Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Autism Awareness Month: Final Thoughts

Autism Awareness Month: Final Thoughts

autism awareness 2016

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I’ve written all month how awareness is not enough. Individuals with autism and their families need understanding, acceptance and inclusion in society. Individuals on the autism spectrum (ASD) need various levels of support to become as independent as possible. This type of support can’t be provided without funding.

Here’s a sobering fact- “In the documentary, Autism: Coming of age it is reported that in the next 10 to 15 years, an estimated 800,000 children with autism will age out of the school system and transition into adulthood. Then, they will look to ill-prepared state and federal governments for the support services and resources to meet their many needs — a situation autism experts refer to as the “coming tsunami.

tsunami

Slapping an autism awareness ribbon on a car, isn’t enough anymore. Individuals with autism need various levels of support, and a person centered planning (PCP) to prepare for adult life.

person centered planning

“Wikipedia defines person-centered planning (PCP) as a set of approaches designed to assist an individual to plan their life and supports. It is most often used for life planning with people with learning and developmental disabilities, though recently it has been advocated as a method of planning personalized support with many other sections of society who find themselves disempowered by traditional methods of service delivery, including children, people with physical disabilities, people with mental health issues and older people. PCP is accepted as evidence based practice in many countries throughout the world.”

Person Centered Planning (PCP) is individualized. It can help identify opportunities for employment, community participation/enrichment activities and living arrangements for adult life.  PCP can be done with the school IEP team, to prepare the student for a bright future based on their strengths and needs.

Autism is not going anywhere, the wave is coming in hard. There is a staggering amount of families on waiting lists for state funding who are aging out of the school system. My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). He required a high level of support. Currently, Nick attends an adult developmental training program that is covered by funds through a state waiver. All across the country thousands of families are on long waiting lists, to seek such funds to support their child with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The conversation to advocate for individuals with autism must continue well past April before that tsunami wave hits the shore!

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 Check 4/27 Facebook post to watch the documentary, Autism: Coming of Age
Instagram @nickdsautism
Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Wandering and Autism: 7 Prevention Strategies

 Wandering and Autism: 7 Prevention Strategies

April is National Autism Awareness Month.  According to the National Autism Association, “Nearly half of children with autism engage in wandering behavior. Wandering occurs across all settings, under every type of adult supervision”.

Eloping picture and definition

There are safety precautions and prevention strategies families can put in place to secure a child that may run, bolt or wander.  I’ve had a few scares with my son over the years.  My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Nick has no concept of the danger, and he can be fast; so we are always on high alert both at home and in the community.

A few years back, I wrote a blog addressing elopement which includes 7 prevention strategies. Here is our story of a scary day when Nick went missing, and what we’ve put in place to avoid wandering since then.

Click to read 7 Prevention Strategies for Wandering and Autism: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2013/07/01/blog-60wandering-and-autism/

Wandering and autism

Wandering is a real risk for individuals with autism and other special needs. Putting a plan with prevention strategies in place at home, school and in the community can reduce the risk of your child to elope and provide security for you as a family.  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, 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 Behavior/ ABA, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #179~Down syndrome and Autism-Unlocking Your Child’s Potential

Blog #179~Down syndrome and Autism-Unlocking Your Child’s Potential

When your child has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, the game changes.  Speech may be limited or even non-verbal, which may lead to behavior problems.  Sensory issues can be extreme and interfere with social interactions and learning.  My son, Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  His speech is limited, and he is a sensory seeker.  Over the years, with the help of some amazing teachers, therapists, and autism behaviorist specialists, he has developed skills which have allowed him to contribute both working in his adult day program, and here at home.

So how do you find the key to unlock your child’s potential?

padlock-unlocked_318-40940The key lies in identifying your child’s strengths, and working to build upon them.  First of all, just because my son’s speech is limited doesn’t mean he can’t communicate.  One of Nick’s assets is his receptive language, which is the ability to understand information.  Many of his goals in his IEP (Individualized Education Plan), were planned around using this strength when he was in school.  Nick was able to develop skills to become more independent in self-help, and other jobs both at home and school.  These skills were enhanced by using educational materials and supports that were written into his IEP.  Such materials included a PECS book (Picture Exchange Communication System) with training for staff, parents and child, Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices,  task strips, social stories, a picture schedule, video modeling, and a reward system.  All of these supports helped Nick to navigate his routine and built upon his functional and independent livings skills.

APE swimming 006 (4)

Besides his receptive language, Nick’s other strengths are his desire to please and take the initiative.  He is a taskmaster!  When Nick was younger, his teachers pointed out how good he was at matching.  A lot of his goals were structured around this.  Nick has always had a keen eye, and notices where everything goes around the house.  Anytime the batteries died on one of his musical toys, he would go to the kitchen drawer, pull out the screwdriver and hand it to me with the toy.  As he grew older, I recall him nudging his older brother over to help unload the dishwasher.  He knew which cabinet every single plate, cup, pot, pan and utensil were stored.  Shortly thereafter, I let him take over the chore (with no complaints from his older brother, Hank). 🙂

Nick still takes great pride in unloading the dishwasher today!

Nick dishwasher two

Here are some other ways the taskmaster takes initiative:

Nick getting out ingredients and utensils for his salad….

Nick dinner prep

As soon as he saw the pan of water on the stove, he went to the pantry and pulled out the ingredients to make pasta…..

Nick past cooking

Using his strength of taking the initiative, we have built upon this to create other jobs both at home and in the community.  When he was in school, his teachers recognized his sensory seeking needs and channeled them by doing “heavy work”.  An occupational therapist can assist with ideas to implement a sensory diet into your child’s routine. Nick likes to throw and swipe things (and still does).  It has helped to find activities with heavy work or that mimic this sensory need.

Here are a few of the jobs that does:

*Recycling (replacement behavior for throwing)

*Can crushing (sensory and motor activity and replacement behavior for throwing)

*Carry laundry basket and load washing machine (heavy work/ organizing)

*Put away groceries (organizing activity)

*Empty Dishwasher (organizing and sensory activity)

*Cleaning/ wiping down countertops and windows (organizing activity)

*Vacuuming (heavy work which is calming)

Nick working at a residence facility in high school….

Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3)

Nick doing volunteer work at GiGi’s playhouse with in his current adult day program…

nick-cleaning-gigis

There is so much your child can learn when you identify their strengths and unique talents.  When you find what motivates your child, you can build and expand upon it.  Work with your child’s IEP team, therapists and autism specialist, to identify those areas.  Then together as a team, create a plan with specific and measurable goals, that will enable your child to grow and be successful.  Unlock your child’s potential, and watch them soar!  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