Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #227~Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions, Here’s a Better Idea

Blog #227~Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions, Here’s a Better Idea

How many times have you made a new year’s resolution and failed to reach it?

new-year-resolutions-825x549

New Year’s resolutions can be daunting and difficult to keep.  This year, I am changing  my tune.  I’ve adopted a new principle personally and for my son, Nick who is 24 years old, and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  As a fitness professional for 35 years, my job is to motivate, challenge and inspire my clients.  Being fit and healthy isn’t just about eating right and exercising.  To feel your best, you must take care of the mind, body and spirit collectively.  As a parent of a child with special needs, there are more demands, that can wear on you both physically and emotionally.  It is essential to take care of your physical and mental needs to reduce stress and avoid burning yourself out.

mind body spirit

I was listening to a Sirius XM radio interview with Teddi Mellencamp (yes the daughter of John Mellencamp), who is an accountability coach. She gave a better alternative, instead of making new year’s resolutions.  Teddi suggested that you pick 3 things each day that will take care of you personally, and hold yourself accountable.  Write them down, and try it for just 5 days.  These should be centered around helping you to feel better, both physically and emotionally.  By doing this, you begin to create good habits, that leads to confidence, and ultimately changing your lifestyle.

So, I tried it by writing down 2 things each day (3 seemed too much with my busy schedule).  Here are a few things I did:

*Cleaner eating- Replace Sun Chips with almonds and make a chicken wrap with only avocado and lettuce.

*Relax, stretch and be mindful of breathing to relax and calm the body,

*Bump up home workout weights from 10 to 12 pounds.

*Be mindful of the gratitude you receive throughout the day

*Eat an extra piece of fruit.

*Turn off the TV and listen to music I enjoy.

*Be compassionate, smile at a stranger and do random acts of kindness.

*Drink one less cup of coffee and replace with more water.

*Go upstairs, every time I needed something, instead of waiting until things have accumulated.  (This increased my steps significantly).

*Apply one of the principles of Feng Shui.  De-clutter home and clean 8+ years of dust off the high cabinets to increase the flow of chi energy.

*Pray more throughout the day.

*Shop on the outer edges of the grocery store as much as possible. (This is where the nutrient dense, clean and less processed foods are located).

*Respond, and don’t react with anger.

*Meditate for 10 minutes.

I have to say, there is a feeling of personal accomplishment when you hold yourself accountable, and do just 2 things a day to promote personal health both physically and emotionally.

relax

As a fitness professional, here’s what I suggest on how to start a new fitness program.  Don’t set yourself up for failure. Replace the resolution of going to go to the gym 5 days a week with a more reasonable goal. Change the mindset to, doing some physical activity 3-5 days a week.  If you can’t make it to the gym, or you are too tired, then get out and walk or do some calisthenics for just 10 minutes.  Add an extra minute to each workout.  It will all add up, and you will build confidence and feel less guilty.  Break it down to smaller pieces and you will set yourself up for success! 🙂

This got me thinking that maybe I should apply this principle with my son, Nick who has Down syndrome and autism.  Being a parent, we often feel like we are not doing enough to help our child learn and develop skills.  Blame it on housework, our jobs, time schedules/demands, and just plain exhaustion which leads to feelings of guilt.  So, I am going to just focus on one thing that will help my son be more independent each day.

I started yesterday, by encouraging Nick to use his AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device.  Nick successfully used it to request breakfast and lunch, along with a few other highly preferred rewards he enjoys.

Today, I will continue to focus on Nick using his AAC device by requesting foods and after dinner getting him to ask to take a shower.  These are little steps, but they can add up and enable my son to realize the power of using his voice, via his talker.  I have to constantly remind myself to be disciplined with not only myself, but with my son.  Ultimately, our goal as parents is to guide our children to be as independent as possible and in the process, help them gain more confidence as individuals.

Saying goodbye to New Year’s resolutions, that are often impossible to keep for 365 days, feels liberating.  Shifting the mindset to smaller goals is more realistic.  Little changes add up to building healthy habits.  It will help you feel better physically and emotionally each day.  Plus, it’s attainable and a more reasonable approach to making positive changes.  Breaking things down into smaller pieces is a better way to have success, and build confidence gradually and consistently.  It also allows you to let go of the feelings of guilt that you aren’t doing enough for yourself and your family. I would love to hear your ideas 2-3 things you might add to improve your mind, body and spirit each day!

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick 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, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #174~ Mom,Take Care of Yourself!

Blog #174~Mom, Take Care of Yourself!

A message to all of you moms out there in the trenches, up to your elbows in laundry, cooking, cleaning and wiping up snot, or changing countless dirty diapers…….

Pour Cup

Trying to be perfect and do everything yourself doesn’t work.  Sometimes the items you put on your to-do list get bumped to the next week or month.  Life gets in the way, especially if you are raising a child with special needs.  My son Nick is 23 years old, and has Down syndrome and autism.  There was a time when I would beat myself up.  I felt tremendous guilt about not doing enough for him, and the rest of my family.

The internal dialog was something like this…..

Nick’s not sitting up yet, I need to do more physical therapy exercises at home.   I shouldn’t be sticking in a Barney video all the time.  He should be potty trained by now, what am I doing wrong?  I don’t have enough time to spend with my older son.  There aren’t enough hours in the day to get things done around the house. 

*This was the first lesson I learned.  Stop trying to be perfect and let go of the guilt….

There’s nothing wrong with having your own pity party every once in a while, and have  a good cry.  But self-pity and guilt can eat away at your psyche and rob you of happiness.  It is at these junctures, that I learned to evaluate the challenges in front of me.  Prioritize what is urgent and act upon them.  The rest of the expectations, were often things that I put upon myself, causing more unwanted stress in my life.  Don’t get me wrong, the guilt still pops up on occasion.  But it doesn’t consume me anymore.

*Which leads me to the second lesson I’ve learned…….

Make Time for Yourself

I’m no good to my family if I can’t let it go, and take care of myself.  What makes you happy?  Do it, get back to doing it!  Carve out niches whether it’s taking a walk outdoors, meeting a friend for coffee, reading a book, or getting back to a hobby you left behind once the kids were born.  Slow your pace during these times and savor the moments when you make time for yourself.

*The third thing that I’ve learned, combines the two above.  It is the importance of finding balance…..

Balance

Life can be crazy with kids, running them around to therapy/doctor appointments, sports programs, and enrichment classes.  On top of those Uber duties, there is running a household and if you have a job outside the home, the pace can be non-stop.  A car can’t run from zero to sixty mph, without shutting off the engine and stopping to refuel.  What are you doing on your fuel stops?  When you turn that key and the motor stops, think about going to a place that gives you a simple pleasure.

On my pit stops, I tend to grab the remote to shut down, kick back and do nothing.  Sometimes it’s a binge watch of Fixer Upper on HGTV, other times it’s a show on The Bravo Channel (thank you Andy Cohen).  It’s a time to de-compress, relax and escape.  This “do nothing” time allows me to re-fuel. Striking a balance, keeps you on an even keel.

As Mother’s Day approaches, my hope is for all moms to: 

*Let go of the guilt

*Make time for yourself

*Find balance and resist the urge to get everything done

Take care of yourself, you can’t pour from an empty cup!  When you find the balance, the happiness returns and there is more peace and fulfillment in your life as a mom.

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, 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