Posted in Adult Day Programs for Special Needs, Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

DS-ASD~Teaching Job and Functional Living Skills

DS-ASD~Teaching Job and Functional Living Skills

There are many jobs and functional living skills that can be taught to individuals who have a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  My son Nick is 25 years old and has several jobs both at home and in his adult developmental training day program.

Nick working at his day program….

Nick cleaning aid

Nick helping out at home…

Nick vacumme thanksgiving

One of the keys to unlocking your child’s potential, is to look at their interests and strengths.  Figure out what motivates them, and build jobs around those areas.  To read how to teach job and functional living skills click on the link below:

https://nickspecialneeds.com/2017/07/31/blog-179down-syndrome-and-autism-unlocking-your-childs-potential/

It’s never to early to start teaching job and functional living skills.  Start small and build around the interests and strengths of the individual.  Include lots of praise and rewards.  These skills will help to develop confidence and independence.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

nick-senior-alarm-pic

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 #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, 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

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting

Blog #104~ Parenting and Discipline

Blog #104~ Parenting and Discipline

I recently was in a conversation with two young mothers of school age children. Both were talking about how much they did for their kids.  One mom commented that her daughter was old enough to make her own bed.  Yet she would do it herself because her daughter did it so sloppily.  The other one talked about scrambling to get the lunches made and double checking to see if all the homework was in their backpacks.  I scratched my head and wondered about this. Why weren’t they using these opportunities to help foster independence in their children?  I think as a mom, sometimes it’s just easier to do it yourself instead of constant reminders and nagging.  But in the long run, this does nothing to teach your child responsibility. Which brings me to my point this week; parenting is not only disciplining your child but also staying disciplined yourself.

When you are raising a child with special needs, it is even more difficult to teach independent living skills. Things take longer to learn with deficits in speech, gross motor and fine motor skills.  The process of putting on shoes and socks can be a ten minute ordeal.  With the bus coming at 7:25 a.m. the morning may not be ideal to use as a teaching moment. But you can carve out chunks of time to practice independent living skills during down times.

My son, Nick is now 20 years old. He has Down syndrome and autism.  Once at a high school conference, his teachers and therapists pointed out how good he was at self-care (in fact the strongest student in the class). I attribute this to three things:

1. Providing those teaching moments to practice skills

2. Using visuals so he can be prompted

3. Staying disciplined in the routine rather than just doing it myself

photo (105)

The most challenging thing I have ever done was getting my son with special needs toilet trained. It is also happens to be the greatest thing that I have accomplished in my life. It was certainly a marathon, not a sprint.  In fact it was the longest and hardest marathon imaginable.  And we stepped in a LOT of poop along the way.

poop icon

When I look back at that road, one thing stands out on how Nick finally got toilet trained. It was DISIPLINE! Yes, I worked with autism specialists, went to potty training workshops and used visuals.  But nothing worked until I disciplined myself to create a timed toileting schedule and stick with it.  This (combined with the fact that Nick finally was mature enough), led to the success of him getting out of Depends and into underwear.  And that was a glorious sight to see. 🙂

It was a long road but we made it to the other side, tada!

IMG04

The importance of staying disciplined as a parent will pay off in the long run. You can’t wipe your child’s bottom forever.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Blog #74~ Teaching to 21

Blog #73~ Teaching to 21
Last week, I was a guest lecturer at Northern Illinois University. The graduate level class topic was “Functional Communication and Social Skills” as it relates to autism. I presented a parent’s perspective.

NIU logo

One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is teaching personal independence. It’s never too early to start working on these skills. One concept brought to my attention by Nick’s support teacher from elementary school is called, “Teaching to 21.” What skills will an individual with special needs require to lead a successful life after school is finished? Here is a list of skills that should be addressed both in school and at home for students with special needs:

 Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)

Source: http://autismbeacon.com/topics/article/functional_skills_for_people_on_the_autism_spectrum

“Functional skills” are those skills that if learners cannot do for themselves, someone will have to do for them. Functional skills are immediately useful and important. They increase self-help and independence and are present in every setting and throughout every stage of life:

Basic skills:
Self-management
Basic Communication
Dressing
Toileting
Grooming
Bathing
Health, safety, first aid
Night time routines

Home Skills Module:
Meals at home
Dishes
Clothing
Laundry
Housekeeping
Chores
Household mechanics
Leisure
Kitchen
Cooking

Community Participation:
Basic mobility
Community knowledge
Shopping
Meals in public
Money handling
Phone
Time
Social awareness
Manners

School Skills:
School waiting and transitions
Classroom routines
Meals at school
Classroom people, places and objects
Classroom mechanics
Outside school
Functional academics
Classroom leisure and independence

The IEP team should address these skills in goal planning and daily schedules of the student. In addition, supports should be put in place that will assist the student in reaching these goals. Here are some of the supports that Nick has used in school. Since Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism, these tangible provisions give him clarity and focus in doing his tasks.

*Visual supports such as task strips, social stories, picture schedules and video modeling:
task strip
*First-then visual or app to remind student what they are working for:
first then

first then app
*Timed Timer clock or app and Picture Scheduler app:

timed timer

picture schedule app
*Physical prompting-teacher may do hand over hand to teach a school and fade back to just pointing to direct student.

*Guiding student with visual cues (putting stickers on washcloths to teach folding sequence, sprinkle hole punch paper dots on floor to teach vacuuming, using counting templates, etc…)

Nick packaging door knobs_Habitat_4 (2)

For students with autism, if they can see it…. they can understand it. In Blog #5~Ready, Set, Action (located in April 2012 Archives) I wrote about how successful video modeling was in teaching Nick skills around the house. He responds to and is motivated by seeing the footage in a video format. It also landed him a community job at a local elder residence care facility.

Nick hard at work 🙂
Nick vacumming_Tabor Hills (3).

Nick takes great pride in his jobs both in the community, school and at home. We continue to work on the skills needed for him to be as independent in all areas of his life so he is ready to manage things when he is finished with school. It’s all about starting early and teaching to 21! 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