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

DS-ASD~Evaluating Your Child’s Progress Mid School Year

DS-ASD~Evaluating Your Child’s Progress Mid School Year

progress report

Spring is right around the corner. This is a good time to check in and see how your child is progressing with IEP goals and behavior. A child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), may have additional deficits in speech and challenging behaviors.

Mid-year is a critical time to re-evaluate the teaching methods and current goals set in place, to help your child succeed. Here are five things parents can do now, to take action before the school year ends: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/03/12/blog-199take-action-before-the-school-year-ends/

Keep the lines of communication open with school staff, review IEP goals and progress and collaborate with the IEP team to ensure supports are in place so your child will have a strong finish to the school year.  Checking on your child’s progress will help you and the school staff be on the same page at the next IEP meeting.

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

DS-ASD~Teaching Job and Functional Living Skills

DS-ASD~Teaching Job and Functional Living Skills

There are many jobs and functional living skills that can be taught to individuals who have a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  My son Nick is 25 years old and has several jobs both at home and in his adult developmental training day program.

Nick working at his day program….

Nick cleaning aid

Nick helping out at home…

Nick vacumme thanksgiving

One of the keys to unlocking your child’s potential, is to look at their interests and strengths.  Figure out what motivates them, and build jobs around those areas.  To read how to teach job and functional living skills click on the link below:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/07/31/blog-179down-syndrome-and-autism-unlocking-your-childs-potential/

It’s never to early to start teaching job and functional living skills.  Start small and build around the interests and strengths of the individual.  Include lots of praise and rewards.  These skills will help to develop confidence and independence.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

nick-senior-alarm-pic

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 #227~Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions, Here’s a Better Idea

Blog #227~Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions, Here’s a Better Idea

How many times have you made a new year’s resolution and failed to reach it?

new-year-resolutions-825x549

New Year’s resolutions can be daunting and difficult to keep.  This year, I am changing  my tune.  I’ve adopted a new principle personally and for my son, Nick who is 24 years old, and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  As a fitness professional for 35 years, my job is to motivate, challenge and inspire my clients.  Being fit and healthy isn’t just about eating right and exercising.  To feel your best, you must take care of the mind, body and spirit collectively.  As a parent of a child with special needs, there are more demands, that can wear on you both physically and emotionally.  It is essential to take care of your physical and mental needs to reduce stress and avoid burning yourself out.

mind body spirit

I was listening to a Sirius XM radio interview with Teddi Mellencamp (yes the daughter of John Mellencamp), who is an accountability coach. She gave a better alternative, instead of making new year’s resolutions.  Teddi suggested that you pick 3 things each day that will take care of you personally, and hold yourself accountable.  Write them down, and try it for just 5 days.  These should be centered around helping you to feel better, both physically and emotionally.  By doing this, you begin to create good habits, that leads to confidence, and ultimately changing your lifestyle.

So, I tried it by writing down 2 things each day (3 seemed too much with my busy schedule).  Here are a few things I did:

*Cleaner eating- Replace Sun Chips with almonds and make a chicken wrap with only avocado and lettuce.

*Relax, stretch and be mindful of breathing to relax and calm the body,

*Bump up home workout weights from 10 to 12 pounds.

*Be mindful of the gratitude you receive throughout the day

*Eat an extra piece of fruit.

*Turn off the TV and listen to music I enjoy.

*Be compassionate, smile at a stranger and do random acts of kindness.

*Drink one less cup of coffee and replace with more water.

*Go upstairs, every time I needed something, instead of waiting until things have accumulated.  (This increased my steps significantly).

*Apply one of the principles of Feng Shui.  De-clutter home and clean 8+ years of dust off the high cabinets to increase the flow of chi energy.

*Pray more throughout the day.

*Shop on the outer edges of the grocery store as much as possible. (This is where the nutrient dense, clean and less processed foods are located).

*Respond, and don’t react with anger.

*Meditate for 10 minutes.

I have to say, there is a feeling of personal accomplishment when you hold yourself accountable, and do just 2 things a day to promote personal health both physically and emotionally.

relax

As a fitness professional, here’s what I suggest on how to start a new fitness program.  Don’t set yourself up for failure. Replace the resolution of going to go to the gym 5 days a week with a more reasonable goal. Change the mindset to, doing some physical activity 3-5 days a week.  If you can’t make it to the gym, or you are too tired, then get out and walk or do some calisthenics for just 10 minutes.  Add an extra minute to each workout.  It will all add up, and you will build confidence and feel less guilty.  Break it down to smaller pieces and you will set yourself up for success! 🙂

This got me thinking that maybe I should apply this principle with my son, Nick who has Down syndrome and autism.  Being a parent, we often feel like we are not doing enough to help our child learn and develop skills.  Blame it on housework, our jobs, time schedules/demands, and just plain exhaustion which leads to feelings of guilt.  So, I am going to just focus on one thing that will help my son be more independent each day.

I started yesterday, by encouraging Nick to use his AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device.  Nick successfully used it to request breakfast and lunch, along with a few other highly preferred rewards he enjoys.

Today, I will continue to focus on Nick using his AAC device by requesting foods and after dinner getting him to ask to take a shower.  These are little steps, but they can add up and enable my son to realize the power of using his voice, via his talker.  I have to constantly remind myself to be disciplined with not only myself, but with my son.  Ultimately, our goal as parents is to guide our children to be as independent as possible and in the process, help them gain more confidence as individuals.

Saying goodbye to New Year’s resolutions, that are often impossible to keep for 365 days, feels liberating.  Shifting the mindset to smaller goals is more realistic.  Little changes add up to building healthy habits.  It will help you feel better physically and emotionally each day.  Plus, it’s attainable and a more reasonable approach to making positive changes.  Breaking things down into smaller pieces is a better way to have success, and build confidence gradually and consistently.  It also allows you to let go of the feelings of guilt that you aren’t doing enough for yourself and your family. I would love to hear your ideas 2-3 things you might add to improve your mind, body and spirit each day!

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, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #226~DS-ASD and Being on Holiday High Alert

Blog #226~DS-ASD and Being on Holiday High Alert

The Christmas tree has been taken down, and all the decorations are packed away.  Now I can let out a sigh of relief.  The three celebrations both before, during and after Christmas with our families, were action packed.  We stand on guard, watching for signs of stress that might trigger a meltdown or other undesirable behaviors.  Our son Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  The sensory overload of noise, crowds, overstimulation, and changes in routine all make for a dangerous cocktail living in the world of autism.

One thing that I have learned navigating Nick’s world with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD is that you can’t let your guard down, EVER!  So was the case over the holidays, which for the most part, went smoothly.  Christmas eve while in route to mass, Nick rattled off a stream of swear words that could rival any salty, crusty sailor.  While the rest of the congregation was praying for good health and world peace, I prayed that Nick wouldn’t drop a G-D bomb in those moments of silence and genuflection.  Thank God, he settled down and was quiet during the service.

nick 2018 christmas

After Christmas we headed down to Texas to celebrate with my family. Our flight down to Houston was smooth.  We even take him into  the of the United Club these days. Yes, there were crowds, but Nick knows the drill and loves going places, so he is motivated to be compliant.

Nick cruising through his favorite part of Chicago O’Hare Airport….

nick at o'hare

Once we reached the condos, the first thing we all noticed was every single floor of the three-story building had a fire alarm next to each stairwell.  It was a land mind of red buttons, just begging for Nick to pull them.  All hands were on deck for the next few days. We all worked together securing blockers, reminding Nick, with the compliance command, “Hands to self, big guys keep on walking”.  He was definitely staring them all down as we passed each one during our stay.

On the second day of our visit, we arranged to take family photos at a local winery.  Nick has never been a fan of these type of photo ops. Sitting patiently for photos irritates him.  Afterwards, we did a wine tasting and the kids ate some appetizers.  There was no structure to the afternoon, just a family enjoying each other’s company.  Nick grew restless, and while no one was paying attention to him.  So, he spiked a wine glass, shattering it all over the concrete floor.  As the staff member swept up the mess, Nick tossed his brother’s marinara sauce in the same direction.  The red sauce splattered all over the staff worker’s jeans as he swept up the shards of glass.  I apologized profusely and explained that Nick had Down syndrome and autism.  It’s at this juncture, that I knew that we had to get him out fast, before things escalated into a full meltdown.  There is no reasoning with Nick at this point, so a few of us did a cut and run, to get him back to the condo.

Later that evening, the whole family gathered into one condo so the grandkids could open their Christmas gifts.  While I was sorting out and distributing the gifts, a familiar sound blasted from outside.  I jumped up and made a beeline out the door to look for Nick.  I made my way downstairs in a panic, alerting the other patrons that it was a false alarm.  I didn’t know where Nick had run to, and it terrified me.  But thankfully, he was waiting at the bottom of the stairs with his eyes glazed at the blazing alarms and lights blinking.  I have no idea if my son pushed more than one alarm.  I yelled up to Al to call the front desk and let them know it was a false alarm.  Meanwhile, I grabbed Nick’s hand and walked a good 200 feet away, so he wouldn’t get the reinforcement he craved.  My hands shook as I asked Siri on my iPhone, for the number to the Conroe Fire Department, located nearest the resort.  But then, a calm focus came over me, as I explained to the firefighter about my son and his penchant for pulling alarms.  The gentleman was very understanding and kind over the phone.  Fortunately, I caught them in time, so they did not dispatch a firetruck, whew!

That was #54 on fire alarm pulls for Nick since 3rd grade…….

firelite-pull-station

Bottom line, this is a reminder that our immediate family can never let our guard down, EVER.  It’s easy to get lulled into the fun and festivities, and get caught up in the moment.  But that’s the moment, that Nick can wreak havoc, in just a split second.  We can’t expect extended family members to understand Nick’s impulses in the way we do.  My husband, Al and older son Hank have a system of checks and balances in place when taking care of Nick.  One of us always has at least one eye on him at all times, especially in new environments.  We are the primary caregivers, and ultimately are responsible for Nick.  Sometimes we screw up in life, and we did that day.  But, you just have to learn from it and move on.

While Nick can give us all a run for our money at times, he also has a way of showing his pure heart.  On this trip he got to meet his new cousins Greyson and Gannon who are twins.  The twins are a year old, and Gannon has Down syndrome.  Nick was drawn to Gannon and the bond was clearly evident.  Nick was very gentle around him.  As my niece, Courtney was packing up the boys to leave, Nick bent down and gently loved on Gannon.  My family looked on and in the silence, Nick brought us all to tears. 🙂

 

My Niece, Courtney is the mom of four boys and wasted no time in becoming a great advocate for Down syndrome.  This is a blog I wrote last March about Courtney’s journey, @ https://nickspecialneeds.com/?s=Down+Syndrome+A+New+Beginning

Christmas holidays while fun, can be stressful for all of us.  Having a child with special needs creates more challenges with more noise, crowds, overstimulation, and changes in routine causing sensory overload.  This holiday was a reminder for our immediate family to stay vigilant, and remain on watch at all times.  The responsibilities of being a caregiver for a child with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD is staggering and should never be taken lightly.  Now, I’m going to exhale, learn from my mistakes and keep pushing forward.  As 2019 begins, my mindset will attempt to shift from holiday stress to a calm, warm, and cozy winter peace.  I wish you all the same for the new year.

snowman in hot chocolate

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, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #224~Using Social Stories for Behavior Management

Blog #224~Using Social Stories for Behavior Management

Nick’s got a thing for button pushing, all kinds.  You name it, he pushes them, including mine.  Phone intercom, microwave fan, dishwasher, and his all-time favorite, fire alarms. My son is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.   He has a behavior support plan in place to address this behavior, along with throwing and dropping objects.  The incidences of the behaviors, seem to occur when he is bored or seeking attention.  It would be tempting to just throw my hands up in the air and accept this as Nick just being Nick.  However, I have always been determined to find ways to make things better for my son.  So, a few months ago, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work with Nick’s behaviorist.  Have things improved, yes and that’s what I’m happy to report this week.

Big Guy Nick 🙂

Nick has quite a rap sheet pulling over 50 fire alarm pulls since third grade.  In Blog #216~Putting Social Stories Into Action, I wrote about creating social stories to shape the desired behavior you want for a child.  A social story is a visual support that can help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities understand new events, along with reinforcing skills, tasks or behaviors.  The behaviorist and I created an incentive plan built into a social story. This is reviewed twice at his adult developmental training program.  The story encourages Nick to make good choices.  Following the story read, Nick walks the halls with a staff member.

The staff cues Nick, using the compliance commands, “hands to self” and “big guys keep walking”.  Now I hope this doesn’t jinx anything, but I’m pleased to report that Nick has gone 3 months without pulling a fire alarm.  🙂

Now back to the behaviors he exhibits around the house.  In Blog #216, the behavior of throwing his iPads was addressed.  For a week, I locked both of them up.  After a very long week, Nick was excited to get them back.  Before this occurred, I read this social story to him several times, having him follow along and pointing to the basket where he needs to put the iPads when he is all done.  The incidences of Nick dropping and throwing his iPads has reduced significantly.

iPad Social Story:

The success of the behaviors improving are due to 3 things.  Nick, as do many individuals with autism, respond well to visuals.  He may not be able to read words, but he can follow along with the pictures and understand what is expected.  Secondly, parents and caregivers must be consistent in reading the social story and remain in close proximity, reminding the child to make good choices.  Behavior change doesn’t happen just by making a behavior plan and putting together a social story.  Success occurs when everyone is on board to carry out the plan in a consistent manner and follow through with consequences.

Have these behaviors been extinguished?  The answer is no to that question, but they have been contained.  Nick attempted to pull a fire alarm out in the community last week, but failed.  At home, he drops and tries to throw his iPads, but not near as much.  I have to stay on him to make good choices and reward him with praise and elbow bumps when he does.  If he doesn’t make a good choice the iPads get locked up.

I think the fact that my son is open to making good choices and being more compliant, is a win in my book.  I find it hopeful, that Nick is learning new behaviors at age 24.  I will continue to strive on following through and reinforcing the desired behaviors that will help Nick be more respectful and compliant young adult.

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

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