Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #225~Autism and Holiday Stress Tips

Blog #225~Autism and Holiday Stress Tips

Let’s face it, holidays are stressful.  Navigating the Christmas season with a child who has autism is even more demanding on families.  My son, Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  We’ve had our share of challenges, as do many families who care for an individual with special needs.  But, here are 10 ways to ease holiday stress and manage the upcoming weeks of festivities.

Keep Calm Christmas

10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips:

1.Start early, get as much done ahead of time with holiday preparations.

2.Pare down where you can, whether it’s decorations, presents, or parties. It’s okay to   say no or bow out early.  Flexibility is key!

3.Don’t rush, allow enough time to get from point A to point B. Give more notice when it is time to transition. This will help to avoid meltdowns.

4.When possible, try to stick to routines.

5.Avoid surprises, prepare your child ahead of time.  Make social stories using visuals or written words (depending on your child’s level of comprehension). This will act as a script for your child to follow. If they can see what’s expected, they will understand the plan and lessen anxiety levels.

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6.Provide pictures of family members and friends that you don’t see that often prior to visiting them.  Notify family and friends of sensitivities and sensory behaviors your child may exhibit.  Nick makes vocal stim sounds and taps objects which helps him to self-regulate.  Some individuals with autism do not like hugs or fail to make eye contact.  Family members might engage instead with a special handshake, high-five or Nick’s favorite, the elbow bump 🙂

Nick and jenna elbow bump

7.When traveling or lodging outside your home, pack comfort items like toys, music, movies, electronic devices and snacks.  Have these readily available.

8. Give your child opportunities to help out. Heavy work activities provide sensory input that is calming.  Here are a few Nick enjoys…..

 

9.Know your child’s limits.  There is so much sensory overload this time of year with excessive crowds, noises, lights and cramming too much into a day. This can be very overwhelming.  So, watch for signs of distress (Nick will pinch his own cheeks, yell and say I’m mad).  Redirect with a break icon, and seek out a quiet spot before activities begin.  It may be necessary bailout here before behaviors escalate, to avoid a meltdown.

10.Allow for down time, to kick your feet up and relax.  Weighted blankets are great for deep pressure that can help to calm the sensory system.  I recently found out these blankets are available at Target.  Hmmmmm……that sounds like a good excuse to go to Target. 🙂

Disruption in routines, schedules, and stimulating environments make for a holiday filled with fraught for individuals with autism and other special needs.  But preparing your child and having a bailout plan, will help keep the stress levels down, making the Christmas season more merry and bright.  How do you to keep calm this time of year?  Please share your secrets to surviving the holidays in the comments!

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

~Teresa 

Follow Nick:

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Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting

Blog #170~Teaching Independent Living Skills

Blog #170~Teaching Independent Living Skills

Brushing your teeth, bathing, dressing, and doing household chores, are all a part of what a parent teaches their child.  But what if you are a parent of a child with special needs?  How do you teach these independent living skills?

Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3)

My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  He has learned many self-help skills, and assists around the house with several chores.  These independent living skills give him a sense of accomplishment and pride.  It also takes the burden off me as his mom.

So how do you get started?  First, identify areas that you want to work on with your child.  Pick just one skill, that your child can do with assistance.  This skill should have value and interest to them.  Take for instance the task of washing your hands.  This was something my son liked to do because he enjoys running the faucets. 😉  The next step is to break down the task into simple steps.  Take these simple steps and determine what supports are needed to teach this skill.  For a child that has autism, it helps greatly to provide visual supports.  This can be written instructions, using picture sequences, or video modeling.

Picture sequence for washing hands….

handwashing routine

When using picture sequences, determine with your child’s teacher, if it’s more effective to use the style above, or actual photographs of the sequence.  Each child is different in how they can understand pictures. You can find many picture sequences on Google Images, or ask your child’s support teacher to make you some.  Another option is to use an iPad, and download apps that show these sequences.  There are tons apps available, here is just one of many:

iPad App called iDo Hygiene (free app)….

iDo hygiene

Once the visual supports are in place, you can guide your child step by step, using “hand over hand technique” to teach the motor skills.  As your child develops these skills, begin to fade back, by point prompting to each picture.  Be sure to use lots of praise and cheer them on their successes.

Here are a few examples of other self-help skills that you can work on with your child around the house:

*Hygiene skills like brushing teeth, showering, washing face and hands, brushing hair, toileting, shaving.

*Recycling and can crushing

*Shredding

*Help with laundry

Nick laundry

*Unload the dishwasher

*Set the table

*Make the bed

*Fold and put away laundry

*Water plants

Nick watering plants

*Cleaning windows and countertops

*Dusting

*Unload groceries and put them away

Nick toilet paper

*Cooking

*Vacuuming

Many of these household chores provide great sensory input.  Push and pull activities like carrying laundry baskets and vacuuming, are excellent examples.  Heavy work provides proprioceptive input to the muscles & joints.  This can be very calming, organizing, and regulating, decreasing stress and anxiety.

Not all of the skills above are Nick’s favorites to do.  As a parent,  you can determine which activities are more motivating for your child.  Focus on those first.  Nick really enjoys vacuuming.  Another strength Nick has is matching, and remembering where things go.  So for him, unloading the dishwasher and putting groceries away were both easier and motivating for him to do.

Teaching your child independent living skills, will strengthen their abilities to hold a job in the future.

Nick doing volunteer work at GiGi’s Playhouse…

nick-cleaning-gigis

It also fosters a sense of fulfillment and gratification for them, as well.  So, pick one task, roll up your sleeves and get to work. 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

Blog #110~Autism Holiday Survival Tips

Blog #110~Autism Holiday Survival Tips

The Christmas holidays can be a land mine for individuals who have autism.  The changes in schedules, crowds, noises and the lights can result in way too much external stimuli to process. My son, Nick is 20 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  As I flip the calendar to December, I can feel my anxiety level begin to arise. We all handle holiday stress in different ways. The movie, Christmas Vacation conveys this so well.

“I don’t know what to say.  It’s Christmas and we’re all in misery”

Christmas vacation cig pic

Here are 10 tips for surviving the holidays with your child who has autism:

  1. Start early, get as much done ahead of time with holiday preparations.
  2. Don’t rush, allow enough time to get from point A to point B. Give more notice when it is time to transition. This will help to avoid meltdowns.
  3. Be flexible and relax your expectations over the holidays.
  4. Pare down where you can, whether it’s decorations, presents, or parties. It’s okay to say no or bow out early.
  5. When possible try to stick to routines. Sometimes it’s easier to hire a babysitter or respite worker to stay at home with your child while you go to holiday parties.
  6. Make social stories using visuals or written words (depending on your child’s level of comprehension). This will act as a script for your child to follow.  If they can see what’s expected, they will understand the plan and won’t be as anxious.

Task strip for a trip to the mall…..

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Task strip for airline travel……

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7. Provide pictures of family members and friends that you don’t see that often prior to visiting them. If your child doesn’t like to hug then try a special handshake, high five or Nick’s favorite….

Elbow Bump 🙂

elbows

8. Give your child opportunities to help out. Allow them to make choices between two things. This gives them more control during the holidays, (when we all feel a bit out of control at times).

Nick helps out with the luggage, which gives him heavy sensory work….

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9. Find a quiet place for your child to unwind. Most of us know how to do this on our own (bubble bath, crack open a bottle of wine, exercise, etc.). But a child with autism can get overstimulated and not know how to decompress. They may need you to help them to settle down and relax.

10. Get rest when you can and take time to pause and reflect on the blessings of the season.

Christmas vacation reflection

I hope these survival tips will help your family and child with autism.  As you flip over the calendar to December today, take a deep breath.  Your child will be feeding off your cues, so……

Keep Calm Christmas

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Christmas 2

Nick and his brother Hank in 1999