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

Blog #246~ DS-ASD at the NDSC Convention 2022

Blog #246~DS-ASD at the NDSC Convention 2022

Being a parent of a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), can often feel isolating. The complex needs of speech deficits, sensory and behavior concerns related to co-occurring DS-ASD make parents feel like they don’t fit into the Down syndrome or autism support groups. For the longest time I avoided going to the Down syndrome functions and conferences for this very reason. I know that other families have felt the same about not fitting into the DS groups. It is a lonely feeling. My son Nick is 28 years old and has DS-ASD. What I have since learned is that you have to align yourself with like minded individuals who truly understand this unique journey. In addition, it’s important to process the secondary diagnosis of autism with Down syndrome and get to a place of acceptance in your own time. While this path is different, there is both help and hope now available compared to 15+ years ago when Nick got the secondary diagnosis.

There was much to celebrate at the National Down Syndrome Congress 50th Annual Convention (NDSC) held in New Orleans last month in person. This week, I want to share this experience and why it was so important for DS-ASD families and those wanting to learn more about a dual diagnosis.

Since the publication of my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism in 2020, I have been presenting information about my journey with Nick and providing strategies, tools and interventions to support individuals with DS-ASD.

Click here to order:  https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

The Deep Dive presentation was a comprehensive presentation: Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinical Features and Treatment and Intervention Strategies, was led by physician Dr. Nicole Baumer, psychologist Dr. Lina Patel and myself.

This presentation provided valuable information on how to tease out signs and symptoms of what autism looks like in individuals with Down syndrome. In addition, we offered many strategies and interventions to support communication, behavior and sensory needs associated with co-occurring DS-ASD.

The NDSC exhibit hall was a high energy whirlwind of agencies and rock stars of the Down syndrome world. The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection booth was busy with our staff and board of directors answering questions, listening to stories and connecting with others wanting to know more about a dual diagnosis.

The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection: A Lifeline for a Lifetime more at http://ds-asd-connection.org/
The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection’s Rock Stars: Executive Director Charlotte Gray and President, Jeanne Doherty fielding questions and networking at the NDSC Exhibit Hall booth.

Some more of the Rock Stars of the Down Syndrome World at NDSC Convention 2022:

Heather Avis author, podcaster and advocate with The Lucky Few more at https://www.heatheravis.com/about
Noah’s Dad and Hope Story Advocates Rick and Abbie Smith more at https://hopestory.org
Advocate and author Tim Harris more at https://www.globaldownsyndrome.org/news-community/quincy-jones-exceptional-advocacy-award-recipients/tim-harris/

Sophia Sanchez, actress, model, author, advocate and influencer more at http://www.sofia-sanchez.com/bio
Trailblazer, advocate and author David Egan more at https://davideganadvocacy.com
GiGi and Nancy Gianni of Gi’Gi’s Playhouse. More at https://www.gigisplayhouse.org/
Ruby’s Rainbow provides scholarships to individuals with DS for higher education. More at https://rubysrainbow.org/about/

The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection hosted a panel discussion, DS-ASD The Real Deal a Parent Panel, which provided a safe space to ask questions, share ideas and strategies. The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection is the gold standard, national organization serving the DS-ASD community since 2007. More at http://ds-asd-connection.org/

The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection Parent Panel at NDSC 2022

The final presentation that I gave was, a DS-ASD 3-21 Toolkit of Strategies which offered practical ideas, take home strategies and ways to support individuals with a dual diagnosis. These included the three areas impacted by autism in Down syndrome including communication, behavior and sensory needs. One example of a strategy that I suggested, is to teach your child the concept of time and having to wait. How do you teach this?

*Use visual supports like PECS icons/or a clock picture and non-verbal gesture of pointing to your wrist, indicating a wrist watch.

*Pair this with a timer app like Countdown Timer or Time Timer.

* Always introduce this concept by teaching first in low stress environments and build from there. Ex/ Low stress: Waiting for shower water to warm up: “Good waiting” and point to wrist. Then, build to higher stress: Child is hungry and there is extra long line at Taco Bell. You see that they are impatient and showing stress. Point to wrist and/or set the timer app, reinforce “Good listening Nick thank you for waiting, yay”!

This is just one of many ideas from my DS-ASD 3-21 toolkit. 🙂

Teresa Unnerstall, author, speaker and advocate at NDSC presentation

I would like to commend the National Down Syndrome Congress for including these important DS-ASD presentations at the NDSC convention. It is so critical for families and professionals to see what autism looks like in Down syndrome and how to effectively provide interventions, strategies and support for the additional challenges for DS-ASD individuals and their families.

Thank you NDSC for allowing me the opportunity to share information, help and inspire others who are on this journey. The DS-ASD community appreciates having a representation at the NDSC convention and in your organization.

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

~Teresa

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

Blog #232~Online Links for Special Needs Parents

Blog #232~Online Links for Special Needs Parents

Support hands

This week, I’ve provided a list of online links, to support special needs parents. These links are for parents of individuals with Down syndrome, autism, a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities:

Down syndrome support links:

Down syndrome awareness ribbon

http://www.ndss.org The National Down Syndrome Society is the national advocate for the value, acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

http://www.ndsccenter.org The country’s oldest national organization for people with Down syndrome, their families and the professionals who work with them.

http://www.nads.org NADS is the National Association for Down syndrome and a solid support group in the Chicago area. There is also more links for dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism here (including a complete list with signs and symptoms for parents wondering if their child has more than just Down syndrome).

http://www.gigiplayhouse.org Down syndrome Awareness Centers all over the Midwest and expanding to New York, NY and Mexico. These centers provide play, fitness and social groups.

http://www.noahsdad.com Support and inspiration for parents who have a baby or child with Down syndrome. There is some great information and useful tips and links and positively focused. Noah’s Dad has also launched Hope Story to raise awareness and provide additional support.

https://hopestory.org Hope Story – Down Syndrome Diagnosis Support and Resources exists to give support, encouragement and hope to parents whose child have received a Down syndrome diagnosis; to provide free resources to the medical community to help them deliver a Down syndrome diagnosis, and to find ways for parents of children born with Down syndrome to use their unique story to bring hope to others.

http://www.futureofdowns.com Run by parents of children with Down’s syndrome. Covers a wide range of topics regarding babies and children with Down’s syndrome, pregnant and in need of advice on screening and tests or have just received a positive diagnosis following an amnio or CVS.

Autism support links:

autism ribbon

http://www.facebook.com/autismdiscussionpage This page was developed by Bill Nason, MS, LLP to discuss tools that help children on the spectrum. This site provides solid information and strategies related to autism.

http://www.autismspeaks.org Autism Speaks provides information and advocacy and good general information and links.

http://www.autism-society.org The Autism Society improves the lives of all affected by autism through education, advocacy, services, research and support.

http://www.tacanow.org Talk About Curing Autism and has a ton of links and articles along with coffee groups.

http://www.myautismteam.com Online support group for parents to share daily trials, triumphs, questions and recommendations.

http://www.mayer-johnson.com Boardmaker software for assistive technology/AAC devices.

http://www.teeach.com Information on TEEACH materials

More links for special needs parents:

https://thearc.org The Arc: For People With Intellectual and Developmental- Information and referral services, individual advocacy to address education, employment, health care and other concerns, self-advocacy initiatives, residential support, family support, employment programs, leisure and recreational programs.

https://www.parentingspecialneeds.org Parenting Special Needs Magazine share information and inspiration for parents of children with special needs.

https://www.woodbinehouse.com/ Publisher of the Special-Needs Collection…books for parents, children, teachers, and other professionals.

https://www.catherinewhitcher.com IEP Coach Catherine Whitcher works with families and educators, provides IEP coach training, blogs and podcasts to help navigate IEP’s.

http://www.pottytrainingsolutions.com Gathers the most common problems and their solutions to help take the stress out of this major milestone.

http://www.easterseals.com Easter Seals offers programs, training and equipment for families.

wwww.bridges4kids.org Great, practical resources for special needs families.

http://www.specialedadvocacy.org Advocacy site for parents and teachers

Down syndrome and autism links:

DS-ASD Ribbon

https://http://www.nickspecialneeds.com My site provides solid information on topics specific to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD), including supports, communication and speech/feeding issues, occupational therapy, behavior/ ABA and much more.

http://www.ds-asd-connection.org Offers good information related to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

http://www.theupsideofdowns.org Provides support, advocacy and information specific to a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

Facebook groups for DS-ASD There are several Facebook groups directly related to Down syndrome and autism. These groups are a safe place to share information, ask questions, and help each other. Visit my Facebook page- Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism. You can also type in Down syndrome and autism into the search box to access additional groups.

Online support groups and links provide information, assistance, resources and encouragement, for parents who have a child with Down syndrome, autism, a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. As a parent, remember you don’t have to navigate the special needs path alone, help is out there!

That’s what is in my noggin this week! 🙂
~Teresa

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

World Down Syndrome Day: 3/21

World Down Syndrome Day: 3/21

On March 21st, World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD), we celebrate and raise awareness around the world of what Down syndrome is and the vital role people with Down syndrome play in our society.

World Down-Syndrome-Day

Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome occurs when there are 3 copies of chromosome 21. That is why WDSD is held on March 21st each year.  This day highlights the importance of promoting awareness, understanding, inclusion and acceptance for individuals with Down syndrome.

Read 3 easy ways you can help to promote WDSD:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2018/03/19/blog-200world-down-syndrome-day/ 

Let’s celebrate the uniqueness of individuals with Down syndrome on 3/21 and everyday!  Don’t forget to rock your funky socks on Thursday. 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow my son Nick:

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Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

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

Blog #200~World Down Syndrome Day

Blog #200~World Down Syndrome Day

“World Down Syndrome Day is Wednesday, March 21, 2018 and its purpose is to raise awareness around the world of what Down syndrome is and the vital role people with Down syndrome play in our society. The day has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012 and the date — always on the 21st day of the 3rd month — is meant to highlight the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome, which is the cause of Down syndrome.”

World Down-Syndrome-Day

World Down Syndrome Day is an opportunity for all of us to promote awareness, understanding and inclusion.  Lack of knowledge and understanding can prevent people with Down syndrome from being accepted and included in society.  The message is simple, every individual is unique, we all have value, and everyone has the right to live a happy and fulfilling life.  I heard a great quote the other day, “Down syndrome is just another way that humanity presents itself”.  

DSAwarenessMagnet

So, how can we promote awareness, understanding, inclusion and acceptance? 

Three Easy Ways To Promote World Down Syndrome Day:

1. Promote Down syndrome awareness on social media.  Rock your funky socks and T-shirts.  Let’s see them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Share inspiring, beautiful pictures, stories and videos of individuals with Down syndrome.  Tell us how an individual with Down syndrome has affected your life. Use hashtags, here are a few suggestions-  #wdsd #downsyndrome #321 #abilities #inclusion #funkysocks #downsyndromerocks #PROVETHEMWRONG

Nick Prove Them Wrong

My son Nick (pictured above) is 24 years old, and has Down syndrome and autism.  We’ve joined Noah’s Dad-Down syndrome awareness in their campaign #PROVETHEMWRONG.  More information at http://noahsdad.com/

2. Educate others about Down syndrome and encourage the use of person first language.  This means saying, “a person or individual with Down syndrome”.

Do NOT say:
* “A Down syndrome baby, child or kid.”
* “Down’s baby, child or kid”
* “Down’s”
* “He or she has Downs”

3. Encourage inclusion in your community.  What opportunities are available for meaningful jobs, volunteer work and other contributions for individuals with Down syndrome?  Are there any fundraisers like the Buddy Walk, funky sock campaign or other local DS support group activities, that you could get involved in?  Adults teens and children can volunteer to help with programs like the Special Olympics, Best Buddies peer program, and GiGi’s Playhouse.

Nick volunteering at GiGi’s Playhouse…..

nick-cleaning-gigis

Here’s an amazing business:  Bitty & Beau’s Coffee is more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee – it’s an experience. While the shop is run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the customers love the products, they really come in for the unique customer service experience……..

bitty and beau coffee shop

Promoting awareness on social media, educating others about Down syndrome to use person first language, and finding inclusion opportunities are three great ways you can  support World Down Syndrome Day 3/21/18!  Help others to gain a better understanding, acceptance and inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome.  Let’s look past the diagnosis and see the uniqueness of each individual and their vital role to our society.  I can’t wait to see your posts on social media and rocking those funky socks for WDSD 2018!

We Help Two funky socks available at http://www.wehelptwo.com/ ………

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, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #176~ Special Needs Summer Recreation Programs

Blog #176~Special Needs Summer Recreation Programs

The heat is on!  Are you looking into programs for your child with special needs this summer?  There are many types of programs available including camps, athletic and leisure programs.  A great place to start is to contact your local park district to see if they offer any special recreation programs.  For programs in here in Illinois click on this link: http:// www.specialrecreation.org

Here are some links for special needs summer programs:

Special Olympics- http:// www.specialolympics.org

Buddy Up Tennis- http:// www.buddyuptennis.com

Top Soccer- http://www.topsoccer.us

I Can Ride Bike Camps- https://www.icanshine.org

Easter Seals- http://www.easterseals.com

Gi Gi’s Playhouse- https://www.gigisplayhouse.org

American Camp Association- https://acacamps.org

Very Well has a list of Inclusive Sports Programs- https://www.verywell.com/special-needs-sports-programs-3106922

Friendship Circle List of Camps- http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/13/25-summer-camps-for-individuals-with-special-needs/

Diveheart Scuba program- http://diveheart.org

Diveheart 2013 336

My son Nick (pictured above), is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He has participated in many of these programs over the years.  These include local library programs, Special Olympics, Challenger Baseball League, Top Soccer, adaptive swim lessons (thru the park district special needs program), Diveheart scuba and I Can Shine Bike Camp.  During the summer months he also attended ESY (Extended Summer Year) summer school.  These programs helped him to learn new skills, have a structured routine, and develop friendships.

Nick at ESY Summer School…..

 

I Can Shine Bike Camp….

photo (124)

Many of these programs are available for children with special needs throughout the U.S.  My son Nick had great experiences in participating in these programs. It never hurts to just try a new program, you never know what might be a good fit!  If you know of a program you would like to share, please contact me.  I’m always updating my resource list on this website and sharing them with other support groups.  Here’s to a great summer 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

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Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

Posted in Down syndrome

Blog #26~ Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

Down syndrome awareness month

Blog #26~ October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

Each October everything turns pink for breast cancer awareness.  Even the NFL players and referees wear pink.  Everything is illuminated including the Tower of London, The White House, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and even Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue is glowing pink.

But did you know that October is also Down syndrome Awareness Month? How much do you know about Down syndrome? Here are a few facts about Down syndrome courtesy of The 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% of cases, translocation accounts for about 4% and mosaicism accounts for about 1%.
  • 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% of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age.
  • 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 in 1983 to 60 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.

My boys, Hank and Nick 🙂

Hank Nick 001 (2)

Since this is about awareness, it is important to educate people on the appropriate language that should be used.  People with Down syndrome should always be referred to as people first. Do not say- “a Down syndrome child.” Instead say, “a child with Down syndrome.”  Here are three more improper phrases to avoid are “Down’s child” and describing the condition as “Down’s,” as in, “He has Down’s.”  Finally it should be said “Down” and not “Down’s.”  Down syndrome is named for the English physician John Langdon Down, who characterized the condition, but did not have it.

Down syndrome keep calm

Here are some great links promoting Down syndrome:

* NDSS Buddy Walks take place all over the country raising over 11 million to support local and national programs.

*Times Square jumbotron kicks off with a special Down syndrome awareness video.  Their website is at www.ndss.org.

*The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) sponsors their campaign called, “More Alike than Different.”  Check out their website at www.ndsccenter.org.

*Here in the Chicagoland area, the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) provides bookmarks and posters that can be distributed in the community to schools, libraries, book stores and businesses.  This group is based in Chicago.  For more information go to  www.nads.org.

*GiGi’s Playhouse is another wonderful group that started in the suburbs of Chicago and has grown to expand around the country. GiGi’s Playhouses are Down syndrome awareness and educational centers that provide resources, specialized teaching, and support to individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community.  They have a wonderful calendar and notecards available for purchase. More information is at www.gigisplayhouse.org.

*One of my favorite websites is www.noahsdad.com.  Noah is the cutest thing and his dad does a superior job of presenting his son in a positive light.

I hope this week provided some further insight and information about Down syndrome.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.  Most of us have been affected with or by breast cancer in some way.  I hope this month raises awareness and more funding for breast cancer and Down syndrome.  I would love to hear how a person with Down syndrome has touched your life.

My son, Nick rocks that extra chromosome! 🙂

best buddies dance

~Teresa 🙂