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 Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness

Blog #181~Iceland and Down syndrome

Blog #181~Iceland and Down syndrome

Last week CBS News ran a story about Down syndrome in Iceland. The CBS report opens like this:
“With the rise of prenatal screening tests across Europe and the United States, the number of babies born with Down syndrome has significantly decreased, but few countries have come as close to eradicating Down syndrome births as Iceland.”

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“On 14 August 2017, CBS News ran a segment for their program “CBSN: On Assignment” in which correspondent Elaine Quijano traveled to Iceland to report on that country’s disappearing incidence of Down syndrome. Since prenatal screening tests were introduced in Iceland in the early 2000s, the vast majority of women — close to 100 percent — who received a positive test for Down syndrome terminated their pregnancy.”

To view the story click here:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/

I’m going to throw my two cents in about this news story. This week’s blog is not a debate about a moral decision of whether to choose to have a baby with Down syndrome. It’s not my place to comment if someone decides to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason.  I can only speak from own experience of having a child with Down syndrome. My son Nick is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.

There are 3 comments that I would like to make regarding this news story:

*1. Expectant parents should first do their research first and get the facts. Doctors often know little about Down syndrome beyond their own medical experience. The delivery of news about the possibility of a baby having Down syndrome is often delivered grimly and with pity. This was the case in my son. I would like to see the medical community and society to become more educated on Down syndrome. When you know the facts, you can make an informed decision that is not based on fear.

Here are a few good places to get the facts about Down syndrome:
http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/Down-Syndrome-Facts/
http://www.ndsccenter.org/new-and-expectant-parents/
*2. Down syndrome in and of itself, is nothing to fear. Yes, there are health issues associated with Down syndrome. Click here to view: http://www.ndss.org/Resources/Health-Care/Associated-Conditions/

A baby with Down syndrome may take a little longer to reach developmental milestones. But, with early intervention with physical, occupational and speech therapy can guide a baby/child with Down syndrome to hit those marks.  Sometimes, we fear what we don’t know or understand.  When you get educated about the facts, it will help to reduce the fear.

*3. Society needs to see more of what Down syndrome looks like. Persons with Down syndrome are people first! “The Emmy winning A&E show, Born this Way follows a group of seven young adults born with Down syndrome as they pursue their passions and lifelong dreams, explore friendships, romantic relationships and work, all while defying society’s expectations.”  I wish the whole world could have access to this great show! Click here for more information: http://www.aetv.com/shows/born-this-way

btway

Another excellent site I highly recommend is Noah’s Dad!  I’ve had the extreme pleasure of following Noah’s Dad and his journey with his son, who in entering first grade this year. He gives us a view of how full, and rich their lives are having Noah in it. You can find Noah’s Dad-Down Syndrome Awareness on Facebook and at http://noahsdad.com/

You can also follow my son, Nick on Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism, Instagram @nickdsautism and Twitter #tjunnerstall

Nick scuba diving in the Diveheart program……

Diveheart 2013 336

Down syndrome is nothing to be feared once you know the facts, and see what the lives of these wonderful individuals are like. It has been a true privilege being Nick’s mom. He has taught me more about life, and made me a much better person in the process. I couldn’t imagine a world without people like Nick and others, who have Down syndrome.  I’m 100% sure that anyone who has been touched by Nick, would say the same.

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

Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #169~ I’m Very Aware of Autism and More

Blog #169~ I’m Very Aware of Autism and More

autism ribbon

April is “Autism Awareness Month” – a time to promote awareness, acceptance and attention to those people who are diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

Yes, I’m very aware of autism, and more.  So is anyone, who has been around my son.  Nick is 23 years old, and has dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, (DS-ASD).  He does a good job spreading awareness wherever he goes. 🙂  Honestly, it’s hard for me to get on board with the “Light it Up Blue” campaign.  Why is that?  Because my son doesn’t fit in with any of the support groups for autism, due to his is lack of speech, cognitive and developmental delays.

“Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests and activities. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning.”

autism awareness 2016

Since my son has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, I’m going to put my focus on this area.  According to The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) http://www.ndss.org:

“Children who have ASD may or may not exhibit all of these characteristics at any one time nor will they consistently demonstrate their abilities across similar circumstances. Some of the variable characteristics of ASD we have commonly observed in children with DS-ASD include:

  • Unusual response to sensations (especially sounds, lights, touch or pain)
  • Food refusal (preferred textures or tastes)
  • Unusual play with toys and other objects
  • Difficulty with changes in routine or familiar surroundings
  • Little or no meaningful communication
  • Disruptive behaviors (aggression, throwing tantrums, or extreme non-compliance)
  • Hyperactivity, short attention, and impulsivity
  • Self-injurious behavior (skin picking, head hitting or banging, eye-poking, or biting)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • History of developmental regression (esp. language and social skills)”

NDSS_logo

My son Nick, certainly hits most of the bullet points listed above.  It’s a unique mix having a child with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD.  For many years, I felt isolated from the local DS support group because my child had many of those characteristics.  Eventually, I was put in contact with a small group of parents that also had children with DS-ASD.  This was a group within The National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS), here is Chicago.  Finding this group, made all the difference.  These parents were in the same boat, sharing similar experiences, struggles, and yes funny stories, that I could relate to.  In addition to local support groups, there are many online groups for DS-ASD on Facebook.

photo (26)

During Autism Awareness Month, I would like to see the government and media focus   on more educational, behavioral supports and other treatment options.  What is going to happen to our kids when they age out of the school system?  There aren’t near enough employment opportunities, day programs or group homes for this rapidly growing population.  In addition, I’d like there to be an easier path to obtain funding through the government.

understanding

For the month of April, parents of a child with autism, or a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD, need understanding and support. Do you know a parent with a child who has autism?  Consider lending someone a hand, so they can run an errand.   We also need more compassion, and less judgment when we are out in public with our child.   And many of us, could use a good night’s sleep.

autism and sleep cartoon

You can also help by sharing information and stories, to raise awareness on social media. A better informed public will be more empathetic and supportive towards people with autism and a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

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 Uncategorized

Blog #158~Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Blog #158~Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Down syndrome awareness month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.   This month, I want to share some information and educate the public about Down syndrome.

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.

Down syndrome journey

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 baby or child.”

*”Down’s baby or child”

*”Down’s”

*”He has Downs”

Instead say: “A child with Down syndrome”.  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.  Global Down Syndrome.org mentions that,  “Originally, it was referred to as his syndrome – Down’s Syndrome.  In the UK, Europe and many other countries, the correct term still remains “Down’s Syndrome.” In the U.S., it was changed to Down syndrome (drop the possessive) as to emphasize that it was not Dr. Down who had the syndrome nor was it his”.

My son Nick is 22 years old, and has Down syndrome and autism.  I’ve heard all of these incorrect phrases over the years. Please help me educate the public on the proper way to refer to a person with Down syndrome.  Thank you for reading and spreading awareness about Down syndrome.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

Follow Nick:

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@Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism:

Facebook  pintrest

#nickdsautism:

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DSAwarenessMagnet

 

Posted in Down syndrome, Health Issues and Special Needs Child, Physical Therapy and Special Needs, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #127~So, Your Baby has Down syndrome

Blog #127~So, Your Baby has Down syndrome        

In October everything turns pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But did you know it’s also Down Syndrome Awareness Month?

Twenty-one years ago I gave birth to my son Nick. The doctor detected several markers that he might have Down syndrome.  The next day, a hospital social worker handed me two brochures about Down syndrome. That is was what I had to work off of.

Here are the facts about Down syndrome courtesy of The National Down Syndrome Society, www.ndss.org:

  • 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.

I think back on that 33-year-old mom who was unsure of her future. What advice would I give her today?

Down syndrome journey

First, I would say that everything is going to be OK. The path will be different and move slower. But your child will work through the low muscle tone with the help of early intervention programs. The benchmarks like sitting up, crawling, walking and eating solid food will take longer to reach. Try to be patient and rest assured that your child will hit them.

Nick, age one….

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The next thing I would tell her is that there will be angels that light a path along the way. Embrace them and incorporate what you learn at home. The speech therapists will teach him how to blow bubbles, work on lip closure, feeding and to use sign language along with songs to communicate. The occupational and physical therapists will guide him in fine and gross motor skills. The teachers will hold the lantern and illuminate his mind. The social support groups will be your shoulders to lean on.

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Finally, I would share this message. Your baby was born with Down syndrome, but they are a person first. People with Down syndrome experience the same emotions that you and I do. Your life will change for the better as you savor the sweet victories. They will steal your heart and touch others in ways you can’t imagine. Your child will bring a unique perspective of seeing the best of the human spirit.

Nick in Sox hat

This is my advice to the young mother who just gave birth to a beautiful baby, who just happens to have Down syndrome. That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa