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

Blog #225~10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips

Blog #225~10 Autism 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. 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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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Fun Side of Nick

Nick’s World Update

 Nick’s World Update

Have you settled into 2017 yet, after the busy holiday season?  I’m so happy to be back to share Nick’s world with you!  Nick is 22 years old, and has Down syndrome and autism.  Here are some of the highlights of Big Guy’s holiday fun.

We spent the holidays at home, here in Chicago. Nick enjoyed seeing family.  He’s always happy to see his brother, Hank and share elbow bumps!

nick-and-bro-x-mas

Kibbie had a very “Meowy Christmas” 🙂

kibbie-stockings

Nick was excited to get a new iPad mini.  The new Big Grip case for the iPad mini is called the Big Grip Tweener.  It is much slimmer, more age appropriate in design, and best of all still protects as well as the original Big Grip case.

big-grip-tweener

Nick relishes a nice reflective bag almost as much, as his new iPad mini 🙂

nick-red-bag

Over the holidays, we entertained family and friends.  Nick is use to a certain schedule in the evenings.  It can be tricky to get him to stretch out the time, once the sun goes down. He was very patient and social during happy hour, and a leisurely dinner.  Inevitably, once the meal is over, he wastes no time.  He springs up, grabs his Little Debbie snack cakes and evening meds, then sets them on the kitchen island.  After dessert, he will beeline upstairs, strips off his clothes and is ready for a shower.

beelinne-pic

At the family gathering,  we tried stalling him while the desserts were being passed and the coffee was brewing.  I made the mistake of setting the Swiss Cake Rolls and meds off to the side for just a few more minutes.  Nick would have no part of this, and let it be known.  He took his iPad mini and did a huge karate chop right into the……

nick-pumpkin-pie

Nick was done!  We deflected the incident with an “uh-oh” comment and swiftly got his snack cakes back, to avoid a meltdown.  Sometimes, you have to compromise on your holiday schedule, and respect your child’s need to keep a consistent routine.

After the holidays, Al and I went on his company’s year in trip incentive to Costa Rica.  Nick was in very good hands with his respite care giver, Jodi. There was a good amount of logistics to do when leaving your child with a caregiver.  We put together temporary custody, child care and medical authorization agreements along with a detailed schedule.  In addition,  I prepared a social story so that he could see the change in routine and his schedule.  Here it is in part, below.  Social stories help to give the blueprint for understanding schedules and what each day will bring.  For more on using visual schedules, check out my last post, Blog #164~Why Use a Visual Schedule?

costa-rica-social-story

Nick had so much fun with Jodi going out to eat and hanging out at home. His other respite care giver, Miss R. also took him out over the weekend. We are blessed to have such caring, capable, and patient women to take such great care of Nick.

Want more pictures and videos of Nick?  Check out our social media sites. Follow Nick: Facebook @Down syndrome With a Slice of Autism, Instagram  #nickdsautism, Twitter @ #tjunnerstall

nick-taco-bell-new

All in all, the holidays and extended vacation afterwards went smoothly,  with only a dented pumpkin pie, and a few more attention seeking behaviors.  Most of these included higher incidences of dropping/ throwing things, turning water faucets on, and peeing on the floor next to the toilet.  Those behaviors are to be expected with busy holiday meal and house preparations,  a house full of company, and changes in routine.

Oh, one more thing, Nick managed to pull another fire alarm on  Friday the 13th. That is, the ultimate attention seeking behavior!  Tally count is now at 43 pulls since third grade. Hey, it’s Nick’s world, the rest of us are just trying to keep up.

Here’s to getting back to a regular routine and settling into 2017.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

 

 

 

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

Happy Thanksgiving

thankful

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s a busy week, so I’m keeping this brief.  Take time to count your blessings and enjoy the special time with loved ones, as you gather together.

I am grateful that Nick is happy, healthy, loving and yes, even mischievous, on this chilly Monday morning.  He kicked off the day in rare form.  In the 5 seconds it took to grab my purse, he rushed over and tossed my freshly brewed coffee all over the kitchen floor. Oh Nick, you do keep me on my toes, and for that I am thankful too.  Hey, it’s Nick’s world…. the rest of us are just trying to keep up.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~Teresa 🙂