Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Education and Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #221~Inclusion in a General Education Classroom for Students with Down Syndrome

Blog #221~Inclusion in a General Education Classroom for Students with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  An individual with Down syndrome can be included in a general education classroom with the right support, accommodations and curriculum modifications.  This requires collaboration with the school team and understanding the needs of the student.  Inclusion education happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes.  How can you advocate for an inclusive education environment for a student having Down syndrome?

*Inclusion in a general education classroom starts with a school team who is aware and understands what the experience can look like.  If the school does not support inclusion, the parent (and bringing an advocate on board) can help to educate the staff.  There is no one size fits all on inclusion, as each student is individual and unique in their needs. Inclusion is not a place, but rather an experience. Finding the right teachers, who are willing to set an open environment in the general education classroom is also a key ingredient to the success of inclusion.

Here are some examples of how inclusion can work:

http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2014/02/05/10-examples-of-inclusion-for-those-who-need-to-se

Educate your school and community by hosting a screening for Inclusive Schools Week.  “Inclusive Schools Week is a proud partner with INTELLIGENT LIVES, the groundbreaking new documentary by Dan Habib. Narrated by Academy-award winning actor Chris Cooper, the film stars three pioneering young adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce. The film can now be screened in every community across the USA – host your own screening for Inclusive Schools Week! Intelligent Lives can help you advocate for change, raise funds for your organization, and open doors to inclusive education and employment for people of ALL abilities.” Go to http://www.intelligentlives.org to watch the film trailer and to learn how to host a screening in your communitye-it-to-believe-it/

Watch the trailer:  https://intelligentlives.org/trailer

*Create a one page profile sheet of your child to share with the school team and class.  There are many great ideas on Pinterest to create this.  

Here are some suggestions with examples on what to include:

-Picture of student

-Strengths (counting, matching, visual learner, receptive language, funny, wants to work)

-What works for student (visual schedule, patience, positive reinforcement, reminders before transitions)

-What doesn’t work for the student (sudden changes in schedule, taking something away, saying no or talking to firmly)

-What the student enjoys (music, making friends, Starfall computer game, dancing)

What the student needs (checklists, visual schedules, motor breaks, sensory break area, etc.)

*Inclusion works best with a solid Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and when the student is supported with a classroom aide/paraprofessional.  

Nick work aid

*Inclusion works best when the IEP includes all needed accommodations and modifications in the curriculum.  Accommodations are the tools needed for the student to succeed in the classroom.  Some examples might include a special pencil grip, nubby seat cushion, visual timer, calculator, built in motor breaks, communication device or picture exchange system (PECS) book.  Modifications to the curriculum allow the student to learn the grade level material , but simplified.  This helps the student learn at their own level what is most meaningful for them.  Goals in the IEP should be driven to promote further education, independence and future employment skills.

Here are two books that I recommend for learning more about how inclusion works for individuals with Down syndrome:

Inclusion in ActionWho's The Slow Learner

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, Woodbine House also has many books about teaching reading and math skills for individuals with Down syndrome.  This month Woodbine House is offering a 30% discount on these books:

Click here to view the selections https://www.woodbinehouse.com/

Inclusion in a general education classroom can work for individuals with Down syndrome.  It benefits all students, and promotes a since of community and acceptance, that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities desire.  With the right attitude, support, accommodations and modifications, inclusion in a regular classroom setting can be a rewarding and successful experience for individuals with Down syndrome, their peers and the school staff.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick who is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism:

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

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  During this month my goal is to shine a light on individuals with Down syndrome, by celebrating abilities, spreading awareness and advocating for acceptance and inclusion.  I am lucky enough to celebrate and be an advocate everyday, with my son Nick.  He is 24 years old and has a diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

My son, Nick vacationing in the Florida Keys 🙂

Nick Key West

My work and writing has been centered around promoting better understanding of individuals with Down syndrome and autism.  Understanding and acceptance, with a focus on an individuals abilities (rather than disabilities), will lead to a more inclusive viewpoint in our society.  A society that promotes inclusion, will open up more doors, that lead to better opportunities in school, work and leisure activities in the community.

For more information about Down syndrome click here: https://www.ndss.org/about-down-syndrome/down-syndrome-facts/

Please use and encourage person first language.  Down syndrome doesn’t define the individual.  An individual is born with Down syndrome, they are NOT Down syndrome, or Down’s.  We are trying hard to break these barriers and stereotypes and eliminate the use of these and the R-word.  I wouldn’t change my son with Down syndrome for the world.  But I want to change the world for him, and other individuals who have Down syndrome, like my 9 month old great-nephew, Gannon.  This journey raising my son, has not been easy, but it has changed me for the better!  I am one of the #lucky few! 🙂

Down syndrome tour guide

I look forward to sharing and celebrating the remarkable abilities and accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome this month.  Be sure and follow our social media sites below to capture these inspiring stories.  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, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #218~Special Needs Parents,What We Need From a Friend

Blog #218~Special Needs Parents, What We Need From A Friend

Parenting a child with special needs can be lonely.  Having a support system is crucial to maintain a positive well-being.  Uncomfortable situations, surrounded by raising a child with special needs, make it difficult for people to know how to help as a friend.  My son Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  My close friends keep me sane, make me laugh and understand what I go through.  As a parent of a child with special needs, here is what we need from a friend.

Friendship Beatles

We need a friend to understand.  Parenting a child with special needs is a constant battle with schools, doctors, insurance companies, and daily behavior challenges at home.  Add sleep deprivation to the mix, and you have one cranky parent at times.  Imagine starting your day off, washing sheets and cleaning excrement off the wall and carpet of your child’s bedroom.  In this code brown emergency, your child goes downstairs and dumps out your freshly brewed coffee all over the kitchen floor.  This is a page out of my story some 15 years ago.  It’s the story of so many parents dealing a child who has Down syndrome and/or autism.  We rely on our friends to listen without judgement, and to understand the pressure and challenges we deal with everyday.  The best of friends, roll up their sleeves and pitch in.

hands and heart pic

One vacation in New Braunfels, Texas, my son got hold of my make up bag and made a huge Picasso mess on the bed sheets in the rental house we shared with friends.  My friend Sally, poured us a glass of wine, and jumped right in scrubbing the stains with me as we laughed at the absurdity of the moment.

A good friend, says “Tell me what I can do” instead of “Call me if you need help”.

As special needs parents, we need our friends to listen and understand that sometimes our world is so complicated, that we may have to decline invitations or cancel at the last-minute.  But please, don’t stop inviting us, sometimes we just need more lead time in order to secure a caregiver for our child.  Other times, our child may be having a bad day or meltdown and we just can’t get out of the house.

babysitter for autism

As a parent of a child with special needs, we also crave normal conversations.  Sometimes we are stuck at home, with our kids.  Please, don’t worry so much about us being too busy.  A simple text goes a long way, as does dropping by for a cup of coffee or glass of wine.  Honestly, when I can focus on my friends problems and help them out, it makes me forget my own and feel much better.  I treasure the moments with my friends, when we can dish about everyday life and share a few laughs together.  Every Thursday, we power walking together.  We vent, cuss, laugh and have normal girl talk.  It restores our sanity! 🙂  

friends therapy

A parent of a child with special needs, relies on friends that stand with us!  They listen, understand and share together with us.  We can’t do it alone, and our friendships sustain and keep us strong.  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 Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #217~DS-ASD: Why the Autism Label Matters?

Blog #217~ DS-ASD: Why the Autism Label Matters?

Over the years I’ve read countless stories of parents struggling to get an autism evaluation and diagnosis for their child who has Down syndrome.  IEP (Individual Education Plan) teams often tell parents that, there is no need to get an autism label, because they already have a primary diagnosis of Down syndrome that they can work with.  A doctor may dismiss the idea because the child makes good eye contact, and is highly social.  This is my story as well with my son, Nick who is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD.  So, why does the autism label matter?

The book “When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect, A Guide to DS-ASD Parents and Professionals” by Margaret Froehlke, and Robin Zaborek, states that:

“It’s only in  the past 10 to 20 years that we’ve learned that up to 18 percent of persons with Down syndrome will also have autism or ASD (autism spectrum disorder).  This is information that most healthcare professionals are not aware of and underscores the importance of this reference guide.”

Down syndrome and autism intersect2

Getting the secondary diagnosis of autism for an individual with Down syndrome will open up new doors for services to address the unique needs associated with DS-ASD.  For a parent, it validates what they have suspected for quite some time, and allows them to move forward to get services and support for their child.  Honestly, I was sad at first to receive the news of an autism diagnosis.  But eventually, I realized that this label explained the speech deficits, complex sensory, stimming and violent behaviors that Nick was exhibiting.  I rolled up my sleeves and sought help from the school IEP team and support groups to figure out how to help my son.  The secondary formal diagnosis of autism, enabled us to access the services from the district’s Autism Consultant.  This was the key to opening up new doors that helped in the areas of behavior and communication.

Behavior and communication go hand in hand.  As a child matures and approaches puberty, the behaviors can escalate to meltdowns that endanger themselves, family and school staff and peer students.  It is essential to determine the function of these behaviors and get a positive behavior support plan in place.  Evaluating the mode of communication is the second piece of the puzzle that must be addressed.  If a child is frustrated due to lack of speech or being non-verbal, they will often act out through their behaviors.  Individuals with DS-ASD may act out because they are trying to make sense of their world.  That is why a positive behavior support plan and mode of communication can enable a child to make their needs known, so they can get these wishes met.

autism-scrabble-letters-by-Jesper-Sehested

A BCBA Autism Consultant typically observes the child and takes data on behaviors by doing a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA).  This detective work will uncover what is causing the behavior and lead to developing a behavior plan to support the child.

Frustrated icon   Detective-clipart-animation-free-images-2

Once the target behaviors have been identified, the Autism Consultant and IEP team members, along with the parents, can collaborate to find strategies to support the child.

For example if a child hits or pinches himself (Self-injurious behavior known as SIBS), or hurting others.  The Autism Consultant would determine possible causes and the setting in which it took place, and what the function of the behavior could be (avoidance, escape, boredom, etc..).  Possible antecedents might include:

*Diverted staff attention

*Unstructured/wait time

*Loud or crowded environment

*A change in activity to a non-preferred activity.

*Disrupted routine

*An object or activity is taken away

Supports can be put into place so that the child better understands what is expected.  A visual schedule, social stories, and communication mode (Picture Exchange Communication System knowns as PECS, or a higher tech, talker device) can be determined and put into place to allow the child to express their feelings, wants and needs.  The use of sensory diets and breaks, using noise cancelling headphones help the individual cope in stressful, crowded and loud environments, or regulation when the child is over or understimulated.

Providing behavior and communication support and strategies interventions for individuals with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD will make a positive impact both at school and in the home setting.  In addition, the secondary diagnosis of autism opens up doors to more services and funding from state for respite care and behavior support at home. Having outside help with respite care, relieves the burden of stress on the family, and enables parents to continue to enjoy personal interests and taking a break outside the home.

Getting a proper and formal assessment and evaluation for a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism is a game changer.  Individuals with DS-ASD experience the world differently than just having Down syndrome or autism alone.  Intervention and support strategies can be targeted to the individual to specifically address behavior, communication and sensory needs for the child.  Finally, the second label of autism, will open up doors to support groups and additional funding for waivers that provide in home support and respite care for weary families like mine.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Doctors and Dentists, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #214~ How to Make a Social Story

Blog #214~How to Make a Social Story

A social story is a visual support that helps individuals understand new events, and reinforces a desired skill, task, or behavior.  They are useful for individuals that have Down syndrome, autism or other intellectual/developmental disabilities.  My son, Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  Over the years, we’ve used social stories to help him navigate new situations like starting back to school, doctors and dentist appointments, vacations, and independent living skills such as showering and brushing teeth.  Social stories provide a blueprint as to what will occur and what is expected from a behavior standpoint.  Knowing what will happen and what’s expected, will also help to reduce anxiety.

social-stories go to class

As you can see from the illustration above, a social story should use succinct wording and may include visual, depending on the ability and age of the child.  Individuals with autism often understand better with pictures.  Support teachers and speech therapists are great resources for creating social stories for your child.  Google Images and Pinterest both offer many social stories to help you get started.

How to Make a Social Story:

1. Choose a specific event (starting school, a doctor visit, hygiene routine).

2. Break the story down into steps, including who, what, (and why depending on the child’s cognition level).  Use the pronouns “I” or “we”.

3. State the desired behaviors that you want the person reading the story to do for each step.

4. Include visuals either on-line or actual pictures of the setting.

5. Show the desired outcome, this may include a reward or verbal praise like “good job”.

6. Read the story together with the child repeatedly for several weeks before the event or new routine occurs.

hand_washing_routine

social story morning routine

Some individuals may respond better to video modeling.  Making a video of the desired task or behavior can help a child learn a new routine, adjust to a new environment or learn a skill.  As with social stories, the script should be simple in wording and broken down step by step.

Both social stories and video based modeling can help teach new skills, venues and routines.

Here are a few more ideas for using social stories or video modeling to teach your child:

*New job skill

*Fine motor tasks (cutting food, buttoning a shirt, pouring milk, handwriting)

*Gross motor skills (swimming strokes, riding a bike, yoga, sports)

*Grooming and hygiene routines (brush teeth, shower, toileting, dressing)

*Morning, afternoon and bedtime routines

*Household chores

*School Routines ( new school, picture day, assemblies, new curriculum in PE)

*Visits to doctor, dentist, blood draws, haircuts

*Community trips, vacations and special events

*Teaching social skills (playing games with peers, turn taking)

When you know what is going to occur, you feel less anxious.  Fear can lead to avoidance for all of us.  Utilizing social stories can help guide a child to understand what will happen, where and what is expected of their behavior.  It’s a great visual tool for teaching new skills and routines.  As the new school year begins, create a social story that includes actual pictures of the school building, classroom, lunchroom, gym and any other areas your child will be in.  Social stories will help to guide your child to smooth and successful experiences both at home, school and in the community.  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, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #213~Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Blog #213~Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

There are a few more areas to consider when sending a child with special needs back to school.  Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities may not be able to understand change and transitions related to school.  The student’s language skills may be limited and they might have difficulty expressing emotions.  This can all lead to anxiety which can result in behavior problems.  You can help your child by planning ahead, getting organized and putting visual supports in place for the new school year. Here are 5 tips to ensure a smooth start to the new school year for your child with special needs.

backtoschool94

5 Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents:

1. Look over your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before school begins. The IEP outlines academic and functional goals, supports needed, accommodations and services. Reach out to your child’s case manager/IEP coordinator or Support Teacher, and ask specifically how these will be implemented, and how data will be tracked.  If there is a Behavior Support Plan (BSP), review it, and make sure that all staff members working with your child have as well.  Note anything that might need to be tweaked in both plans, and share with the school staff.

2. Arrange a visit to the classroom before school begins.  Provide a profile/resume sheet about your child for the staff, containing any information that will help them understand their likes, dislikes, behavior and communication concerns.  Look for visual supports and a schedule posted in the classroom to enhance learning and understanding.  You can request that a social story (pictures or video); be made of the settings that your child will be in at school, (classroom, lunch room, gym, sensory area, etc.).  It also helps to include pictures of support staff and classroom peers (if possible), in the social story. If a child with autism can see it in picture and/or written form, they will better understand it.  Visual supports, social stories and schedules all act as blueprints to help your child navigate their day.  This will help them understand what is expected and occur, leading to reduced anxiety levels for your child.  The support teacher/ case manager can make these for you to read with your child before school starts.

Social Story for Back to School:

 

 

3. During the classroom meet and greet, arrange a mode of communication with your child’s teacher.  In the past I have used both email, texting and a communication notebook which goes back and forth.  My son, Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  His verbal language skills are limited.  The communication notebook gives the child a voice that describes what their day has been like at school, and how they are doing at home.  This is especially helpful, if your child didn’t sleep well, and you can give the teacher a head’s up, to incorporate more breaks in the day if needed.  In addition to a communication notebook, the teacher can create a custom daily report to share with parents.  Depending on the skill level of your child, words or pictures can be used and looked at together at home after school each day:

Daily Report Charts:

4. Start Early! Get school supplies, clothes and shoes shopping done and haircut at least a week before the start of school.  Having a child with special needs often means a lot of angst over haircuts. For Nick the stress of getting a haircut use to affect him for several days afterwards.  Fortunately, now that my son is older the haircuts are much easier.  Maturity and a good set of clippers have made haircuts successful.  I’m super excited to share with you the new hair clippers that are a GAME CHANGER!  The Remington Short Cut Pro Self-Haircut Kit is cordless, smooth, quiet and quick as it takes more hair in a single pass.  It’s the most sensory friendly clippers we’ve ever used on our son.  5 Minutes and no tears!

 

The night before school starts, have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices.  This will help to set the tone for  a smooth start to the day and this helps especially at six o’clock in the morning. One thing that was NEVER EARLY; the school bus. Make sure you have carved out your schedule accordingly and have something for your child to do while you wait. On average, we’ve waited 30-45 minutes for the bus to get to our house the first few days of school.

5. Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school. It is fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing in the classroom.

Here are a few school volunteer ideas:
*Holiday Parties
*Art Awareness Presenter
*Chaperone Field Trips
*Field Days
*Picture Day
*Work book fairs
*Library aid
*Special Olympics Practices
*Assist Case Manager/ Support Teacher- Making copies, laminating, helping to create classroom supports.

Taking a few extra steps to get organized, familiarizing yourself with the IEP/ Behavior  support plan, visiting the classroom, and providing visuals for your child will lead to a smooth start to the new school year.  Getting involved as a classroom volunteer is rewarding and a great way to interact with student peers and school staff.  Careful planning, organization and providing visual supports will make things easier for your child starting back to school.  Do you have any back to school tips or tricks for your child with special needs? I’d love to hear them.

That’s what is in my noggin this week!
~Teresa 🙂

back to school bus

Follow Nick on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsaustim

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 Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #208~Vacation Tips for Parents of a Child With Special Needs

Blog #208~Vacation Tips for Parents of a Child With Special Needs

summer sand

Are you a parent of a child with special needs, that will be going on vacation soon?  If so, then this blog is for you.  It can be a lot of work ahead of time getting ready for a trip.  But it is well worth it to be prepared and have a plan in place to help your child feel more relaxed and secure.

Here are 7 Vacation Tips for Parents of a Child with Special Needs:

1. Prepare social stories and visual schedules including the mode of travel, and what is expected from your child.  Review the vacation destination venue online with your child.  This will give them an idea of where they will be going, and what they will be doing.  Print pictures of the vacation venue to create a daily activity schedule.  Visuals will provide a blueprint for your child to understand what will be happening, this will lessen their anxiety.

flying visuals

2. When booking accommodations, look for a comfortable and quiet retreat for your family.  This may mean a separate living area from the rest of your family or friends in some cases.

3. Bring medications, snacks, comfort items and highly preferred toys/sensory objects in your carry on bag.  In addition, it’s wise to pack an extra set of clothes for your child.

4. Plan short, flexible and open-ended adventures on your vacation.  Build in time for breaks as needed.

5. Work in at least a few activities that your child will love.

6. Eating familiar foods will help your child feel more at home in a strange place.  Check resturaunt menus online beforehand, especially in the case of any food allergies or dietary restrictions.  Don’t underestimate the importance of this.  Once on vacation, we forgot to buy Ranch dressing, this lead to my son having a meltdown.

7. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned.  As much as you can, try to watch for the triggers that may cause your child to have a meltdown.  See what you can do to cut these off at the pass before things escalate.

My son Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  There are definite triggers that can lead to him having a meltdown.  Besides the Ranch dressing incident, we’ve experienced several instances where heat has caused him to lose his cool.  On two different family reunions, Nick got upset waiting in the heat for the family group pictures to be taken.  Another occasion was a city tour on a 90+ degree day. We pushed the envelope too far, trying to walk back to the car, which was a good 10 blocks away.  Nick wanted no part of it.  He got very upset and it quickly escalated to a meltdown.  In retrospect, I should have asked a family member to get the car to us.

Hot Spring, AR was extra hot that day.  Nobody is happy here…….

004

When meltdowns happen, get your child to a safe spot and allow them to recover fully.  Reassure your child that he is loved and safe.  Most important as a parent, remain calm in these situations.  Afterwards review with your family what the antecedents were, that led to the behavior.  Learn from these, so you can avoid and control them in the future.

Vacations while fun, can be challenging for a child with special needs.  Prepare in advance with comfort items, visuals, and look for possible triggers that may cause anxiety and discomfort for your child.  Build in as much predictability as possible.  Keep a relaxed and flexible attitude when approaching daily activities.  It’s okay to cut things short, if it gets to be too much.  Have a great summer, and don’t forget to pack the sunscreen!  I’ll be sure to pick up some Ranch dressing too.

sunshine

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