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

Blog #238~Autism: Welcome to My Life… Sleep Number is Zero

Blog #238~Autism: Welcome to My Life… Sleep Number is Zero

Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month is winding down, but for countless families living with autism it will continue beyond April, and often includes a sleep number of zero. That is the opening chapter of the book, Welcome to My Life: A Personal Parenting Journey Through Autism by author Laurie Hellman. My son Nick, is 27 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). I am quite familiar with sleepless nights followed by the fog and exhaustion that comes with autism. But this book is much more than sleepless nights. The author takes you through a journey that is a honest portrayal of what autism is like, often raw but always filled with compassion and love.

Available on Amazon at
https://amzn.to/2Df6qbL

What I find refreshing about the book, Welcome to My Life, is that it depicts many of the aspects that families deal with when autism is profound. Author Laurie Hellman, pulls back the curtain and lets you in to see the dents in the walls, the internal, detailed pre-planning before any event outside the home and yes…..the literal shit show, because trust me it happens. I found myself nodding my head, getting teary eyed and laughing, as her stories were so relatable. Laurie’s love and determination for her son mirrors mine. Finally, there are many lessons that Laurie offers in her book:

“Skyler teaches me to be brave, strong and courageous. he’s taught me that when I am tired and feel like giving up, I can keep going.” Laurie Hellman

It was heart wrenching to read about the additional health struggles associated with Laurie’s son, Skyler. I admire how she poured over research and turned over every stone to find answers and treatment to help him. As a mother of a child with autism, I understood the feelings of grief over what might have been. In my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism-(https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X) I wrote about all the milestones that my son missed out on, like getting his driver’s license, going to the prom and eventually heading off to college. Did you know parent’s of individuals with autism sometimes find it easier to smile and say everything is fine? Why? Because quite frankly on some days it’s just too much to unpack. When autistic kids can’t process overstimulation it can lead to meltdowns, and as a parent you are right in the path of any collateral damage. Laurie writes about how her son can’t verbally communicate so he may lash out by swatting her arm or smacking her leg…..

“On most days, I think to myself, Does he even like me?” Laurie Hellman

After 27 years of navigating DS-ASD with my son, I have learned the function of such behaviors. I cope, by putting them in the compartment of brain rewired differently with autism. I don’t take it personally, when Nick hits me anymore, because he is mostly non-verbal. I recognize that these behaviors are his means to communicate when he feels overwhelmed and not being heard.

I think that what you will learn from reading books about autism like ours, is that if you met one person with autism…. you met one person with autism. Each is a unique journey, because autism is a spectrum disorder. Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month is about understanding these journeys and different perspectives. With better understanding our society can be more kind, patient and compassionate:

“Simple acts of kindness go such a long way and can restore my sometimes-crumbling faith in humanity.” Laurie Hellman

Moving beyond Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month, I encourage you to continue to learn more about autism. Share our stories so we can make this a bigger narrative. That sleep number of zero is real, along with the challenges associated, especially when autism is profound. Understanding leads to acceptance. It means showing kindness by making some room at the table for all abilities and behaviors of autistic individuals along with their families.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

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Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #235~More than Down syndrome, Co-occurring DS-ASD

Blog #235~More than Down syndrome, Co-occurring DS-ASD

As a DS-ASD consultant and author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism, I am often asked why it is important to seek a secondary evaluation for autism for individuals with Down syndrome. My son, Nick is 26 years old and has co-occurring Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). The needs associated with DS-ASD are complex and there are several areas where you can support a child at their level.

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

Click on the blog link below to read more about co-occurring DS-ASD and how you and the IEP team can better support the additional needs associated with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism:

Blog #155~More Than Down Syndrome,DS-ASD – Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism (nickspecialneeds.com)

There are many more services, supports and resources available for individuals with co-occurring Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). My mission is to help families navigate this journey easier, raise awareness, understanding and provide guidance in this journey navigating DS-ASD.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

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

DS-ASD: 10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips

DS-ASD: 10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips

I am Teresa Unnerstall, a DS-ASD consultant and author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism (https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X) My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).

Here are my top 10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips to help you navigate the upcoming holiday season. Click the link below to view:

Blog #225~10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips – Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism (nickspecialneeds.com)

I hope you have a safe and joyous holiday. Remember to give yourself a little extra grace as we deal with the added stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. I have pared things down even more this year and striving for simplicity. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

Cheers and Be Well,

Teresa 🙂

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

DS-ASD Summer Updates

DS-ASD Summer Updates

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It’s been awhile since my last post. It’s been difficult trying to concentrate and write. My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging times for us. In particular individuals like my son, fail to understand what is going on, why masks are needed and personally what happened to his adult day program? Nick needs structure and scheduled activities to stay regulated.  The earliest that his program might open up is September. I am not even sure he could go back and wear a mask, much less stay socially distant.  The line is moveable, and for all of us the uncertainty is mind-bending.

Regression of behaviors is real and scary right now. There are hints some of the experiences that occurred in the chapter titled “Waves of Fury” in my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism. Lack of understanding what is going on=frustration leading to more meltdowns since March. The only difference is that we know how to sense the buildup and cut things off at the pass or re-direct him before the behaviors escalate. I fear for both our family and others in the same boat who have a child with special needs and no school or day programs now or for the foreseeable future. So all I can do is take it day by day…. sometimes hour by hour… and breathe.

Here is a link to an article I wrote about this experience: 

@ https://themighty.com/2020/05/supporting-person-down-syndrome-autism-covid-19/? tm_source=engagement_bar&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=story_page.engagement_bar/

Not everything is doom and gloom this summer. My book A New Course is being well received with 49 five star Amazon reviews, order a copy @ https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X My goal is 59+ to commemorate my upcoming birthday. Amazon and Goodreads reviews are critical to help move a book up in rankings and reach more readers. If you have read A New Course, the best gift you could give me for my 59th birthday is a review!

Here is a stellar testimonial I just received from the author of the gold standard book “When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect:

“Teresa Unnerstall’s book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism, captured my heart as she relays her family’s journey which mirrored my own in so many ways. Teresa poignantly shares the challenges and joys that come with parenting a child with DS-ASD. Her book is a true treasure that offers hope, acceptance, and kinship to other like-families and to those who love, support and care for them”.

—Margaret M. Froehlke RN, BSN Author of When Down Syndrome and Autism Intersect, A Guide for Parents Guide for Parents and Professionals

A New Course Book Cover multiple books

Click here to order your copy of my book: @ https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

We are on summer vacation break and today is my son Hank’s 28th birthday! You can keep up with Nick’s world and our birthday celebrations on social media! I am posting a bunch of fun pictures. Media sites are listed below with direct access and on my website @ https://teresaunnerstall.com/  Keep your eye open for some fun giveaways including copies of my book to celebrate my birthday. Thank you for following and supporting Nick’s world and my new book. Take care, be well find ways to enjoy your summer and the beauty in each day.

That’s what is in my noggin this week 🙂

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Exclusive Author Interview- A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism

Exclusive Author Interview- A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism

A New Course Book Cover multiple books

My book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism”  will launch next week on May 5, 2020! Pre-order your copy now on Amazon—  https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X My mission as an author and dual diagnosis consultant– is to make this journey smoother for families navigating a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).

This week, an exclusive interview I did with Leslie Lindsay, the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012). Leslie has been awarded as one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1. More about Leslie following interview below.

Check out this exclusive interview and get the behind the scenes scoop about my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism:

https://leslielindsay.com/2020/04/27/wife-mother-and-advocate-teresa-unnerstall-dives-in-head-first-with-her-all-hands-on-deck-approach-to-navigating-an-autism-downs-syndrome-diagnosis-in-her-new-book-a-new-course/

Leslie Lindsay Book Picture

Artistic photo of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Join her on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook for more like this.

Thank you to Leslie Lindsay for a great interview and all your support! 🙂 Next week, I’ll post the virtual book launch activities here on the blog and social media sites listed below. Join A New Course Book Launch page on Facebook to get the latests updates in real time!

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

~Teresa

Follow on Social Media:

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest @Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 


 

Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #226~Beyond Down Syndrome: A New Course

Blog #226~Beyond Down Syndrome: A New Course

World Down Syndrome Day is coming up on March 21st. This day 3/21 was chosen to represent Trisomy 21, where there are 3 copies of the 21st chromosome. WDSD highlights the importance of promoting awareness, understanding, inclusion and acceptance for individuals with Down syndrome. Next week, I will provide concrete ways that you can help promote WDSD.

But what if there is more beyond Down syndrome that families are facing? Did you know that approximately 18% of children with Down syndrome have a secondary diagnosis of autism? This dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), presents additional challenges with communication impairment that can lead to behavior problems.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms from the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) of a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD:

https://www.ndss.org/resources/dual-diagnosis-syndrome-autism/

My son Nick, is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. Ten years ago, I started writing about my journey and this new course our lives took, when Nick got a secondary diagnosis of autism. I felt very alone. I found myself pulling away from our local Down syndrome support group activities, because my son no longer fit in. He did not engage like his peers with Down syndrome. His repetitive movements (rocking, hand flapping, unusual play with toys) and vocal humming sounds made him stand out from the crowd. This new course was different than the one I planned. Nick was very delayed in toilet training and his speech deficits lead to behavior problems. As he approached puberty, his lack of speech and understanding what was expected, led Nick to become very frustrated. My son had no voice and his actions led to dangerous meltdowns.

What I soon learned (when Nick was 10 years old), is that I dealing with way more beyond Down syndrome. There was no way that I could navigate this course alone. Once I sought guidance from experts, we were able to give Nick a voice using a picture exchange system (PECS). Together with the IEP team, we determined what behaviors to target and developed a positive behavior support plan (BSP). The two key components that helped Nick was giving him a voice and finding the triggers that were causing behavior problems. We sought help from the school district’s autism specialist. The IEP team then, put supports in place and we all received training to help support the secondary diagnosis of autism. It is critical to identify target behaviors, and make a game plan to support a child before they escalate to a boiling point and have a meltdown. It’s imperative to write in additional supports to address communication including visuals  into the IEP. A reoccurring theme in my blogs is the need to address speech and behavior collectively, as all behavior is a form of communication. Visuals are key for communication, but also for navigating daily life in the form of picture schedules, social stories and learning tasks. These visuals are the blueprint for your child to understand what is going on and what you are expecting from them, and in turn helps to reduce anxiety levels.

My mission for the past ten years has been to make this DS-ASD journey easier for families following a similar path, and to open the eyes for other’s to understand the complexities and challenges associated with DS-ASD. This path that I’ve been on with Nick has not been easy. Early Intervention after birth and over the years, was critical to helping Nick reach developmental milestones. Our family has weathered a lot of storms, but with each– the sun came back out and we learned a lot along the way. Now, I am ready to share my journey with you!

 I am pleased to announce my book and the journey beyond Down syndrome:

TU_5-5x8-5_WPS_ebook

A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism launches May 5, 2020 and takes a deep dive into the complexities of what many families face raising a child with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. None of us can escape life without challenges. We each have our own journeys and individuals with DS-ASD are unique and may not be as severe as what we experienced with Nick. Our struggles at times were unsurmountable. But if you are an avid reader of my blog– you know that I’ve guided you down a path and showed you how Nick has become the best version of himself given a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. Each chapter concludes with a 3:2:1 (3 Lessons I learned, 2 takeaways to use in the future and 1 question or concern I had during that particular time). At the end of the book, I’ve included my version of an appendix, with the final lessons I’ve learned on this journey. These final lessons are taken from my blog entries, that I’ve been writing since 2012.  A New Course is available for pre-order now on Amazon!

My passion is helping other families navigate this new course beyond Down syndrome. As a DS-ASD consultant, I am determined to assist families to find resources, offer support and guidance to make their journeys smoother. I hope my story opens the reader’s eyes and starts a conversation of what it is like to raise a child with the unique challenges associated with DS-ASD. In doing so, perhaps the reader might gain better understanding, awareness and compassion for families dealing with DS-ASD and other complex special needs.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

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Follow on Social Media:

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Join us on our new Facebook Page: A New Course Book Launch to get the more inside the scenes and exclusive tidbits about A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism.

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