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

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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Fun Side of Nick, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

DS-ASD Winter Update

DS-ASD Winter Update

Vail view 2019

My son Nick is a young adult, who has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). He attends an adult developmental day training program which provides a variety of structured activities. This week, I want to catch everyone up on what Nick’s been doing this winter.

Nick’s day program includes learning and enrichment activities. Clients enjoy learning new skills, vocational jobs, exercise, crafts, shopping, cooking, theme days/parties and community outings. The structured program is a necessity for individuals like Nick who have a secondary diagnosis of autism. He looks forward to going to this program daily.

Nick at his adult developmental day training program:

Nick bowling fall 2019     nick connect game

There have been many celebrations and fun excursions this winter for Nick. Here are a few of the highlights:

Christmas in Chicago was unseasonably warm this year, no jacket or shoes required. 🙂

Nick Christmas presents 2019     Nick Christmas outside 2019

We recently enjoyed a nice vacation in Vail. Nick loved the dog sledding with Mountain Mushers. He got to ride with his guide and friend, Cameron for the third year in a row. This year Nick road up the gondola for the first time and we did snow tubing. It’s always nice to go into Vail village, and this year his respite worker joined us in the fun and helped support Nick for a few days of our trip.

Vail vacation highlights:

Nick and Cameron Dog Sledding 2019   Dog Sledding 2019 Nick and Miss R Vail 2019   Nick and Dad Tubing 2019

Nick just celebrated his 26th birthday! He had a pizza party with cupcakes at his day program. We also had cake at home and a nice birthday lunch with family.

Nick’s birthday highlights:

Nick birthday at Keeler 2020   nick 26 birthday

nick birthday 2   Nick HBD

It’s been a fun and busy winter in Nick’s world. As most of you know, I have completed my memoir, “A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism”  which is forthcoming on May 5, 2020!  My next post will showcase the book and include pre-order details and how you can get your hands on a copy. I can’t wait to share this with all of you. I truly appreciate your support in my writing and following Nick’s world. 🙂

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

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Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Uncategorized

Blog #93~Down Syndrome & Autism and Getting Help

Blog #93~Down Syndrome & Autism and Getting Help

Last Saturday was the National Down Syndrome Association (NADS) Retreat. NADS serves families in the Chicago area.  This retreat is specifically for families that have a child with Down syndrome and autism. There is a children’s program that includes play time and swimming where respite workers are provided by NADS. Nick loves going to the retreat.

Nick enjoying pool time at the NADS Retreat a few years back……

Nick 2 (2)

The children’s program also has music therapy.  Here’s Nick jamming last Saturday……..  🙂

nads retreat music therapy

The parent agenda this year was to tackle some of  areas that we’ve all been struggling with.  Dr. Louis Weiss, Ph. D. lead a guided discussion of the top five topics chosen by the families attending the retreat. The five areas of discussion included:

  1. Getting respite care and funding for it.
  2. Teaching
  3. Behaviors
  4. Parental and family stress
  5. Dealing with systems.

One family posed the question about their child and regression of behaviors. Dr. Weiss made a comment which resonated with me. He said that regression can happen during periods of transition. Regression is a way to prepare oneself to move forward. If a person doesn’t feel safe they will pull back first before they can launch themselves forward.

I had as Oprah says an “Ah-ha moment”.  Last fall, my son Nick (19 years old) out of nowhere began to wet his pants repeatedly at school. I figured it was stress because he was starting the new transition program. But after hearing this comment it all made sense now. He was trying to deal with a new setting and a crowded bus. Nick didn’t feel secure and his behavior reflected just that.

Speaking of stress, there is a great deal of it for families raising a child with Down syndrome and autism. Let me put a lens on what we talked about. Imagine having to wash the sheets every day after your 14 year old wets or soils them.  Or how about this?  The constant worrying that your 12 year old may take a dump in the neighborhood pool and shut it down. Picture a 15 year old getting off the bus and plopping down in the middle of the street.  He won’t  budge for a solid hour.  You have to stand there and direct traffic around him because no one stops to help out, and you forgot your cell phone.

Here is the takeaway that I got from this session. Dr. Weiss suggested that we need to figure out what causes us to suffer. Then look at re-framing the story, in essence figure out a way to fix it. Maybe it’s hiring a sitter to come in and wash those dirty sheets. Perhaps counseling could help with the stress.  In addition, just getting  a new set of eyes on the problem may help.  This can be done by contacting an advocate or behavior support specialist.

We spent the afternoon building a resource list, networking, sharing our struggles and offering advice to support each other. By the end of the day, parents walked away loaded with more power in their arsenals. I am grateful to have the support of NADS and the retreat. It’s good to share struggles, successes and get help.  Plus, no one in our group bats an eye if a kid is tapping shoe insoles against their mouth, stimming on a karate belt or plopped right in the middle of the corridor.  These guys remind me that I’m not alone on this road navigating Down syndrome and autism. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

🙂 One last thing, Did you notice I changed the title of my blog to Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism? (Though some days I think it’s the other way around) 🙂

cropped-lemon-one.jpg

I also have a new Facebook page with this title. You will find some new things here including weekly videos of Nick being silly. If you are on Facebook,  please take a look at this page: Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism and I’d appreciate it if you would like the page!like button