Posted in Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan), Parenting Special Needs

Blog #247~DS-ASD Back to School Tips

Blog #247~DS-ASD Back to School Tips

This week I have 10 back to school tips and strategies specifically geared to individuals with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and their families. My name is Teresa Unnerstall, I am a DS-ASD parent, consultant and author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism. My son Nick is 28 years old and my passion is to help families, educators, therapists, medical professionals and anyone interested in supporting individuals with co-occurring DS-ASD.

Order your copy on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

10 Back to School Tips for DS-ASD Families:

1. Prepare the student with a visual countdown calendar, and re-instate morning/evening routines.

2. Tour the school with your child. Then, create a social story or video social story of the school settings and staff that the student will be interacting with. Review this story regularly for the first few weeks of school.

3. At the tour, ask the teacher to show you the safety & hygiene precautions, accommodations and equipment that is listed in the IEP to make sure everything is in place.

First Then Visual Accommodation
Teaching feelings visual accommodation
Nick using the Smart Board

4. Prepare a student “About Me” profile sheet. There are many templates available online that you can Google or try Canva for free. You can include different sections such as, Things I love, My Strengths, What Works Best for Me, How to best support me, What I struggle with and Interests. Make several copies to share with the staff.

5. Determine the modes of communication back and forth with the teacher and school staff. Examples include texting, email, communication logs/notebooks and daily report sheets. This is very important as many students with DS-ASD who have language deficits or may be non-verbal and unable to share how their day went.

Daily Report Sheet

6. Review the child’s IEP to insure that all goals and accommodations are still relevant and meaningful. Note any additional needs or concerns you have coming off of the summer break and share these with the staff.

7. If the student has a behavior support plan (BSP), check to see if this has been shared with all staff and is ready to put in place on day one. Make a list of any new target behaviors that need to be addressed and added into the BSP.

8. If the student uses AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) make sure the teacher and aides are familiar with how to use the program, whether it’s high tech or low tech like a picture exchange system (PECS). You can request a training for staff and parents on how to program devices, navigate tabs and get trained on how to utilize PECS with the school speech and language therapist or school district AAC specialists.

AAC Touch Chat Program

9. Students may have lost skills or experienced regression over the summer break. Evidenced-based practices help students regain lost skills and develop new ones. Some examples are using visuals, schedules, task strips, task analysis, first-then prompts, visual timers, choice boards and sensory breaks.

Sensory Break PECS IconIs there a sensory break area at your child’s school?
Time Timer App
Countdown Timer App
Choice Boards
Work Station Accommodation

10. Show your commitment by staying on top of your child’s progress. Ask for data at each quarter. Data drives decision making for future conferences and IEP meetings. If possible, volunteer at school, (room parent, field trip chaperone, art awareness presenter, book fairs, picture day and assisting with making learning materials like laminating and making copies).

Being prepared and invested in your child’s needs will help them reach their full potential for the new school year. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more ideas and stories:

Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #245~DS-ASD Update

Blog #245~DS-ASD Update

What does life look like now for Nick since the pandemic hit over 2 years ago? It’s very different, uncomplicated and often redundant. Sometimes it feels like the movie Ground Hog Day, with the same thing happening over and over. It’s not a sad life, it’s just a different life. My son is 28 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). This week, I want to paint a picture of what life is like for Nick and our family these days and how we make his days meaningful so he knows his value and worth.

For 10 years I wrote diligently and posted a blog each Monday. Then the pandemic hit and Nick’s adult developmental day training program shut down. Well over 2 years later, he still sits idle on their waiting list hoping to get back in. Part of the reason my blogs have been sporadic is due to taking care of Nick at home, while I continue to work. This is no easy feat when you are trying to tune out the many sounds of autism. Since my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism, was published in May of 2020, many doors have opened up to presentations, workshops, webinars and podcasts. It has been very rewarding doing these projects and sharing strategies on how to navigate co-occurring Down syndrome and autism. Later this month I will be presenting in person at the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) in New Orleans!

Order on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

So, here’s a look at our new normal for the past two years. For most of us, this has been remote work, Zoom presentations and meetings which has been a great vehicle to reach a large audience across the country. Creating these presentations doesn’t feel like work, it’s exciting and creative. But, it can be difficult to concentrate when your son is constantly tapping, verbal stimming, pushing the microwave fan button, throwing things and running the water faucets. Nick also goes down some interesting YouTube rabbit holes. Lately he’s been diving down to find some real “gems”. This includes finding Thomas the Tank Engine the dark side, (picture Thomas with a black eye and goatee and guns blazing). Another gem has been fire alarm testing. Despite our efforts to clear the history on YouTube, he keeps finding those blaring alarms. It’s obviously fulfilling a sensory need he craves. Better on his iPad and not on a real fire alarm. 🙂

As I mentioned earlier, Nick’s day program has been a no go due to staffing shortages. It’s devasting to see that individuals with disabilities who are the most vulnerable, can’t get into day programs. Despite hefty signing bonuses being offered, many day programs continue to struggle with staffing. We have done our best to create some structure at home and provide him with personal support workers who assist him at home and with community activities outside the house. Structured teaching activities benefits include developing and maintaining educational and fine motor skills.

Structured Teaching Activities
Activities include matching, sorting office supplies and puzzles

Nick also has several jobs around the house which include unloading the dishwasher, recycling, vacuuming, and helping to prepare meals. These jobs along with the structured teaching activities are meaningful and bolster his confidence.

Nick unloading the dishwasher
Working at home

In addition to in home activities, Nick also enjoys going out into the community with his personal support workers. Having respite care is important for families, so each member gets a break and can go out and enjoy time on their own.

Fun at the Park
Lunch date with personal support worker

The new normal at home with Nick is working largely due to having wonderful personal support workers and offering meaningful activities. We have looked into other day programs, but most have waiting lists or lack the staffing to accommodate Nick’s needs. So, we just keep leaning into the new normal and doing the best we can to find balance in both our work and Nick’s needs. As a mom, it gives me comfort to hear him say “happy” and lean into life at home. Even if it does include those trips down the YouTube rabbit hole.

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

~Teresa

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism
Posted in Down syndrome, Down Syndrome Awareness, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #243~ World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21

Blog #243~World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, 3/21. My son, Nick has Trisomy 21 which means there are 3 copies of chromosome number 21. The theme for 2022 is “Inclusion Means”. People with Down syndrome still fight barriers that keep them from being fully included in their community and society across the globe. Meaningful and gainful employment opportunities are difficult to come by. Parents and individuals with Down syndrome continue to advocate to have opportunities to be included in a world where everyone belongs.

Understanding Down syndrome is the first step to help individuals to feel accepted and included. Sharing our stories and posts on social media is another great way to shift the narrative of what people perceive about individuals with Down syndrome. I encourage you to get to know the person with Down syndrome instead of just knowing about Down syndrome.

This month on my social media sites, I have done 21 posts so you can get to know my son Nick better. He is 28 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism. Use some of the hashtags shown at the bottom of this post when sharing posts on social media. Learn about our journey in my book, A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism

Order your copy here: https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X
and ask your library to carry it!

Thank you for your support and help promoting World Down Syndrome Day and following our journey. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Posted in Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #242~ Gift Ideas that Support Individuals with Down syndrome and other Disabilities

Blog #242~Gift Ideas that Support Individuals with Down syndrome and other Disabilities

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https://specialsparkle.com/

Are you looking for unique gifts that help to support young adults with Down syndrome and other disabilities? This week, I have assembled a list of 7 small businesses that offer some awesome merchandise. I have personally bought products from each of these businesses. You can find out more below and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

My name is Teresa Unnerstall and I am a parent to a 27 year old son with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) and the author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism. My book is available on Amazon, click below to order a copy for Christmas. (For more book recommendations click over to the resource page on this blog site.)

Order your copy today at  
https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

7 Small Businesses that Support Individuals with Down syndrome and Other Disabilities:

1.Special Sparkle: Kelly is a young lady with Down syndrome and this company was created to assist Kelly in leading a fulfilled and productive life after school came to an end for her.  She loves fashion, style and bling. Check out her jewelry line here: https://specialsparkle.com/

Meet Kelly — The One of a Million Project
https://specialsparkle.com/

2. 21 Pineapples Shirt Company: Nate Simon has always been known as a fashion icon. The company’s mission is to change the way others perceive people with Down Syndrome & other special abilities one Hawaiian Shirt at a time. A percentage of all sales will go directly to support Down Syndrome organizations throughout the world. Check out his merch at https://21pineapples.com/

Mom-And-Son Duo From Beverly Use New Hawaiian T-Shirt Business To Advocate  For People With Down Syndrome
https://www.21pineapples.com

3. Candidly Kind: Grace Key started candidly kind to spread light love and acceptance thru her original art and life. Candidly Kind gives a percentage of every sale to charities who share the candidly kind vision to spread light, love and acceptance. It is a huge part of Grace’s mission…giving back. Check out her line at: https://www.candidlykind.com

https://www.candidlykind.com

4. Margrit Co Jewelry: Margrít Co. is a designer jewelry brand that focuses on creating unique, colorful and lightweight jewelry for women of all ages. Margrit Co. gives 15% of all retail sales to our Down with Business scholarship fund, which benefits ministries and businesses owned and operated by individuals with Down Syndrome. Owner and Designer Maggie Blair’s youngest brother Matthew is 18 years old and has Down Syndrome and works alongside her as the shipping manager. Check out her beautiful jewelry collection here: https://margritco.com/

Meet Maggie Blair Dietrick of Margrit Co. in Waco - Voyage Dallas Magazine  | Dallas City Guide
https://margritco.com

5. River Bend Gallery showcases the photography by Geoffrey Mikol and is located in downtown Galena, Illinois. His work is mainly of nature and landscapes. Check out his beautiful photography gifts here https://www.riverbendgalleries.com

https://www.riverbendgalleries.com

6. Bitty and Beau’s Coffee: With over 80% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities unemployed nationwide, the Wrights believe that Bitty & Beau’s Coffee creates a path for people with disabilities to become more valued, accepted and included in every community. Check out their merchandise here:

7. Seanese Shirts: Is owned by “Born This Way” star, Sean McElwee. The name of the company came from what Sean’s family called his speech as a child. Now, his funny phrases are being immortalized on swag. Each shirt features a phrase and graphic design, and all designs are approved by Sean. Each month, 10 percent of profits go to a disability non-profit.

You can find a wide variety of t-shirts on Sean’s website at https://seanese.com

Cyber Monday Buy any Two items... - Sean from Born This Way
https://seanese.com

Nick and I would like to wish each of you a Happy Holiday. Thank you for supporting our work to educate, inspire and advocate for individuals with a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD and other disabilities. We look forward to sharing more with you in 2022. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism!

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

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

Blog #241~ DS-ASD in Praise of Caregivers

Blog #241~DS-ASD In Praise of Caregivers

November is National Family Caregivers Month, it is a time to recognize and honor caregivers across the country. Did you know that there are over 65 million Americans caring for aging and disabled loved ones in the US? My son, Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). We are very fortunate to have wonderful caregivers to support him. This allows us to work, get out and enjoy activities outside the home.

The needs of individuals with DS-ASD are complex and behaviors can be challenging. It can easily burn out family members trying to manage it all alone. Families can access funding for respite care by checking to see if their state has a Medicaid waiver or other programs for individuals with a disability.

For more information click here:

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/home-community-based-services/home-community-based-services-authorities/home-community-based-services-1915c/index.html

https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/section-1115-demo/demonstration-and-waiver-list/index.html

I want to honor the amazing caregivers who work with our son, Nick. He enjoys their company at home and out in the community. The Medicaid home and community based service plan here in Illinois pays personal support workers who also work on goals for Nick to keep up with his skills and communication.

Nick and Miss R.
Nick and Miss R. at the pumpkin patch
Nick with Jodi and Kelsey
Nick is a bit smitten with Kelsey
Nick and Lisa

As I mentioned earlier, Nick enjoys their company. On many occasions he will grab pictures of the caregivers out of his Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) book and hand them to me. A PECS book helps Nick to communicate his wants, needs and feelings. Individuals with DS-ASD can benefit from using pictures to express themselves. It is very evident that Nick loves each of them and they have all become part of our family.

Thank you to Miss R., Jodi, Kelsey and Lisa for your love and support. We praise all that you do for Nick and our family. We honor you this month and every day of the year! That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

For more information and link to my book: https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

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

Blog #240~ October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Blog #240~October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

down-syndrome-awareness-month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. My son, Nick is 27 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). As a parent, writer and advocate, my mission is to educate others to better understand more about Down syndrome and autism. Down syndrome awareness is about promoting understanding, acceptance and inclusion of all individuals with Down syndrome in all aspects of our society.

Click here to get the facts about Down syndrome: http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/What-Is-Down-Syndrome/

Here’s how YOU can promote Down syndrome awareness and acceptance:

🙂 Post information and stories about individuals with Down syndrome on your social media platforms. You can follow many inspiring individuals on Facebook and Instagram like Nick at #Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism. Here are a few of my favorites: #noahsdaddotcom #calebs_crew #brittanysbaskets #chrisnikic #dsdn #chucklesandmeatloaf #nothingdownaboutit #sean_from_born_this_way #troymadeit #abigail_the_advocate #theluckyfew #aceismyfriend

🙂 If you are a parent of a child with Down syndrome, send updates, pictures and tell your story to your family doctor and OB/GYN. Consider becoming a Hope Advocate-You will get a custom hope kit to distribute to your OB/GYN and family doctor. More information https://hopestory.org/sign-up/

🙂 Your 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 https://www.ndss.org/play/national-buddy-walk-program/ .

🙂 The Down Syndrome-Autism Connection is the gold standard organization supporting DS-ASD families @ http://www.ds-asd-connection.org/. I am looking for 21 people to donate just $21 for the 3-2-1 Caring and Sharing fundraiser to directly help families navigating a dual diagnosis. Click here to donate @ https://givebutter.com/l6BUl8/teresaunnerstall

🙂 Encourage your kids to volunteer for Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs through their school.

🙂 Use and promote “person 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.”

🙂 My book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism is helping so many readers understand both Down syndrome and a co-occurring Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). It’s available on Amazon, plus there are share buttons you can utilize for social media to help spread awareness. Order and donate a copy to your local library @ https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is a-new-course-book-cover-multiple-books.jpg
Order your copy today at https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

Thank you for supporting and sharing all about 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 Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #239~ Back to School Tips for DS-ASD Families in 2021

Blog #239~Back to School Tips for DS-ASD Families in 2021

As the 2021-2022 School year approaches after a lengthy Covid-19 lockdown, many families feel anxiety about returning to school. Families who have a child with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) have additional challenges and needs to consider.

My name is Teresa Unnerstall, I am a DS-ASD parent, consultant and author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism. My son Nick is 27 years old and my passion is to help families, educators, therapists, medical professionals and anyone interested in supporting individuals with co-occurring DS-ASD.

Order your copy on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X

This week, I want to offer some practical tips to help families ease back to school. Whether you are in person or remote, the goal should be a smooth transition for students.

Here are my 10 Back to School Tips:

1. Prepare the student with a visual countdown calendar, and re-instate morning/evening routines before school starts.

2. Tour the school with your child. Then, create a social story or video social story of the school settings and staff that the student will be interacting with. Review this several times before school starts.

3. At the tour, whether it’s in person or virtual, ask the teacher to show you the Covid-19 safety precautions, accommodations and equipment that is listed in the IEP to make sure everything is in place.

First Then Visuals

Nick using the Smart Board

4. Prepare a student “About Me” profile sheet. There are many templates available online. You can include different sections such as, Things I love, My Strengths, What Works Best for Me, How to best support me, What Doesn’t Work for Me, and Interests. Make several copies to share with the staff.

5. Determine the modes of communication back and forth with the teacher and school staff. Examples include texting, email, communication logs/notebooks and daily report sheets. This is very important as many students with DS-ASD who have language deficits or may be non-verbal.

Daily Report Sheet

6. Review the child’s IEP to insure that all goals and accommodations are still relevant. Note any additional needs or concerns you have coming off of the summer break and remote learning. Share these with the staff at school.

7. If the student has a behavior support plan, check to see if this has been shared with all staff and is ready to put in place on day one. Make a list of any new target behaviors that may need to be addressed.

8. If the student uses AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) make sure the teacher and aides are familiar with how to use the program, whether it’s high tech or low tech like a picture exchange system (PECS). You can request a training for staff and parents on how to program devices, navigate tabs and get trained on how to utilize PECS with the school speech and language therapist or school district AAC specialists.

AAC Touch Chat Program

9. Students may have lost skills or experienced regression due to summer break and remote learning due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Evidenced-based practices help students regain lost skills and develop new ones. Some examples are using visuals, schedules, task strips, task analysis, first-then prompts, visual timers, choice boards and sensory breaks.

Sensory Break PECS Icon, Is there a sensory break area for students in your school?
Time Timer App
Choice Boards

10. Show your commitment by staying on top of your child’s progress. Ask for data within the first quarter. Data drives decision making for future conferences and IEP meetings. If possible, volunteer at school, (room parent, field trip chaperone, art awareness presenter, book fairs, picture day and assisting with making learning materials like laminating and making copies).

Being prepared, invested and aware of your child’s needs will help them reach their full potential for the new school year. As students re-enter school after a long break, let’s also remember to extend each other some grace, be flexible, and give time and space to establish the new normal, whether you are heading back into the classroom or working remotely.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us on Social Media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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

Blog #238~Autism: Welcome to My Life… Sleep Number is Zero

Blog #238~Autism: Welcome to My Life… Sleep Number is Zero

Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month is winding down, but for countless families living with autism it will continue beyond April, and often includes a sleep number of zero. That is the opening chapter of the book, Welcome to My Life: A Personal Parenting Journey Through Autism by author Laurie Hellman. My son Nick, is 27 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). I am quite familiar with sleepless nights followed by the fog and exhaustion that comes with autism. But this book is much more than sleepless nights. The author takes you through a journey that is a honest portrayal of what autism is like, often raw but always filled with compassion and love.

Available on Amazon at
https://amzn.to/2Df6qbL

What I find refreshing about the book, Welcome to My Life, is that it depicts many of the aspects that families deal with when autism is profound. Author Laurie Hellman, pulls back the curtain and lets you in to see the dents in the walls, the internal, detailed pre-planning before any event outside the home and yes…..the literal shit show, because trust me it happens. I found myself nodding my head, getting teary eyed and laughing, as her stories were so relatable. Laurie’s love and determination for her son mirrors mine. Finally, there are many lessons that Laurie offers in her book:

“Skyler teaches me to be brave, strong and courageous. he’s taught me that when I am tired and feel like giving up, I can keep going.” Laurie Hellman

It was heart wrenching to read about the additional health struggles associated with Laurie’s son, Skyler. I admire how she poured over research and turned over every stone to find answers and treatment to help him. As a mother of a child with autism, I understood the feelings of grief over what might have been. In my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism-(https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X) I wrote about all the milestones that my son missed out on, like getting his driver’s license, going to the prom and eventually heading off to college. Did you know parent’s of individuals with autism sometimes find it easier to smile and say everything is fine? Why? Because quite frankly on some days it’s just too much to unpack. When autistic kids can’t process overstimulation it can lead to meltdowns, and as a parent you are right in the path of any collateral damage. Laurie writes about how her son can’t verbally communicate so he may lash out by swatting her arm or smacking her leg…..

“On most days, I think to myself, Does he even like me?” Laurie Hellman

After 27 years of navigating DS-ASD with my son, I have learned the function of such behaviors. I cope, by putting them in the compartment of brain rewired differently with autism. I don’t take it personally, when Nick hits me anymore, because he is mostly non-verbal. I recognize that these behaviors are his means to communicate when he feels overwhelmed and not being heard.

I think that what you will learn from reading books about autism like ours, is that if you met one person with autism…. you met one person with autism. Each is a unique journey, because autism is a spectrum disorder. Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month is about understanding these journeys and different perspectives. With better understanding our society can be more kind, patient and compassionate:

“Simple acts of kindness go such a long way and can restore my sometimes-crumbling faith in humanity.” Laurie Hellman

Moving beyond Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month, I encourage you to continue to learn more about autism. Share our stories so we can make this a bigger narrative. That sleep number of zero is real, along with the challenges associated, especially when autism is profound. Understanding leads to acceptance. It means showing kindness by making some room at the table for all abilities and behaviors of autistic individuals along with their families.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us on social media:

Laurie Hellman’s blog, podcast links at http://www.lauriehellmann.com

Our Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism and Twitter @tjunnerstall

Posted in Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan), Parenting Special Needs, Resources for Special Needs

Blog #236~Need IEP Help? The New Go-To Guide: Special Education Savvy

Blog #236~Need IEP Help? The New Go-To Guide: Special Education Savvy

IEP Season is here, do you need help understanding the process and how to become a better advocate for your child? I’ve got the resource for you, just in time for IEP season. It is the new go-to guide, Special Education Savvy: A Mom’s Guide to Mindset and Effective Advocacy Throughout the IEP Journey and it’s a must read! I received an advanced reader copy of Mary Beth Gilliland, M.ED book which was just released last week. The author literally takes you the reader, by the hand and guides you step by step on the IEP process.

IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, which is a written document outlining the program of special education instruction, supports and services that a student with a disability needs to make progress in school. IEP’s can be complicated and daunting, especially for moms who are new to navigating this journey with their child. I was one of those moms, my son Nick, has co-occurring Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). This new book, Special Education Savvy is the book that I wish I had in my hands 27 years ago.

Special Education Savvy stands out in my mind as different than other special education/ IEP/advocacy books for several reasons. First of all, the author Mary Beth Gilliland feels like a mentor that is sitting right there with you at an IEP meeting. She provides sections that include basic special education 101, advocacy strategies, IEP meeting tips and more. You will also learn how to handle the uncomfortable and often challenging encounters that parents may face when IEP’s, when aren’t being followed or their child is not making progress. Second, this book is easy to read especially for busy moms who are juggling a multitude of responsibilities. The technical jargon associated with special education is clearly spelled out making it easier to understand. Mary Beth also breaks down every aspect of the IEP process, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Finally, as the title suggests you come out of each chapter feeling confident with a savvy mindset ready to advocate for your child.

I found myself shaking my head, yes as I read each chapter. Mary Beth uses clever analogies to make important points about a student’s rights along the technical stuff like IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and FAPE (Free and appropriate public education). Again, she clearly explains these tough areas and makes the information parent friendly.

As a DS-ASD consultant, advocate and author of A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism (available at https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X ) I highly recommend Special Education Savvy. It is the ultimate instruction manual for understanding and advocating for your child’s IEP. You will feel more educated and empowered with this well written toolbox of strategies. Ultimately, this knowledge will help to ensure your child receives the services and support to be successful in school.

That’s what is in my noggin this week. Now, I am off to find a cute pair of yellow flats and get savvy for April to advocate about Autism Awareness Month.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow us on social media on Facebook and Instagram @ Down Syndrome with a Slice of Autism and on Twitter @tjunnerstall.

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

World Down Syndrome Day 3/21/21

World Down Syndrome Day 3/21/21

World Down Syndrome Day is this Sunday, 3/21/21. “WDSD 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 is an opportunity for all of us to promote awareness, understanding, acceptance 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”.  

My son Nick is 27 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. He has taught me a multitude of life lessons. Our story has touched the lives of so many others:

Here are 3 easy ways to celebrate WDSD and promote acceptance and inclusion:

*Promote Down syndrome awareness on social media using the hashtags #wdsd #worlddownsyndromeday #downsyndromeawarness #t21 #downsyndromelove #downsyndrome #321 #abilities #inclusion #funkysocks #downsyndromerocks #downsyndromewithasliceofautsim 🙂 Don’t forget to rock those funky socks to show that different is beautiful and wonderful!

*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

*Click here to: Take action – World Down Syndrome Day

Promoting WDSD on social media, encouraging the use of person first language and getting involved with WDSD events and fundraisers are wonderful ways you can be a part of of celebrating the uniqueness of individuals with Down syndrome. That’s what is in my noggin this week. Be sure and follow us on social media: Facebook and Instagram at Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism to see how we will be celebrating!

~Teresa 🙂