go hand in hand. Every behavior is communicating an unmet need or struggle. As a parent, it is heartbreaking to see your child struggle. Forever Boy takes you through the pain and joy that Kate and her family experienced in a humble and a heartfelt way.

So, let talk about the hard. Supporting a child with severe, non-verbal autism includes advocating for services, support, providing appropriate education and finding a way to give your child a voice. As I mentioned earlier, every behavior, including the maladaptive behaviors are communicating an unmet need or struggle. Individuals with autism can also have difficulties self-regulating. When a situation becomes overwhelming, and reaches a boiling point, the end result can be a meltdown. This is the hard. In Forever Boy, I felt the sweat, fear and bruises that often follow a meltdown. But what is much worse, is the feeling that your child is struggling in a world that doesn’t often understand them.

“Speak your truth. Even if you voice shakes. Share your life.” ~Kate Swenson, Finding Cooper’s Voice

Another “pain point” that families on the severe side of autism experience is isolation. It might be fear for your child’s safety due to elopement or worry that certain social settings might be too overwhelming. Sometimes, it’s just easier to stay home or do shorter visits to prevent stimulus overload and having stress chemicals build up, which can result in a meltdown. (To understand this better, I highly recommend following The Autism Discussion Page, on Facebook. Bill Nason provides a wealth of information about autism that is very easy to understand for parents. He also has user friendly guides available for purchase.)

The book Forever Boy opens the curtains to what severe, non-verbal autism looks like from a mother’s perspective. You will feel the love and joy as well as the struggles and heartbreak. This book will educate, inspire and empower parents, teachers, professionals and anyone interested in learning more about how to support individuals and their families. Thankyou Kate for being vulnerable and sharing your journey. Thank you for showing the beauty of Cooper, his unique abilities and giving hope to others. Many families on this journey will benefit from knowing that they are not alone.

“Once you make it through, help another parent. Text them. Call them or go to them. Sit with them in the dark. Be the person you needed in the beginning.” ~Kate Swenson

My goal is to help others and make this path of DS-ASD easier and more understandable. I look forward to sharing more about supporting individuals and their families this month. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us on social media, links in the website above
Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #243~ World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21

Blog #243~World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21. My son, Nick has Trisomy 21 which means there are 3 copies of chromosome number 21. The theme for 2022 is “Inclusion Means”. People with Down syndrome still fight barriers that keep them from being fully included in their community and society across the globe. Meaningful and gainful employment opportunities are difficult to come by. Parents and individuals with Down syndrome continue to advocate to have opportunities to be included in a world where everyone belongs.

Understanding Down syndrome is the first step to help individuals to feel accepted and included. Sharing our stories and posts on social media is another great way to shift the narrative of what people perceive about individuals with Down syndrome. I encourage you to get to know the person with Down syndrome instead of just knowing about Down syndrome.

This month on my social media sites, I have done 21 posts so you can get to know my son Nick better. He is 28 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism. Use some of the hashtags shown at the bottom of this post when sharing posts on social media. Learn about our journey in my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism

Order your copy here: https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X
and ask your library to carry it!

Thank you for your support and help promoting World Down Syndrome Day and following our journey. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #242~ Gift Ideas that Support Individuals with Down syndrome and other Disabilities

Blog #242~Gift Ideas that Support Individuals with Down syndrome and other Disabilities

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rs=h:500,cg:true
https://specialsparkle.com/

Are you looking for unique gifts that help to support young adults with Down syndrome and other disabilities? This week, I have assembled a list of 7 small businesses that offer some awesome merchandise. I have personally bought products from each of these businesses. You can find out more below and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

My name is Teresa Unnerstall and I am a parent to a 27 year old son with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and the author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism. My book is available on Amazon, click below to order a copy for Christmas. (For more book recommendations click over to the resource page on this blog site.)

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

7 Small Businesses that Support Individuals with Down syndrome and Other Disabilities:

1.Special Sparkle: Kelly is a young lady with Down syndrome and this company was created to assist Kelly in leading a fulfilled and productive life after school came to an end for her.  She loves fashion, style and bling. Check out her jewelry line here: https://specialsparkle.com/

Meet Kelly — The One of a Million Project
https://specialsparkle.com/

2. 21 Pineapples Shirt Company: Nate Simon has always been known as a fashion icon. The company’s mission is to change the way others perceive people with Down Syndrome & other special abilities one Hawaiian Shirt at a time. A percentage of all sales will go directly to support Down Syndrome organizations throughout the world. Check out his merch at https://21pineapples.com/

Mom-And-Son Duo From Beverly Use New Hawaiian T-Shirt Business To Advocate  For People With Down Syndrome
https://www.21pineapples.com

3. Candidly Kind: Grace Key started candidly kind to spread light love and acceptance thru her original art and life. Candidly Kind gives a percentage of every sale to charities who share the candidly kind vision to spread light, love and acceptance. It is a huge part of Grace’s mission…giving back. Check out her line at: https://www.candidlykind.com

https://www.candidlykind.com

4. Margrit Co Jewelry: Margrít Co. is a designer jewelry brand that focuses on creating unique, colorful and lightweight jewelry for women of all ages. Margrit Co. gives 15% of all retail sales to our Down with Business scholarship fund, which benefits ministries and businesses owned and operated by individuals with Down Syndrome. Owner and Designer Maggie Blair’s youngest brother Matthew is 18 years old and has Down Syndrome and works alongside her as the shipping manager. Check out her beautiful jewelry collection here: https://margritco.com/

Meet Maggie Blair Dietrick of Margrit Co. in Waco - Voyage Dallas Magazine  | Dallas City Guide
https://margritco.com

5. River Bend Gallery showcases the photography by Geoffrey Mikol and is located in downtown Galena, Illinois. His work is mainly of nature and landscapes. Check out his beautiful photography gifts here https://www.riverbendgalleries.com

https://www.riverbendgalleries.com

6. Bitty and Beau’s Coffee: With over 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unemployed nationwide, the Wrights believe that Bitty & Beau’s Coffee creates a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted and included in every community. Check out their merchandise here:

7. Seanese Shirts: Is owned by “Born This Way” star, Sean McElwee. The name of the company came from what Sean’s family called his speech as a child. Now, his funny phrases are being immortalized on swag. Each shirt features a phrase and graphic design, and all designs are approved by Sean. Each month, 10 percent of profits go to a disability non-profit.

You can find a wide variety of t-shirts on Sean’s website at https://seanese.com

Cyber Monday Buy any Two items... - Sean from Born This Way
https://seanese.com

Nick and I would like to wish each of you a Happy Holiday. Thank you for supporting our work to educate, inspire and advocate for individuals with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD and other disabilities. We look forward to sharing more with you in 2022. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism!

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #241~ DS-ASD in Praise of Caregivers

Blog #241~DS-ASD In Praise of Caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month, it is a time to recognize and honor caregivers across the country. Did you know that there are over 65 million Americans caring for aging and disabled loved ones in the US? My son, Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). We are very fortunate to have wonderful caregivers to support him. This allows us to work, get out and enjoy activities outside the home.

The needs of individuals with DS-ASD are complex and behaviors can be challenging. It can easily burn out family members trying to manage it all alone. Families can access funding for respite care by checking to see if their state has a Medicaid waiver or other programs for individuals with a disability.

For more information click here:

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/home-community-based-services/home-community-based-services-authorities/home-community-based-services-1915c/index.html

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/section-1115-demo/demonstration-and-waiver-list/index.html

I want to honor the amazing caregivers who work with our son, Nick. He enjoys their company at home and out in the community. The Medicaid home and community based service plan here in Illinois pays personal support workers who also work on goals for Nick to keep up with his skills and communication.

Nick and Miss R.
Nick and Miss R. at the pumpkin patch
Nick with Jodi and Kelsey
Nick is a bit smitten with Kelsey
Nick and Lisa

As I mentioned earlier, Nick enjoys their company. On many occasions he will grab pictures of the caregivers out of his Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) book and hand them to me. A PECS book helps Nick to communicate his wants, needs and feelings. Individuals with DS-ASD can benefit from using pictures to express themselves. It is very evident that Nick loves each of them and they have all become part of our family.

Thank you to Miss R., Jodi, Kelsey and Lisa for your love and support. We praise all that you do for Nick and our family. We honor you this month and every day of the year! That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

For more information and link to my book: https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

World Down Syndrome Day 3/21/21

World Down Syndrome Day 3/21/21

World Down Syndrome Day is this Sunday, 3/21/21. “WDSD purpose is to raise awareness around the world of what Down syndrome is and the vital role people with Down syndrome play in our society. The day has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012 and the date — always on the 21st day of the 3rd month — is meant to highlight the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome, which is the cause of Down syndrome.”

World Down Syndrome Day is an opportunity for all of us to promote awareness, understanding, acceptance and inclusion.  Lack of knowledge and understanding can prevent people with Down syndrome from being accepted and included in society.  The message is simple, every individual is unique, we all have value, and everyone has the right to live a happy and fulfilling life.  I heard a great quote the other day, “Down syndrome is just another way that humanity presents itself”.  

My son Nick is 27 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. He has taught me a multitude of life lessons. Our story has touched the lives of so many others:

Here are 3 easy ways to celebrate WDSD and promote acceptance and inclusion:

*Promote Down syndrome awareness on social media using the hashtags #wdsd #worlddownsyndromeday #downsyndromeawarness #t21 #downsyndromelove #downsyndrome #321 #abilities #inclusion #funkysocks #downsyndromerocks #downsyndromewithasliceofautsim 🙂 Don’t forget to rock those funky socks to show that different is beautiful and wonderful!

*Encourage the use of person first language.  This means saying, “a person or individual with Down syndrome”.

Do NOT say:
* “A Down syndrome baby, child or kid.”
* “Down’s baby, child or kid”
* “Down’s”
* “He or she has Downs

*Click here to: Take action – World Down Syndrome Day

Promoting WDSD on social media, encouraging the use of person first language and getting involved with WDSD events and fundraisers are wonderful ways you can be a part of of celebrating the uniqueness of individuals with Down syndrome. That’s what is in my noggin this week. Be sure and follow us on social media: Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism to see how we will be celebrating!

~Teresa 🙂

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

Blog #232~Special Needs Parent and Educator Help During Covid-19

Blog #232~Special Needs Parent and Educator Help During Covid-19

As a dual diagnosis DS-ASD writer and consultant, I’m scratching my head on how to help special needs families faced with the daunting task of implementing remote distance learning. This is an unprecedented time we are in facing with Covid-19. It’s like a continuous Ground Hog Day with no end in sight. My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). He normally attends an adult developmental training program. His program has been closed since March. The focus at home has been to work on independent living skills. So what advice can I offer? What would I do if my son was still in school?

My short answer is this………

As an IEP team you have to collaborate together and think outside the box on how to navigate distance learning. That means asking for support, visuals, making addendums to the IEP, finding outside resources and therapies. Always lead with the child’s interests and strengths when implementing lessons and goals both at school and home.”

I am going to stay in my lane and introduce you to one of the top experts in navigating IEP’s. Catherine Whitcher’s podcast is packed with great advice on how parents and educators can work together to make education successful during the Covid-19 crisis. You won’t be disappointed and you will learn ALOT!!! 🙂 Click here to listen:

https://www.catherinewhitcher.com/blog/podcastcriticaliepdecisions

In this podcast, Catherine Whitcher explains that you can’t do an IEP meant to be implemented at school in the home. Here are a few key bullet points of her podcast:

*Keep track of what is being tried, what is working and not working.

*Collaborate together to come up with solutions, make adjustments and addendums to the IEP.

*Redefine what is appropriate for this current situation, then come up with a new plan.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Instagram where you will learn so much as I have over the years at https://www.catherinewhitcher.com/ She offers up to date, practical information in her blogs, podcasts and live feeds on social media.

Don’t wait for your child to get back into school to make up for lost time. Take action now to make the best out of distance learning by thinking outside the box, collaborating with the IEP team and working with your child’s strengths and interests. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow on Social Media:

Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

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

DS-ASD Winter Update

DS-ASD Winter Update

Vail view 2019

My son Nick is a young adult, who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). He attends an adult developmental day training program which provides a variety of structured activities. This week, I want to catch everyone up on what Nick’s been doing this winter.

Nick’s day program includes learning and enrichment activities. Clients enjoy learning new skills, vocational jobs, exercise, crafts, shopping, cooking, theme days/parties and community outings. The structured program is a necessity for individuals like Nick who have a secondary diagnosis of autism. He looks forward to going to this program daily.

Nick at his adult developmental day training program:

Nick bowling fall 2019     nick connect game

There have been many celebrations and fun excursions this winter for Nick. Here are a few of the highlights:

Christmas in Chicago was unseasonably warm this year, no jacket or shoes required. 🙂

Nick Christmas presents 2019     Nick Christmas outside 2019

We recently enjoyed a nice vacation in Vail. Nick loved the dog sledding with Mountain Mushers. He got to ride with his guide and friend, Cameron for the third year in a row. This year Nick road up the gondola for the first time and we did snow tubing. It’s always nice to go into Vail village, and this year his respite worker joined us in the fun and helped support Nick for a few days of our trip.

Vail vacation highlights:

Nick and Cameron Dog Sledding 2019   Dog Sledding 2019 Nick and Miss R Vail 2019   Nick and Dad Tubing 2019

Nick just celebrated his 26th birthday! He had a pizza party with cupcakes at his day program. We also had cake at home and a nice birthday lunch with family.

Nick’s birthday highlights:

Nick birthday at Keeler 2020   nick 26 birthday

nick birthday 2   Nick HBD

It’s been a fun and busy winter in Nick’s world. As most of you know, I have completed my memoir, “A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism”  which is forthcoming on May 5, 2020!  My next post will showcase the book and include pre-order details and how you can get your hands on a copy. I can’t wait to share this with all of you. I truly appreciate your support in my writing and following Nick’s world. 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick’s world to view more photos and videos on social media:

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