Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Down syndrome, Uncategorized

Blog #137~Nick’s Adult Day Program

Blog #137~Nick’s Adult Day Program

Nick is just about a month into his new adult day program.  My son just turned 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  The month before his 22nd birthday he was attending the program part time.  Gradually we increased his days and hours during the month of January.  This made for a nearly seamless transition out of school to his new location.

The one bug in the whole process has been the transportation piece.  The first try was using a riding service through our county.  This was a fail.  There was a different driver every time, and you had to pay cash $13.50 each way.  The final nail in that coffin was a driver who (as reported by Nick’s job coach), was speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and throwing his leftover lunch out the window.  The next driving service we tried were caring and nice.  However they were never on time and cost way much more money ($27.50 each way) Ouch!  Currently, we’ve hired a lovely gal who is taking Nick in the mornings.  Kelsey has been a godsend.  She said that Nick is the best way to start her mornings. 🙂

Nick in car aid

For the time being, I am picking him up each afternoon.  Ideally, I hope to find another driver or find someone to share carpool duties with as it really cuts into my schedule. Otherwise I’ll paint my car taxi cab yellow. 😀  Stay tuned……

Nick has adjusted well in his new program.  Here are a few snapshots:

Vocational tasks….. (What, he’s not spraying anyone in the eye or drenching a flat screen tv?)

Nick cleaning aid.jpg

Nick relaxing in the sensory room….

Nick sensory aid

In his new program, the group goes out into the community three times a week.  He has already been to the Shedd Aquarium, recycling & food pantry jobs, shopping for cooking supplies and eating out at restaurants. The program also has special days with themes like Elvis Day, soul food cooking, Valentine’s Day party and monthly birthday celebrations.  The staff is caring and they really love what they do.  Nick has been very happy here.

Yes, there have been a few behaviors that have challenged the staff. That’s to be expected.  Nick can spot fresh meat and will test you.  But last week and the follow up meeting, the behaviorist felt these were manageable.  It really helped that the school sent his job coach with him during the transition.  Jodi, was able to help the staff understand these and guide them on how to handle Nick.  So far, he has only got to the cover of a fire alarm. I had my money on him pulling one the first week. 🙂

As Nick’s mom, it warms my heart to know that his days are full, structured, meaningful and that he is happy in his new adult life. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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

Blog #107~Dolphins and My Son with Special Needs

 

Blog #107~Dolphins and My Son with Special Needs

There is something about dolphins and Nick. The first time I noticed his fascination was on a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium when he was 6 years old. As the dolphins sprung out of the water he got so excited! The look on his face was sheer delight. I’d never seen him so joyful and mesmerized all at once.

Dolphin show

A few years later, at SeaWorld in San Antonio, my sister witness Nick’s joy.  Laura literally cried seeing Nick’s face light up.  He is so drawn to the dolphins and beluga whales.  Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  His speech is limited.  But no words were needed.  The look on his face said it all.  I knew that I had to find a way for him to get up close with dolphins as they seemed to be able to connect to Nick.

A few years ago we took a vacation down in the Florida Keys.  This was a perfect opportunity to find a program where Nick could get in the water with the dolphins.  There are many dolphin encounters in that area but I decided on a more personal experience at Hawk’s Cay Resort“The Dolphin Connection” provided this with small groups of 4 or 5 participants. I spoke with the head trainer to discuss our son and his special needs. She assured me they were very experienced with handling such. I created a social story filled with icons to support Nick in understanding the schedule of events. It was a beautiful day with the warm sun cascading over the aqua waters of the Keys.

Hawks-Cay-004-340x213

The first part consisted of a brief classroom instruction to go over rules and education on dolphins. Nick along with his Dad, brother and cousins were so excited to squeeze into wet suits and get down to the docks.  The experience was very hands-on where each participant individually got to touch, feed, hug and even kiss these amazing mammals.  Nick was completely engrossed. As the trainer had the dolphin roll over Nick quickly bent down to give the dolphin a “raspberry” on its belly.  The trainer remarked, “Well, THAT’S a first”.  Leave it to Nick,  I have a feeling that trainer will never forget him!

raspberry

The final portion of the dolphin encounter included interaction using hand signals. This was a huge splash as they were able to gesture and the dolphin would clap, twirl around, move backwards, and jump high in the air.  As I stood behind the camera filming, I was deeply moved.  This day was such a beautiful gift and the photo tells the story that Nick indeed was connected and absorbed in this moment.

Nick and his Dad……

Nick Kiss

Nick still likes to watch the video footage from that day. Two of his favorite movies are Flipper and A Dolphin Tale. I have to think that this unique experience will forever be one of the best things we have done for our son and together as a family.

Nick’s brother, Hank and  his cousin Anna….

dolphin photos 07 002 (2)

When you have a child with special needs and limited speech it can be extremely challenging to know what they are thinking, feeling and what they truly love.  I had a hunch that this experience would be a slam dunk.  Indeed, it was and then some.  My heart is warm in knowing that we could give this to him.   That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa