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

Nick~Spring Update

Nick~Spring Update

dandelion two

At last, spring has arrived in Chicago.  Here’s what Nick has been up to this spring at his adult day program.  My son is 23 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  Each day he engages in a variety of activities at this program.

Nick continues to have both in-house and community vocational jobs.  These include stocking shelves at a local food pantry, stuffing church bulletins and cleaning at GiGi’s playhouse.  He recently got a paid job in-house, crushing and recycling cans.


Other community activities in Nick’s day program include visits to the library, shopping, and local parks.  In house, the adult day program has many enrichment activities such as art, work bins, cooking, fitness, and gardening.  They have taken the carrot and broccoli pods which were started indoors this winter, and planted them outside.  His group also bought and spread mulch on the outdoor beds.

In cooking, they’ve made shepherds pie, fruit pizza, hot dogs & sloppy joes with fries, and biscuits with gravy.  They have so much fun playing bingo and having holiday theme parties.  For St. Patrick’s Day they made shamrock shakes, and for Cinco de Mayo they made burrito bowls.  Recently, the moms were invited to his room for a Mother’s Day tea.  Nick was very excited to have me visit.

Mother's Day Tea

Outside of Nick’s adult day program, he keeps busy with his respite workers.  He enjoys going to local parks,  the library, movie theatre and restaurants.  He’s a regular at Culvers and CiCi’s Pizza each week.  We are very fortunate to have such dedicated caregivers with Lara, Jodi and Kelsey, who he loves very much.

I’ve painted a pretty and serene picture of Nick’s world this spring.  But it’s not all dainty flowers and colorful rainbows.  There are quite a few dandelions scattered in the mix.


He continues to challenge us all with undesirable behaviors, like button pushing, throwing objects, blowing snot rockets and wiping them all over the place along with a lot of tapping and stimming.

Nick got a hold of a gargantuan tapper to stim on last week 🙂

Nick gargantuan tapper

There have been some milk thistles popping into the picture as well.  Last week he managed to add to his tally of fire alarm pulls, getting one at his day program.  So the alarm count stands today at 44 pulls.  OUCH!

milk thistle

The mix of cold weather and rain has led to some serious cabin fever this spring.  Here’s to warmer weather and getting my “one man wrecking crew” outdoors.  I’m grateful that Nick has a wonderful day program to go to, along with awesome respite workers that he loves.  He has a fulfilling life, and I get some peaceful time to myself.   Cheers to an abundance of flowers this spring, with fewer thorns.

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


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Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #103~Vocations for a Person with Special Needs

Blog #103~Vocations for a Person with Special Needs

Some 20 years ago when my son was born with Down syndrome, I wondered what kind of job Nick could do when he became an adult. I found myself gravitating to the checkout lines with the baggers who had Down syndrome.  Like a stalker I watched them work and interact with customers.   I’d ask for a carry out so I could chat more and offer up a huge tip.  I found a lot of hope in such moments.

Those dreams were crushed when autism ravaged my son’s mind and body. His speech would not come as it should have.  His behaviors were strange with all the stimming and worst yet, they became unpredictable.  Autism robbed his chance of being the best that he could have been with just Down syndrome.

Hope came back while Nick was in high school. In Blog #57~Community Jobs and Nick,  I wrote about what jobs he held out in the community. The link is @

Nick working at Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity)…..

Nick packaging door knobs_Habitat_4 (2)

Nick takes a lot of pride in his work.  Okay so, he might have pulled a fire alarm at his vacuuming job at a nursing home (woopsie).But for the most part he participated well in all his jobs.

Nick working at Tabor Hills 🙂 ………..

Nick tabor hills

Fast forward to the present, Nick finished high school and attends a post-secondary transition program. In this program the students work in house on job skills, are employed in the community, and some take college classes.  While Nick participates in production and vocational work in the school building, he no longer works out in the community.  His unpredictable behavior, especially the fire alarm pulls (30 since third grade) put him at too much risk to hold a job.  Reality has sunk in. 😦

I’m not going to lie. It’s a kick in the gut. The daunting task now is to come up with a plan.  How will Nick occupy his days once the bus stops coming to the door (at age 22)? I reached out to some of his teachers from high school awhile back.  (Originally I planned to make Blog #100 to be “100 Cool Things About Nick” That was way too ambitious and long.)  But here are a few things they sent to me that fit nicely here:

From Mrs. Hunt (his primary teacher and case worker):

Nick has great functional skills! I’ve seen him help with a variety of chores and complete personal care routines better than some typical teens! Nick is a hard worker and loves to vacuum. Nick has a hilarious sense of humor! His laugh and smile are contagious, even when he’s being a stinker- which makes behavior management even tougher. Nick is clever and perseveres. When he’s determined, he’s going to have his way. Elbow bumps- this is how I know who has a good relationship with Nick. His elbow bumps make a person feel awesome.  I love that the last time I saw him, he still gave me one.  I love that Nick is a typical young man at heart- burps and fart jokes so funny.” 

Being silly with Ms. R, his aide in high school 🙂

Devil horns

His vocational teacher, Ms. Stoodley offered up some ideas for possible jobs for Nick: 

  • Dancer
  • Happiness Creator
  • Adult Education Educator (all of us that he has taught and made better)
  • Vacuuming expert
  • Fire alarm Coordinator
  • Siren Director 
  • Professor of Dumping
  • Screw Sorter Assistant


I am slowly digesting the fact that Nick may not be able to work in the community. We need to look at his strengths, then create a meaningful day for him where he is productive and happy.  He is a “happiness creator” even in the midst of creating chaos. So yes, there is uncertainty regarding his future.  We have 17 month to figure things out.  Stay tuned……

That’s what is in my noggin’ this week,