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

DS-ASD~Mom,Take Care of Yourself

DS-ASD~ Mom, Take Care of Yourself

It’s May and the school year is almost done. This month is busy, and parents get pulled in many directions. Being a mom of a special needs child for 25 years, I know first hand the guilt associated with not doing or being enough for my family. My son Nick is 25 and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Over the years, I’ve learned how to cope with the stress and guilt, which can be debilitating. You are no good to your family if you don’t take care of yourself.

Mom quote first step

My advice to moms out there is this- Cut yourself some slack and take care of yourself.  Life is not perfect, none of us are; just let go of that notion. 

Here is a blog I wrote a couple of years ago with 3 tips on how to take care of yourself:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/05/08/blog-174-momtake-care-of-yourself/

mom quote body, mind soul

You can’t pour from and empty cup, so remember to keep yours filled. Your family needs you at your best and you will have more to offer them. Make it a priority to carve out some time each day to take care of yourself.

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, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #228~DS-ASD and Managing Stress as a Parent

Blog #228~DS-ASD and Managing Stress as a Parent

Let’s face it, parenting is stressful with all the demands that are draining on a daily basis.  Raising a child with special needs compounds this even further.  A child with an intellectual or developmental disability such as autism, Down syndrome or a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD) has even more demands, with living skills, communication and behavior.  These additional needs means the parent has to work even harder.  This can drain parents both physically and emotionally.  I have been dealing with this stress for 24 years, as my son Nick has a dual diagnosis of DS-ASD.  Here is what the stress looks like for a parent of a child with special needs, and some coping mechanisms to combat it.

stress ball

So what does stress look like for parents raising a child with special needs?  Yes, there are the usual demands of running the household, carpools, extra curricular activities and homework of the child and any siblings, but there is much more.  There are often additional therapy and medical appointments on the calendar each week.  Balancing this with all the other activities can be tricky, with someone feeling short-changed in the family.  As I mentioned earlier, a child with special needs may need additional help with daily living skills, communication and behavior management.  If a child is non-verbal or limited in speech, the parent may have to play the guessing game on what the child needs. Deficits in communication skills can often lead to behavior problems.  Maladaptive behaviors may prevent the family from doing activities, attending outside family gatherings and special events together.  One parent may opt to stay home with the child, which over time, may impact the marital relationship.  This also creates a sense of isolation.  All of this can lead to feelings of guilt by the parent, which is one of the biggest internal stressors.

So, how can you manage stress as a parent of a child with DS-ASD or any other intellectual or developmental disability?  Ideally, a parent would schedule a vacation or spa weekend getaway, right?  But what if you don’t have the time or resources for such an elaborate indulgence?

spa getaway

Stress Management in my opinion, begins with mindfulness.  Carving out a few minutes for yourself is key.  Dedicate a time where you can meditate.  Free your mind of all distractions and breathe deeply.  This will allow the heart rate and blood pressure to lower and reduce stress.  Last week, I had lunch with my niece, who recently returned from a spiritual cycling journey and yoga retreat overseas.  We talked about the concept of truly being present in the moment.  The focus can be as simple as being aware of your senses……..

Step outside notice how the sun and warm breeze feel on your face. 

Quiet yourself and enjoy the texture and taste of each bit while you eat.  Take in the aroma and softness against your fingers, as you bite into the pita bread.

Listen and feel how the snow crunches under your feet, take in the cool air and watch as you exhale, seeing your breath rise up into the blue sky.

Sit silently, maybe with your child or pet, feel the softness and listen to your breaths.  Do nothing,  just be as one.

Put on your favorite music.  Focus on the beat, various musical instruments, vocal tones, and harmonies.  Note the meaning of the lyrics, and how it all  feels to your body, mind and soul.

Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the moment that you are in right now, and freeing yourself from worry.  Spending time in the present and focusing on your senses, will allow you to feel less tense.

Pairing mindfulness with gratitude cancels out negative thoughts and worries.  Some days can be challenging and exhausting.  In those times, remind yourself that there is always something or someone to be grateful for.  Showing gratitude can boost morale for  yourself and others.

Taking time to get physical activity in daily can greatly reduces the effects that stress can take on the body.  Even small bursts of exercise, taking a fitness class or a walk around the block can make a difference on how you feel.

It is also important to reach out and share what is going on with friends, family and support groups.  Isolation can be debilitating.  Sharing your struggles can give you a fresh perspective.  There is much to be gained in finding a support group of like-minded individuals who are on a similar path.  In the DS-ASD world, we share success stories, challenges of our child’s delays, and difficult behaviors.  We offer suggestions on how to find a better way to manage the unique challenges associated with our kids and applaud the milestones they hit.  When you share your struggles, (and do so with a dose of humor), you don’t feel alone anymore.  That can be a powerful thing.

Reducing stress doesn’t have to be a big, fancy trip or getaway.  Taking time to exercise mindfulness, gratitude, doing some type of physical activity, and opening yourself up to others, are all simple ways to reduce anxiety.  Allowing people to come in your life for support, will help make difficulties more manageable. Most of all, it’s essential to take some time and find ways to relax your mind. This allows you to re-charge and lessen the degree to which stress can affect the body and mind.

let yourself rest

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

~Teresa

Follow Nick on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest at Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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