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.

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

Blog #163~Safety & Your Special Needs Child

autism-elope

Blog #163~Safety and Your Special Needs Child

I’ve written a few posts about elopement in past blogs. The terror of losing a child is unlike anything else.  My son Nick has Down syndrome and autism, and I know first hand how that feels.  It is essential to put safety measures in place to prevent wandering/elopement.  This week’s blog is about safety and prevention measures from a police officer’s perspective.

police-car

Recently at the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) retreat, a presentation was given by a NADS member, who is a police officer.  Some of the key points made were on safety and  wandering/elopement prevention.  Seatbelts alone don’t always work for older kids with special needs.  There are many seat belt locks available as well as bigger car seats for children over 65 pounds, which have  5 point restraint.

5-point-harness

There were several suggestions given to promote safety, and prevent elopement.  Putting stop icons on all doors, using door/window alarms,  and changing the locks or moving them higher.  It might also be necessary, (especially if your child is non-verbal), to invest in a tracking device/bracelet and an identification bracelet.  Some police departments have tracking devices available.  For more detailed information on this, type in “Blog #142” in the search engine on the top, right side.  Blog #142, gives specifics on elopement and autism.

caretrak bracelet

Nick wears a medic alert bracelet that stays securely on.  Information on the back includes his name, medic alert number, Down syndrome, autism and non-verbal.

medic-alert

Check with your local police department about getting in the data base to provide more detailed information about your child with special needs.  Here in Illinois, the Premise Alert was mandated, in 2009. The Illinois Premise Alert Program (Public Act 96-0788) provides for Public Safety Agencies in the State of Illinois to allow people with special needs to provide information to Police, Fire and EMS personnel to be kept in a database.

In addition to the  Illinois Premise Alert Program, a new program aims to take 9-1-1 a step further. Smart911 is a program that supplies 9-1-1 operators with detailed personal information, including names of family members, photos, allergies, pets and more.

smart911

Smart911 is available in participating dispatch centers across the United States.Smart911 enhances the information that a 911 call can provide and helps first responders help you faster during an emergency.  Citizens create an online profile through a secure website at www.Smart911.com. This profile contains information that might be important in an emergency. If you place a 911 call anywhere within the county, your profile is displayed to the 911 dispatcher at the Emergency Communications Center, and the information is relayed to first responders.  Smart 911 is a national service that is available free to everyone. The service can be especially valuable to households with young children, seniors, or anyone with a physical or mental disability.

It is essential to take precautions to promote the utmost safety and security for you child with special needs.  Especially if they are non-verbal and have no concept of how to keep themselves out of harms way.  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, Uncategorized

Blog #141~Managing Stress as a Special Needs Parent

Blog #141~Managing Stress as a Special Needs Parent

Let’s face it, parenting is stressful.  Being a parent of a special needs child adds even more stress.  It’s a constant state of being on call 24/7, 365 days of the year.  I have been in this state for 22 years with my son Nick, who has Down syndrome and autism.

This weekend, we attended the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) retreat.  It is an opportunity for Nick to have fun swimming, playing and doing music therapy.  We’ve been going to this twice a year for the past 11 years.  It is a great group of folks who get it.  You see we don’t fit in to either the Down syndrome support groups or the autism groups.  But at this retreat, we all can openly discuss the unique problems of raising a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, in addition to  behaviors associated with ADD,ADHD and more.

Nick 2 (2)

At the NADS Down Syndrome and More retreat http://www.nads.org/, Dr. Louis Weiss did a presentation for the parents about taking care of yourself.

He identified areas in our lives that we nurture or neglect:

*Health (mental/physical)

*Relationships (partner, kids, family, friends)

*Work

*Play

Dr. Weiss emphasized the importance of finding your oasis.  How do you recharge your batteries?  What do you do to relax?

relax frog

It is critical to avoid the traps of maladaptive coping for stress with such things as excessive use of drugs/alcohol, sleeping, overeating, withdrawing/avoiding, becoming over-controlling or compulsive (too much screen time or games like candy crush).

Instead, use adaptive coping strategies to restore calm, get centered and refuel.

relax

Adaptive Coping Strategies:

*Mindfulness Practice

*Meditation

*Prayer

*Exercise, eat well, get enough sleep

*Journaling

*Hobbies (gardening, reading, sports, knitting,etc)

*Use organizing techniques for schedules, tasks, etc.

*Support groups (both in person and online)

*Utilize community resources

*Delegate responsibilities and rebalancing the division of tasks

*Setting limits and sticking to them

*Asking for help. Identify sources of support, including professionals.

Taking care of yourself means taking time for you, and doing so without guilt.  Just like the flight attendants demonstrate, put that oxygen mask on yourself first before you place the one on your child.  And you will both breathe a little easier.

oxygen mask

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #121~10 Years of Autism

Blog #121~ 10 Years of Autism

Last Saturday, the Chicago White Sox gave a replica of the 2005 World Series Ring to all the fans. This was to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the Sox winning the World Series.

This sure beats the heck out of any bobble head they’ve given out…

White Sox Ring

I slipped the heavy ring on, that Al brought home from the game. I thought back on the week that the White Sox won the American League Championship securing their spot in the World Series. That was the week, that we got the firm diagnosis that our son Nick, had autism. Nick is now 21 years old and has Down syndrome along with autism. A lot has happened in the last 10 years, and I’ve learned plenty in the process.

Sox  Nick and mom

What about the 11 years prior to the diagnosis of Nick having autism? Well, when he was 5 years old we had him tested but it was found that he was not on the autism spectrum because he was highly social and the oddities were due to having Sensory Integration Dysfunction.

According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation (SPD Foundation), “Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”)

is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks.”

Nick sought out input by tapping objects, walking heavily and stimming with his toys to help organize his senses. His occupational therapist worked with him weekly providing him with a sensory diet.

photo (115)

In addition, Nick also has Verbal Apraxia of Speech (an acquired oral motor speech disorder affecting an individual’s ability to translate conscious speech plans into motor plans, which results in limited and difficult speech ability). The sensory and speech conditions blurred the lines, therefore the autism didn’t come to view at the time.

As Nick entered the throes of puberty, it became evident that there was more to his behaviors than just Down syndrome. That’s when we sought out Little Friends Center for Autism to do an assessment 10 years ago. Looking back I had a hunch he did. However, part of me wasn’t ready to face such a daunting diagnosis as autism. We got the report from Little Friends the day that the White Sox won the ALC championship. That report was the key to opening up a new world for us.

The official diagnosis of autism, allowed us to request more specific services for Nick. This included a better communication system, behavior plan, training, finding the NADS (National Association for Down Syndrome) support group for dual diagnosis families, and respite care through the state. With the help of Little Friends, I attended training sessions to help Nick foster independence and better communication. More importantly, I learned how to get my son toilet trained once and for all, and out of those Depends diapers.

Nick has grown a lot in the last 10 years. Things are not near perfect, nor will they ever be. We face our daily  battles. He is still stimming and raising autism awareness everywhere he goes. But the meltdowns are fewer and far between. Nick is happy and a funny guy. And when I see him standing there in his boxer briefs I am reminded of perhaps the greatest accomplishments in my life. I’m proud to say that we are done with what our autism community refers to as “Code Brown”

No more poop smears!

poop icon

If you are a parent and have a hunch that your child may have autism, this is my wish for you. That you go get an assessment, take that piece of paper and use it as your ticket to get the services to help your child.  Seeing where Nick is today is a sweet victory that I savor.  It feels like I’m winning the series in Nick’s world.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa 🙂

Posted in Down syndrome, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #17~ Life’s a Beach

Blog #17~ Life’s a Beach*

Drip, drip drip… Last Wednesday morning we were met with nothing but grey skies and the sea blending as one. It put a damper on the day in which we just wanted to bask in the sun and splash in the water. The rain tried to beat down our souls.  But all we had to do was crack open the patio door and hear the waves.  There is something about the ocean that energizes and grounds me all at once. Here is a favorite quote of mine…..

Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think. -Robert Henri

What is it about being by the water that awakens a person?  For as long as I can remember, Nick has loved the water. Nick is 18 and has Down syndrome and autism.

Nick age 5 with his Dad, Al……

Too Cool, by the pool, Nick age 14 at the NADS Behavior Retreat….

Nick heading to swim class at MVHS….

The thought of getting Nick to actually learn to swim seemed impossible.   I enrolled him in lessons with the special recreation department where we met Mary who had been teaching for over 30 years.  She had a no nonsense approach and Nick knew she meant business.  About 5 years ago she got him to go underwater and dive for pool toys.  Seeing Nick swimming was amazing.  He looked like all the other kids in the pool. No longer was he the boy that sat in the shallow end stimming with a cup.

A few years later I started private lessons in her backyard pool out in Batavia.  Her task was to coordinate the arms and legs together. Mary put flippers on Nick and suddenly he could feel the kicking sensation that propelled him faster across the pool.

The following summer he was syncing up the movement without the flippers and heading into the deep end.  It was magical!  His technical skills are far from Michael Phelps, but he can do a mean doggie paddle.  Most importantly, he can make it across the pool without sinking.

No flippers or flotation devices….Go Nick!

This is our third year to go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, (simply as OBX here.)  It is a crazy strip of land known as a sandbar that rose above sea level.  Just turn the knob to Bob, radio 93.3 and chill.

OBX Beach time 2011~Hank, Sam and Nick…..

The house we stayed at has a private pool and the beach access. Nick isn’t crazy about the texture of sand, but we continue to push him out of his comfort zone.  It is important to get him out in the world.  If we don’t then his world and ours will become too narrow.

Here is a bird’s eye view much in the movie “Rear Window” of our back yard here in the OBX….

A walk down the beaches of the Outer Banks is a greeting of many characters.  Floppy hat ladies in low slung chairs reading books. I wonder how many are reading Fifty Shades of Grey (or as my writer friend, Marcia F. calls it “Mommy Porn.”) A glance to the ocean you find the sporty types throwing Frisbees, footballs or out on the water kayaking, paddle boarding, body surfing and skim boarding.  Joggers dot the edges of the shoreline in varied stages of serious (with headphones and shoes) and casual barefoot walkers simply taking in the day.   Sandpipers scamper across the sand and ghost grabs burrow and pop up from time to time.  Gulls and pelicans glide across sky in seemingly perfect formation. Umbrellas act like rainbows adding pops of color across the coastline and the fisherman patiently wait for the catch of the day.

Al with Ron, my brother in law, his happy place….

The Outer Banks may be a narrow strip of beach but it offers up a large slice of chill time that brings families together and fills up the photo album with wonderful memories.  I love this beach quote!

 “Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” –Anonymous 

The sun did come back out.  I sat on the beach thinking about life.  It isn’t always smooth as when the full moon casted its glow over the quiet waters the night before.  The waves can get rough when navigating a child with special needs. Especially during vacations, when they are out of their element. But I am not going to let my world with Nick close in on me.  Like the ocean that has no boundaries I plan to keep pushing out to the horizon. That is what is in my noggin this week.  Until next Monday, may your life be a beach!

~Teresa

*There is no direct origin for this phrase “Life’s a Beach. But Word Reference.com says this about the quote, “Although the expression ‘life’s a beach’ may have originated as a pun for ‘life’s a bitch’, it’s also a statement on it’s own, that life is not a bitch at all, rather, life’s a beach. It signifies that the wearer views life as a pleasant beach – sun, surf, relaxation…