Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. As a parent and advocate, I strive to educate others to better understand these conditions. Down syndrome awareness is about promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion of all individuals with Down syndrome.

FACTS about Down syndrome from National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS):

*Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

*There are three types of Down syndrome: trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) accounts for 95 percent of cases, translocation accounts for about 4 percent and mosaicism accounts for about 1 percent.

*Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring chromosomal condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.

*There are more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the United States.

*Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels.

*The incidence of births of children with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother. But due to higher fertility rates in younger women, 80 percent of children with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35.

*People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions. Many of these conditions are now treatable, so most people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

*A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.

*Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades — from 25 years old in 1983 to 60 years old today.

*People with Down syndrome attend school, work and participate in decisions that affect them, and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.

*All people with Down syndrome experience cognitive delays, but the effect is usually mild to moderate and is not indicative of the many strengths and talents that each individual possesses.

*Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.

More information @http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/What-Is-Down-Syndrome/

NDSS_logo

Here are a few simple ways to promote Down syndrome awareness:

*Post information and stories about individuals with Down syndrome on social media.

*Parents of a child with Down syndrome, can send updates, pictures and tell your story to your family doctor and OB/GYN. Consider becoming a Hope Advocate- where you will get a custom hope kit to distribute to your OB/GYN and family doctor. More information @https://hopestory.org/sign-up/

*Many local Down syndrome support groups have promotional materials, like books and bookmarks that can be distributed at libraries and schools.

*Down syndrome support groups have public speakers available to talk with schools, businesses, community groups, hospitals, and other organizations.

*Support or volunteer for local fundraisers like the Buddy Walk in your community @http://www.ndss.org/buddy-walk/

*Encourage your kids to volunteer for Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs through their school.

*Always use and promote “people first language” to respectively speak about a person with a disability. Individuals with Down syndrome should always be referred to as people first.  Instead of “a Down syndrome child,” it should be “a child with Down syndrome.” Also avoid “Down’s child” and describing the condition as “Down’s,” as in, “He has Down’s.”

down-syndrome-awareness-month

Thank you for supporting Down syndrome awareness this month! That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us 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, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

DS-ASD~Fall Update 2019

DS-ASD~Fall Update 2019

Happy first day of fall 🙂! Here is an update on my son, Nick who is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). My son attends an adult developmental training day program which he enjoys very much. The program has a nice variety of learning and enrichment activities incorporated throughout the day. Outside this program, Nick enjoys spending time with his personal support respite workers in the community going out to eat, movies, parks and other activities.

Some of the highlights of Nick’s day program are community trips, including shopping, visits to parks and local amusements along with going out to eat. In house, the curriculum includes learning centers, communication, functional living skills, recreation, music, movies, gardening, crafts, cooking, Friday fun days and other themes round out this program each week.

Here are a few pictures of Nick at his adult developmental training program:

nick sweeping keeler      Nick nature walk keeler     Nick visor keeler      Nick learning centers keeler

nick connect game

On 9/11 the clients at his program made thank you cards for local first responders. Here’s Nick giving cards to a police officer:

Nick and APD

Nick’s verbal skills are limited, due to having the additional diagnosis of autism and verbal apraxia of speech along with Down syndrome. He uses an Augmentative and Alternative (AAC) device and picture exchange system (PECS) to communicate his needs. There are two ways that I know that he likes going to his day program. Over the weekend, he packed his lunch and put it in his backpack, which he set by the front door. He also took the school icon out of his PECS book and puts it on a Velcro task strip and handed it to me. It’s nice to see how much he wants to go to this program. The routine and structure helps individuals with Down syndrome, autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities navigate their days successfully.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick and see more pictures of him in action, along with other stories:

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

Blog #231~Special Needs Tips for Making Accommodations in the Classroom

Blog #231 Special Needs Tips for Making Accommodations in the Classroom

Last week, I focused on 5 back to school tips for special needs parents. For today’s post I want to put a lens on what accommodations look like and their importance in the classroom setting for a student with special needs.

Accommodations are changes that remove barriers and provide a student with equal access to learning. As a parent, it is essential to make sure that agreed upon accommodations and supports are written into your child’s IEP, and in place before the first day of school.

My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years he had many accommodations to support his learning and navigation in the school environment. Nick didn’t walk until age 3 1/2 years old due to low muscle tone (a trait of having Down syndrome). In pre-school, the IEP team made an accommodation to transport Nick from point A to B in the building, and in/out of the car line.  Accommodations can come in many forms to support intellectual and developmental disabilities.

visual support ring

Here are some examples of accommodations that can be used in the classroom:

*Communication Notebook and daily reports sent back and forth from school to home

*Classroom Schedule,  Individual Visual Schedules and Social Stories

Nick fist bump AID                   social story working desk

*Alternative Media Tools- Flash cards, board games, computer programs, learning apps/games, AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) and assistive technology devices, PECS (picture exchange communication), sign language, etc.

nick aac

*Sensory Tools help with self-regulation- Figits, stress balls, pencil toppers, tangle puzzles, weighted vests or lap pads, nubby sit cushions, stability balls, etc.

alternative seating

*Motor Breaks and Sensory/Quiet Corners– Build breaks into a student’s schedule. Some can be motor breaks or a sensory/quiet break depending on the need. Equip with items such as rocking or bean bag chairs, mini-trampolines, swings, weighted blankets, noise cancelling earphones, need a break icon etc.

*Visual aids, worksheets and paraprofessionals/aides to assist to accompany lesson objectives and test taking.

*Transition tools- Early hall passing before the bell rings, transition objects, visual schedules, visual timers, etc.

transition timer

*Choice boards to encourage decision making and independent learning skills.

*Work and Reward Charts:

working for chart   first then work

Building in accommodations and supports into your student’s IEP and classroom setting help enhance learning in a positive school environment. Often, individuals with autism and a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, like my son, thrive with the use of visual prompts to navigate their days more smoothly. The right accommodations make it possible to have a successful learning environment that is less stressful.

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

Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Back to school helpful tips

It’s the time of year when parents get busy preparing their kids for the new school year. There is added stress and things to consider when you have a child who has intellectual and developmental disabilities. You can help your child by planning ahead, getting organized and putting visual supports in place before school starts.

Here are 5 tips to ensure a smooth start to the new school year for your child with special needs: https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/haircuts-and-special-needs-child/

Navigating the new school year, which may include changes in staff, venues and classmates can be challenging. But with careful preparation, parents can guide their child to have a successful start, with less anxiety and more confidence!

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

DS-ASD~What To Do When It’s More Than Just Down Syndrome

DS-ASD~ What To Do When It’s More Than Just Down Syndrome

If you are a parent, teacher, caregiver of extended family member of an individual who has Down syndrome, you are aware of how challenging it is to hit those developmental milestones. There are even more speech deficits, sensory integration problems and challenging behaviors associated with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). My son Nick is 25 years old and has DS-ASD. Years ago we suspected that his behaviors and speech delays were perhaps more than just Down syndrome. We got a clinical, medical evaluation to determine that he also had autism. Getting the secondary diagnosis enabled us to receive additional services and support.

DS-ASD Ribbon

Additional Services and Support for DS-ASD:

Speech and Augmentative Alternative Communication

Behavior Support Plan (BSP) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Specialized Training for Toileting

Federal and State Funding for Respite Care and Equipment

Support Groups for DS-ASD families online and on Facebook

Besides the additional services and support, we got validation that our son’s challenging behaviors and speech deficits were more than just Down syndrome. This gave us a peace of mind as a family, that we were no longer alone on this new path.

To read more about additional services, support and links related to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) click here:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2016/09/12/blog-155more-than-just-down-syndrome/

Getting the secondary diagnosis of autism opened up new avenues for our son to get help with communication and tackle the unique behaviors that hindered his progress both at home and school. This made a huge difference in all aspects of his life and ours. It’s a very different path than just Down syndrome, but with support your child and family can navigate it more smoothly.  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, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

DS-ASD Behavior Management

DS-ASD Behavior Management

smile emoji thumbs up

Behavior problems are common for individuals with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Speech deficits may cause a child to exhibit unwanted behaviors to express emotions of frustration and not being heard. I’ve experienced many behaviors with my son Nick, who is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD. While Nick continues to challenge me with undesirable behaviors, I have learned a lot about how to better manage them. This week, here are 5 steps you can take to discover the causes of a problem behavior and prevent it from occurring.

Click here to learn how you can better manage behaviors associated with individuals having a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/08/06/blog-212ds-asd-behavior-management/

Challenging behaviors like throwing, dropping and breaking items are tough to deal with, but once you determine what function this behavior serves, you can put a plan in place to curtail it. A good BCBA certified behavior specialist can guide you through the process by doing a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) and creating a positive Behavior Support Plan (BSP). Getting on top of these behaviors will create a calmer and less frustrating living environment for the whole family.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nickdsautism/

Twitter @tjunnerstall

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Fun Side of Nick, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

DS-ASD~ Summer Vacation Highlights

DS-ASD~ Summer Vacation Highlights

OBX flags 2019

We are back after a two week vacation from Virginia and the Outer Banks, NC. It was so relaxing to be off the grid and enjoy time with family. My son Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). As a family, we have always made a commitment to travel with our son. It can be challenging for a child with special needs to navigate airports, hotels and unfamiliar venues. But there are things you can put in place to make vacations go smoother…..

In my last blog entry you can access my top 7 vacation travel tips for families: https://nickspecialneeds.com/2019/06/17/ds-asd7-vacation-tips-for-special-needs-families/ 

Here are some of the highlights from our summer vacation in Virginia and the Outer Banks (OBX):

In Virginia, we enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Nick’s Aunt Ali and Uncle Ron with beautiful views, kayaking on the James River, great food and relaxing in the peaceful country…..

 

Highlights from the Outer Banks, in Duck, OBX:

At OBX we enjoyed beach and pool time, great company, delicious meals and a nice birthday celebration dinner on the sound side of OBX. Nick did well tolerating the sandy beaches this year, and spent more time than ever with us as a family!  We put Nick in tennis shoes to make his way out on the hot sand, with a texture that tends to bother him from a sensory standpoint. He did well hanging out both under the umbrella and out at the water’s edge……….

Nick and Dad OBX beach 2019   Nick and Anna OBX 2019

Dinner on the sound side of OBX at Aqua Restaurant and Spa, including Nick with his Dad & Mom, Uncle Ron & Aunt Ali, Cousins Anna & Sam and Nick’s brother and girlfriend Hank & Kristin…..

Aqua Restaurant and Spa features excellent food, wine, spa treatments and sunsets. Thank you both- to my son Hank for treating me to a pedicure overlooking the sound, and to Ali for the relaxing (and much needed) Swedish massage. As a mother of a child with special needs, it’s crucial to take time for some TLC and pamper yourself. Moving forward, I’m going to make it a priority to do this more than once a year on my birthday. It is good for the soul! 🙂

Sunrise at Duck, OBX….

OBX sunrise 2019

We are very grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to spend vacation each summer with Ali and Ron hosting in Virginia and OBX. Anna, thank you for cooking and introducing us to some wonderful & tasty vegan dishes. The familiar venues help Nick feel secure in his surroundings. This predictability helps him to be less anxious on vacations and makes for a more relaxing experience for all of us.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

To see more pictures of the trip and Nick click below to follow on social media:

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/nickdsautism/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/tjunnerstall

Facebook Page and Pinterest- Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

 

 

 

 

 

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

DS-ASD~Mom,Take Care of Yourself

DS-ASD~ Mom, Take Care of Yourself

It’s May and the school year is almost done. This month is busy, and parents get pulled in many directions. Being a mom of a special needs child for 25 years, I know first hand the guilt associated with not doing or being enough for my family. My son Nick is 25 and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years, I’ve learned how to cope with the stress and guilt, which can be debilitating. You are no good to your family if you don’t take care of yourself.

Mom quote first step

My advice to moms out there is this- Cut yourself some slack and take care of yourself.  Life is not perfect, none of us are; just let go of that notion. 

Here is a blog I wrote a couple of years ago with 3 tips on how to take care of yourself:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/05/08/blog-174-momtake-care-of-yourself/

mom quote body, mind soul

You can’t pour from and empty cup, so remember to keep yours filled. Your family needs you at your best and you will have more to offer them. Make it a priority to carve out some time each day to take care of yourself.

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, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

DS-ASD~IEP’s and Advocating for Your Child

Do you have an IEP coming up for your child? Are you currently having concerns about your child’s IEP? Click on the following link to learn how to advocate for your child and collaborate with the school IEP team more effectively:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/tag/parent-input-in-iep/

Parents are an equal and vital part of the IEP process and team. Remember you know your child the best. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick, age 25 with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD):

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 #230~Special Needs Moms, Advice from the Front Lines

Blog #230~Special Needs Moms, Advice from the Front Lines

autism war girl

I feel like I should be doing more.

My child isn’t reaching his IEP goals.

Will my child ever get toilet trained?

I’m not spending enough time with my other kids.

I can’t keep up, I’m exhausted.

Parenting a child with special needs brings on additional challenges and stress. As a mom of a special needs child for 25 years, I’ve had negative feelings of uncertainty, resentment, frustration, sadness, inadequacy and loneliness. Such feelings lead to the worst of all; guilt. We are only human, and it’s understandable to have those emotions as a mom.

mombie

My son, Nick is 25 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  I  tried my best not to compare his growth and milestones to other children.   Nick had very low muscle tone, which is a trait associated with Down syndrome:

*He didn’t sit independently until well after age one.

*Nick didn’t walk or chew hard textured foods until he was 3 1/2 years old.

*Worst yet, he wasn’t independently toilet trained until age 13.

There were many times where those feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty creeped in over the years.  I questioned myself often, about what more I could do for my son. You try your best, but feel like you are coming up short.  I’ve been there many times, I get it! Take a breath and forgive yourself. There is no such thing as a perfect mom.

Nick, age 2 and his brother Hank age 4…….

AIOtmp (19)

So here is my advice from the frontlines.  First of all, remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. When you feel like you are alone, seek out a support system.  There are many  Down syndrome support groups across the country, online and on Facebook that are specific to the diagnosis of your child. Find that group of parents, going down a similar path as you are; they are the ones who “GET IT”.

sign support

When you feel lost, inadequate and overwhelmed, ask for help. Find the experts, and ask other parents, They will give you information and strategies to better equip  yourself to deal with the unique challenges of raising a child with special needs.

help button

Another struggle and dialogue that plays inside our heads as moms is, “But I don’t have time for me.”  Taking some “me time”, when the laundry is piled up, dishes to be washed and a myriad of other chores on the list, leads to feelings of guilt. But, it’s important to pull away, and re-charge your battery. Take time to do something you enjoy. Go have a cup of coffee or take a walk with a girlfriend, exercise, garden, go to Target and walk every aisle; do that thing  that will help restore you.

Pour Cup

Take care of yourself, Mom! When you feel overwhelmed find a support system, ask for help, and remember  it’s okay to disengage and recharge yourself. There is no such thing as being the perfect mother, so take it easy on yourself.  That’s my advice for special needs moms, on the front lines and what’s in my noggin this week.

Happy Mother’s Day 🙂

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall