Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #211~50 Years of Special Olympics

Blog #211~50 Years of Special Olympics

Special Olympics 50 years

“Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” 

This is the motto of the Special Olympics, encouraging athletes to find the courage to give it all you got.

“The torch was first lit on July 2, 1968 when Eunice Kennedy Shriver ushered in a new era for people with intellectual disabilities, when — with 1,000 athletes from three countries — she opened the very first Special Olympics International Games at Soldier Field in Chicago.”

Two weeks ago, the torch returned here to Soldier Field here in Chicago, where it all started.  Fifty years later, the games have become a global movement reaching more than 5 million athletes.  Sport events include track and field, basketball, bocce, cycling, figure skating, soccer, power lifting, gymnastics, judo, tennis, swimming, skiing and bowling to name a few.

“Special Olympics is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.”

My son Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  Over the years, he has participated in Special Olympics competing in track and field, bocce and bowling.  The spirit, camaraderie and dedication of volunteers made the experience very rewarding for Nick and our family.  Watching the determined athletes is awe-inspiring.

Nick competing in the 50 yard dash at North Central College….. 

Nick backside special olympics

Nick special olympics podium

Nick showing off his gold medal earned at bowling…..

Nick special olympics bowling

Nick taking a bow at the top of the podium as they played the olympic theme song.  He won the State Special Olympics gold medal for the softball throw competing in down state Illinois…..

Nick Special Olympics

Nick competing in Bocce with his volunteer peer partner, Bobby.  Incidentally, Bobby (who is Nick’s brother’s best friend), has since gone on to become a Special Education Teacher in the north suburbs of Chicago…..

Nick special olympics bocce     nick special olympics bocce two

As my son entered high school, we had to put Special Olympics on the shelf.  Having a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism made it difficult for Nick to participate without having a 1:1 aide at all times. This just wasn’t feasible.  As a parent, you can only do so much for your child.  I made the decision to put speech and occupational therapy first, rather than Special Olympics practice events, after school.  However, there were other inclusion opportunities for him in high school, which included Peer Partners and community trips with his respite workers.  Nick also participated in a wide range of P.E. programs with peer volunteers to assist and encourage him in high school.

Special Olympics has impacted the lives of athletes and volunteers for 5 decades.  Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s vision has grown from a flicker of the first torch flame, to an international movement.  “Special Olympics is dedicated to use the power and joy of sports to impact inclusion and respect – one athlete, one volunteer, one doctor, one teacher at a time.”  Congratulations to Special Olympics for 50 years of making a difference in the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities!

eunice_dennedy

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #tjunnerstall

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Blog #172~ Autism:5 Ways You Can Help

Blog #172~ Autism: 5 Ways You Can Help

The aim of Autism Awareness Month, is to educate the public about autism.  How do you react when you see or meet a person that has autism?  Autism is a complex mental condition and developmental disability, characterized by difficulties in the way a person communicates and interacts with other people.  People with autism are classed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the terms autism and ASD are often used interchangeably. A wide spectrum disorder, people will autism have set of symptoms unique to themselves; no two people are the same.

autism awareness 2016

My son Nick is 23 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS -ASD). During the month of April, I want to touch on autism awareness and acceptance.  Since the aim this month is to educate the public about autism, I would like to challenge you to open your mind and heart to individuals with autism, along with their families and caregivers.

photo (26)

Here are 5 easy things you can do to show acceptance and support for autism:

*Open your heart, give a smile to a family struggling out in public with a child or adult who has autism. Offer up good thoughts and prayers , for compassion, strength, patience and tolerance.

*Reach out, pay a compliment or offer help, to a family who might be dealing with a difficult situation with their child.  “You have a lovely family.” “You are a wonderful parent, I admire your patience.”  If you encounter a family going through a tough time, such as a meltdown, or if the child is shutting down, ask them “What can I do to help?”

*Be a friend, make a phone call to check in, set up a coffee or lunch date, or offer to help out with carpooling or running an errand.  Bring a bottle of wine or a Starbucks latte, over and chat.  Many parents may not get a chance to speak to other adults on a daily basis and often feel isolated.

*Teach your child about inclusivity.  Invite a classmate with autism, over for a play date or to your child’s birthday party.  Show that they are genuinely welcome, even if their child can only tolerate a short time.  Look into inclusion opportunities for your child at school like lunch buddy or peer partner programs and volunteering for Special Olympics.  These are all ways to teach your child to be kind and compassionate.

It’s great to see that Sesame Street just added a new muppet, Julia who has autism!

Julia Sesame Street

*Stand up and advocate, if you overhear someone saying something inconsiderate about autism or any other disability, speak up. Some people may not understand the unusual behaviors exhibited by individuals with autism. Some of these behaviors are sensory related. For example rocking and hand flapping is a coping mechanism that helps organize the brain.  Some individuals with autism become overwhelmed in stimulating environments. This may lead to a person shutting down or having a meltdown. Better understanding of such behaviors and their causes, leads to  You can help advocate by sharing information about autism on your social media.

Awareness and acceptance means allowing yourself and teaching others to be open, compassionate and kind.  Acceptance is not about tolerating others that are different from you.  It is about valuing our differences as human beings, and seeing the heart and strengths that lies in each of us.  That’s what is in my noggin during Autism Awareness Month.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @ #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall