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…….

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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

 

 

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

Blog #205~Post Mother’s Day Advice

Blog #205~Post Mother’s Day Advice

Being a mom can often result in feelings of guilt, and second-guessing decisions that you make for your children.  As a mother of a son with special needs, this is even more heightened.  Now, you see it on social media.  There are so many individuals with special needs, succeeding in new therapies, Special Olympics, and going to prom.  This creates added pressure to do even more for your child.  After 24 years of raising my son Nick, who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, I have gone through all these feelings of not doing enough.  This week, I ask that you STOP and take a breath Moms!

unplug it quote

After you stop and take that breather, you can re-boot and move forward, and re-evaluate what your child needs at this point in their lives.

*Are the current therapies and interventions effective?

*What other programs are available, that might be a better fit?

*What type of activities can be incorporated at home?

In the following blog, I outline how to re-evaluate current activities along with implementing effective TEACCH method ( Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication which is an evidence-based service, training, and research program for individuals of all ages and skill levels with autism spectrum disorders).  The TEACCH method is a structured program that helps individuals with ASD to learn, function and reach their goals.  Incorporating TEACCH activities at home can be a time saver, instead of running around multiple times a week for ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy.

Click here to view:  https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/08/07/blog-180special-needs-momslet-go-of-the-guilt/

Nick doing TEACCH Method at home 🙂 (video version available on our social media sites listed below)…………..

nick folding washcloths

For more information about Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) TEACCH Method click here: https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/faq/what-is-the-teacch-method/

My advice post Mother’s Day, is to take a deep breath and re-evaluate current programs for your child.  Decide which are effective and relevant, at this time in their lives.  Are these therapies and interventions the most efficient use of time for your family?  Prioritize and determined what you can scale back on.  Consider implementing the TEACCH activities at home to save time.  These activities help to build new skill sets, confidence and independent living.  Finding the balance for your child with special needs along with your family is key.  It will also help you as the mom to feel less guilty, and more confident as a parent.

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 Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

DS-ASD, Nick’s Spring Update

DS-ASD, Nick’s Spring Update

spring flowers

The trees and flowers are budding and blooming here in the Chicago area.  A long overdue, and highly anticipated spring has finally arrived.  Here is what my son, Nick has been up to this spring.  Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

Nick attends an adult day program which provides enrichment activities both in-house and out in the community.  The structured curriculum and schedule of this program serves Nick, and his fellow clients well.  Community trips to local parks, restaurants, shopping for the weekly cooking segment are integrated throughout the week.  They have also been doing gardening and working on craft projects that will be sold next week, at the Garden and Craft Sale.  Nick enjoys going to this program, and looks forward to going to it daily.

Outside of his adult day program, Nick likes to go to the movies, parks, library and out to eat with his personal support/respite caregivers.

It’s the middle of April and a jacket is still required……

nick swing neighborhood

Oh happy day 🙂

Nick taco bell outside

For the past couple of years, Nick and his respite caregiver Jodi, have joined up with Christopher and his caregiver for date night, each Thursday.  These two guys have a lot of laughs together at the library, and going out to eat afterwards.  His buddy is moving out-of-state, so it was a bittersweet final date night for the two of them…….

Nick and Christopher saying goodbye, it’s the end of an era…..

nick and christopher

March is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and 3/21 also being World Down Syndrome Day.  Nick and I spent this month doing advocacy and awareness about Down syndrome.  One campaign we were a part of was with Noah’s Dad, #provethemwrong which highlights the many awesome things that people with Down syndrome are doing in the world.  To follow Noah’s Dad and #provethemwrong click here for more information: http://noahsdad.com/prove-them-wrong-tee-shirt/

Nick Prove Them Wrong

Our family also supports The National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) which is based in Chicago.  We are sponsors for the annual NADS Bowl-a-thon fundraiser.  Nick had a blast at the event :)……

Nick NADS bowlathon

Over the past weekend, we made a trip to Ohio to celebrate Nick’s cousin’s graduation from Bowling Green State University.  Nick is highly social, and loves spending time with his cousins, aunt, uncle, and grandparents.  Before the early 9am graduation ceremony began, in the crowded Stroh Center, Nick did his part to test a fire alarm cover.  The loud buzzer blared for a few seconds, before his Dad could close it back down.  It was a close call, but at least he didn’t pull the actual fire alarm.  He’s cheetah fast, and as I’ve said before, it’s Nick’s world, the rest of us are just trying to keep up.

Congratulations and elbow bumps to Nick’s cousin, Sam, well done!…….

Nick and Sam Graduation

Relaxing on the deck and enjoying a warm, spring day with his cousin, Anna….

Nick and Anna

Spring is a time of renewal, and taking in the beauty of nature coming back to life after a cold, harsh winter.  It feels so good to get outside and power walk again.  These walks are a time for me, to reflect on life’s blessings.  I feel very fortunate that my son is healthy, happy and enjoys his life as a young adult having Down syndrome and autism.  Yes, there are many challenges, and he certainly keeps us all on our toes.  But the joy and humor that Nick exudes, far outweighs the behavior challenges we incur daily.

It’s almost Mother’s Day, which is the official “green light” to plant flowers and vegetables here in the Chicago area.  I’m ready to fill up the clay pots with some color, on the empty pallet of the deck.  I can’t wait to put the tomato plants into the soil.  Gardening is my way of relaxing, and shaking off daily stress.  It’s so important to carve out time for yourself, and restore what can sometimes be taken away, by the demands of parenting a child with special needs.  Wishing all the moms on the front lines, a very Happy Mother’s Day.   My hope is that you make time to enjoy something on your own, that is fulfilling and relaxing each day.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

Happy Spring everyone 🙂

~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, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan), Parenting Special Needs

Blog #204~ Lessons Learned from the Last Lecture

Blog #204~Lessons Learned from the Last Lecture

Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon and author of the national bestselling book, The Last Lecture.  He encouraged his students to attempt hard things and not worry about failing.  He would give out “The First Penguin Award” to the team who took the biggest gamble trying new ideas and technology, but failed to achieve their goals.  “This award celebrated out-of-the-box thinking and using imagination in a daring way.”  The title of this award came from the way that penguins jump into the water that might contain predators.  Somebody has to be the gustsy, first penguin, and take a bold leap into the unknown.

fail spectacularly

The takeaway is this, it’s important to attempt hard things and  you can expect to hit brick walls.  That is when you gain experience.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

This quote struck me as I was reading The Last Lecture over the weekend.  My son Nick, was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome.  Years later, he recieved a secondary diagnsosis of autism.  I didn’t get the “normal child” that I expected.  My path raising Nick has been very different then I had planned.  But along the way, over the past twenty-four years I’ve gained a great amount of experience in navigating my son’s journey.

Randy Pausch, a computer science professor gave his last lecture after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer, leaving behind a wife and three young children.  His book, The Last Lecture, co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow is a summation of everything Randy believed with some valuable lessons in “overcoming obstacles, enabling others, and seizing every moment.

There are so many lessons offered by Pausch in The Last Lecture.  I want to share a few that resonated with me, as a parent of a child with special needs.  When my son, Nick was born twenty-four years ago, I made some choices on how I was going to manage life.  I was dealt a set of cards, that I didn’t expect.  But soon realized, that I would have to play the hand differently.  This meant getting support to help my son reach developmental milestones and creating a home environment that supported his growth.  I also learned to reach out to parents, therapists and teachers with experience to help me understand how to help my son become the best he could be.

Randy Pausch cards dealt with

Another valuable lesson is in the approach to life when facing adversity.  Randy says, “Make a decision, are you going to be a Tigger or an Eeyore?”  A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie-the Pooh characters are in two different camps.  I’d choose fun-loving Tigger over grumpy Eeyore every time.  Optimism can take you much further in life!

Randy-Pausch-Pooh-Quote

Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom from Randy Pausch, and how they relate to being a parent of a child, with special needs.  I found these lessons to ring true, especially navigating a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism:

“All you have is what you bring with you.”

I understand all too well the need to be prepared for whatever situation the day may bring with my son.  What do I need to bring and what should I anticipate?  This could be anything from an extra set of clothes, spare iPod, PECS book, AAC device, snacks, Kleenex, stim toys and more.  Identify possible trouble spots/ triggers for meltdowns/messess and come up with ways to avoid these incidences.  Also, have a contingency plan in case as Randy says, “All hell breaks loose”.”

“All you have to do is ask.”

Randy tells a story about his Dad wanting to ride in the nose cone with the driver on the monorail at Disney World.  His Dad assumed they didn’t let regular people ride up there.  Randy told his Dad he had a trick and asked if his Dad wanted to see it.  He walked up the driver and asked, and the driver said yes.  You never know unless you ask, and this is true from my experiences working with doctors, therapists, teachers and other IEP members.  Ask for IEP drafts before the meeting, and to be included in your child’s goal planning.  Ask that the parent concerns (that you’ve written ahead of time), be put directly in the IEP at the beginning of the meeting.  These concerns will be a part of what drives the IEP.  Ask the doctor for whatever your child might need for their health like, prescriptions for therapy, nutritional supplements, evaluations for orthotics and to get all test results as soon as they come in.

“Start by sitting together”

This is essential when going to your child’s IEP (Individual Eduction Plan) meetings.  Randy’s approach to working with a group of people is simple.  Lay all the cards face up on the table and say to the group, “Ok, what can we collectively make of this hand?”  He offers a few tips for a successful group meeting like having optimal meeting conditions (make sure no one is hungry, cold or tired).  I’ll add in cramped rooms with  small chairs, as this has happened to me in past IEP meetings. Randy also adds, to let everyone talk, check your egos at the door and praise each other.  Finally phrase alternatives as questions, so instead of saying, “I think we should do A and not B” try saying,  “What if we did A and not B”.  This allows the team members to offer comments rather than defend their choice.  It opens up the discussion to get input from the whole IEP team.

The lessons that Randy Pausch shares in his book, are valuable.  Here are my takeaways as they relate being a parent of a child with special needs:

*Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try something daring.

*If you hit a brick wall, learn from it and gain more experience.

*You can’t change the cards that were dealt, but you can change how you play the hand.

*Your approach in playing that hand can be with a positive or negative attitude, it’s your choice.

*All you have to do is ask.  They might say sure, why not.

*Start by sitting together, when it comes to IEP’s the team should come together to be solution oriented, not problem oriented in collaboration approach.

Thank you Randy Pausch for the valuable lessons you shared in The Last Lecture and for the reminder to take what you have learned so that you can help others who might be starting down the same path.

And as you navigate your path always remember this…..

Randy Pausch spending time

  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism

Instagram #nickdsatuism

Twitter @tjunnerstall