Just another WordPress.com site, Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. This is his world, the rest of us are just trying to keep up!

Blog #153~Special Needs Back to School Tips

For the first time in 22 years, I don’t have to buy school supplies for my son.  Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He aged out of school on his birthday last February.   He attends an adult day program, which he enjoys immensely.  After 22 years I’ve learned a few tricks for getting back to school smoothly with your child that has special needs:

Back to school helpful tips

 5 Special Needs Back to School Tips

1.Look over your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before school begins.  The IEP outlines academic and functional goals, supports needed, accommodations and services.  Reach out to your child’s case manager/IEP coordinator or Support Teacher, and ask specifically how these will be implemented.

2. Arrange a visit to the classroom before school begins.  Request that a social story (pictures or video); be made of the settings that your child will be in at school, (classroom, lunch room, gym, sensory area, etc.).  If possible have the social story include pictures of support staff and classroom peers. If a child with autism can see it in picture form, they will better understand it.  This in turn, becomes their blueprint which; will lesson anxiety levels for your child.

back to school Nick

3.During the classroom meet and greet, arrange a mode of communication with your child’s teacher.  In the past I have used both email and a communication notebook which goes back and forth.  Since my son is for the most part non-verbal, so this allowed me to share if Nick had a restless night or was maybe he was fixated on fire alarms. (By the way,  he’s been at it again. He pulled a few more alarms this summer, while staff was on vacation. Check the “About” Page for the current pull count).

 

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4.Start Early! Get school supplies, clothes and shoes shopping done and haircut at least a week before the start of school, (if not sooner).  Having a child with special needs often means a lot of angst over haircuts.  For Nick the stress of getting one can affect him for several days after.  If you would like more tips on haircuts, hit the search box on the top right of this page.  Type in: Blog #18, A Cut Above. The night before school starts, have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices.  It’s all about having a smooth start to the day and this helps especially at six o’clock in the morning.  One thing that was NEVER EARLY; the school bus.  Make sure you have carved out your schedule accordingly and have something for your child to do while you wait.  On average, we’ve waited 30-45 minutes for the bus to get to our house the first few days of school.

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5.Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school.  It is fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing in the classroom.  Here are a few ways I’ve volunteered:

*Holiday Parties

*Art Awareness Presenter

*Chaperone Field Trips

*Assist Case Manager/ Support Teacher- Making copies, laminating, helping to create classroom supports.

Nick and I wish you all the best as you start the new school year with your child that has special needs.  Be cognizant of what is in the IEP, follow-up with communication, layout the blueprint for your child and get organized.  That’s the recipe for a smooth start to the new school year.  Oh, and don’t forget to take that cute first day of school picture and post it on Facebook.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa

Nick’s First Day of Kindergarten, 1999

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Blog #152~Lessons From Olympian Simone Biles

After winning individual gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around on Thursday, Simone Bile’s, in an interview, made a declaration. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” she said. “I’m the first Simone Biles.”

Simone Biles

Before going to teach spinning class last week, I was rushing around the house getting ready.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the Good Morning America interview featuring gold medalist, Simone Biles at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.  It struck me that this pint-sized, power house had 4 training tips that packed a lot of punch. I grabbed my coffee, pen and pad to jot down a few bullet points.

Having a child with special needs presents many obstacles in life.  I’ve had my share of them with my son Nick, for the past 22 years.  Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  The low muscle tone (a trait of having Down syndrome) delayed him from reaching gross motor milestones until much later than most babies.  He didn’t sit up until a year old, and he didn’t walk until he was 3 ½ years old.  Nick had to work a lot harder to hit those targets with years of physical therapy.  We’ve also spent 22 years going to speech and occupational therapy to help feeding, communication along with fine motor, sensory issues.

It has been quite a journey, which brings me back to those bullet points I scribbled down.  In the Good Morning America interview, Simone offered up some advice on her training regimen.  They are 4 simple lessons, and my take on they apply to raising a child with special needs:

  1. Enjoy the Ride

The journey isn’t always going to be easy.  It’s going to take a lot of hard work and shedding tears.  And that’s to be expected.  But, find a way to embrace the journey.  Have some fun as you go, and surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

  1. Never Give Up

There will be days, weeks and months where you see no progress.  Sometimes mistakes will be made.  That’s when you pick yourself up and trust that you can do it no matter what.

  1. Trust Your Squad

The fierce five huddled, cheered each other on, and believed in other.  When you have a child with special needs, you have to get a good squad together to help push them to succeed.  This includes the IEP team along with outside therapists.  Huddle in from time to time, and always keep the lines of communication open.  Make sure all the goals and dreams for your child are in sync.  Parents should have their own squad of friends and support groups you feel comfortable with.  Your squad understands the insurmountable pressure faced when raising a child with special needs.

Fab 5 Rio

4. Treat Yourself

After a competition, Simone (whether she wins or not) enjoys pepperoni pizza.  Parents of special needs kids spend a lot more time and energy helping their child reach goals.  It is beyond exhausting. Get a respite worker to watch your child.  Find the things that you enjoy and indulge.  Go out to lunch with girlfriends, get a manicure, go workout, take a trip to Target (alone), enjoy a nap, have a glass of wine.  Treat yourself, you deserve it.

That’s great advice from the 19-year-old Olympian champion.   Life will always have it ups and downs, twists and turns.  But if you can find a way to embrace the journey, you can hit the top of that podium and be the champion of your own life and your child’s.

Nick wins the gold for the softball throw at the State Special Olympics~2003

Nick Special Olympics

 

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Blog #151~OBX Vacation

Blog #151~OBX Vacation

What is OBX?  It’s an acronym for the Outer Banks.  OBX is a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina. Along this coastline you will find quaint towns, sleepy fishing villages, lighthouses and a beautiful coastline lined with dunes covered in sea oats.

Sea Oats

OBX lighthouses

It’s the place to go and unwind, let go of worries, and relax.  The biggest decisions for me would be which swimsuit to put on along with what book and cold beverage to have in my hand.

OBX signs

For the past six years, our destination has been Duck, NC.  My son Nick, is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  He absolutely loves to come here.  Vacations and travelling can be tough on our kids with special needs.  Having a regular vacation spot gives Nick predictability. This in turn makes him feel secure, thus keeping his anxiety level down.  New environments and being out of a routine can be tough for a person with special needs; especially autism.  Anxiety can lead to serious meltdowns.  We are fortunate to be able to return here to Nick’s Uncle and Aunt’s beach house. A place where Nick feels at home.

Nick and Uncle Ron at the crows nest…..

Nick and Ron OBX

Nick is comfortable in their house and helps out by vacuuming and unloading the dishwasher.  He loves swimming in the pool and soaking in the hot tub.

Nick with his “stim” of choice, the tappers.  My beverage of choice; a Lime-A-Rita🙂

Nick pool obx

Sensory issues related to autism can be another challenge on vacations.  Nick struggles with the texture and unevenness of sand as well as extreme heat.  It can be hit or miss getting him to even walk out to the beach.  The weather conditions were just right this year, with mild 80 degree temps and a nice breeze to cut the heat.  He did well hanging with us all on the beach a few times.  He even dipped his toes in the surf; success!

Nick Beach OBX

The dynamic was different this year.  We missed some family members including Nick’s grandparents, his brother and cousin.  Health issues, a new job out of college and a summer internship kept them from coming.  We missed having everyone together, along with the laughs and good times we’ve shared over the years here.

Nick and his brother Hank, OBX 2011

Nick and his brother, Hank at the Outer Banks, NC

OBX 2011

OBX Family 2011

OBX is where we let the stress fade as the waves washed away worries.  We each find our ways to unplug; whether it’s fishing, biking, tennis, manicures, massages, swimming, sunbathing and cracking open a good summer read.

My book of choice, following the extraordinary journey of retired Secret Service Agent, Clint Hill with five Presidents.  I highly recommend reading Five Presidents (#1 New York Times Best Selling Authors, Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin)….

Five Presidents

The book is finished on OBX vacation, 2016.  Nick enjoyed his time there and still seems very happy.  We will take back some great memories, new tan lines and a good feeling of being restored.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Blog #150~A&E’s Born This Way, an Exclusive Interview

A&E’s Emmy nominated series, Born This Way premieres its second season next Tuesday, 7/26/16 at 10pm/9pm (Central).  Born This Way features a cast of seven young adults with Down syndrome.  The show follows each cast member pursuing their real lives with passions, wants and needs the same as any other person their age. It will warm your heart, make you laugh and smile. They shine a wonderful light showing how awesome their lives are. And they’ve got serious swag…..

A&E’s Born This Way premieres, Tuesday July 26th at 10pm/ 9pm (Central)

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Recently, I was approached by the marketing department to partnership with A&E to help bring awareness and promote this show.  My son, Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome as well as autism.  So, I was happy to jump at the chance to do so.  Today’s blog post is an exclusive interview with the mother of Sean, a featured cast member on the show.

Sean McElwee is 22 years old.  He’s a dashing young man, an excellent golfer and gifted athlete. Sean thrived in inclusion in primary school and survived exclusion in secondary school.  He attends community college and works at Home Depot. He is a self-professed ladies man, and has dance moves that own the floor.

Sean with his parents Rick and Sandra……

Sean family pic

Let’s get to the interview with Sean’s Mom, Sandra Assimotos McElwee ….

Sandra Assimotos McElwee is an advocate for unborn babies with Down syndrome and created one of the first websites for parents with a prenatal diagnosis. She’s the author of three books,Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion”. McElwee contributed to the books, Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Our Lives“,  and “You Will Dream New Dreams, Inspiring Personal Stories by Parents of Children with Disabilities.” Married over twenty-two years to Sean’s father, Rick, they enjoy traveling and participating in Sean’s sports activities.  A medical sales professional, McElwee’s most important job is being Sean’s mother.

Interview with Sandra McElwee, Sean’s mom:

1.     What advice do you have for parents with younger children and newborns that have Down syndrome?

—Enjoy your baby, don’t get caught up in the ‘what could be’ although I know it’s hard to not think about a future wedding when you have a baby. The dreams you may have, the dreams that you had that may have been dashed by the diagnosis –they will become new dreams and in my case dreams I could never have imagined in my wildest imagination! 

2.  During the age that Sean was in the public school system, what was the most difficult part of the IEP process for you?  Where you happy with the end result of schooling and his IEP.

—I’ve written a book about this—‘Who’s the Slow Learner? A Chronicle of Inclusion and Exclusion.’

Who's The Slow Learner

Sean was an inclusion pioneer, the first student included with a disability in his elementary school. His inclusion was such a success by the 4th grade the school became an inclusive school and there were no segregated classes and around 40 students with a variety of special needs fully included. The wheels fell off in secondary school. So no, I was not happy with the end result, but the first 7 years were text-book perfect.

The most difficult part of the IEP process was in high school when educators and administrators outright lied to me.  

3.  What advice would you give for new teachers and special education teachers who will be working with students that have Down syndrome?

–Please give your students opportunities. Allow them to express their interests and support them in pursuing their interests. Don’t assume just because someone can’t speak clearly that they don’t have something to say—listen to them. And do not expect a person with Down syndrome to have BETTER BEHAVIOR than the typical students.  

4.  What has been your biggest joy and accomplishment raising Sean?  What has been the toughest time and struggle?

–Seeing Sean grow into a confident, independent adult. The toughest struggles have been dealing with the prejudices of educators who limited his opportunities when he was in high school. 

5.  What would you like to share with the world about Sean, Down syndrome and being on Born This Way?

—I want the world to see that Sean and people with DS are more alike than different, they simply needs support and opportunities to show the world their capabilities. 

6.  As a mom of my son Nick, who is 22 years old and has Down syndrome; what are your biggest fears for your son now that he is an adult? 

—My biggest fears are that he will get his heart broken to the point of not wanting to try again…although he really has a lot of tenacity so like most fears, mine is probably unfounded.

I hope that Born This Way and this interview will enlighten and inspire parents, family, friends and educators who have been lucky enough to be touched by a child who has Down syndrome.  Be sure to set your DVR’s for A&E’s Born This Way.  Please share this blog and the additional social media links below.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa

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Blog #149~Vacation/Staycation

How’s your summer going?  Nick had a blast on vacation in Texas, and a staycation here with his cousins. My son Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. We flew down to Texas late June, for a family reunion in the Hill Country.  I managed to knock a few things off my Texas bucket list including Tex-Mex food, tubing, swimming and authentic BBQ.

Nick enjoying the pool with his cousins, Jake and Jenna….

Nick Hill Country pool

A plate of Texas heaven….

BBQ

It was great to see extended family, share laughs, stories, meals, elbow bumps, and get those awesome Overbey family hugs!  Thanks Laura and Scott for hosting a wonderful event.

Texas sunset

We enjoyed a nice 4th of July, and Nick certainly got into the patriotic spirit. I don’t know where he comes up with these things……

Nick flags

Following the 4th of July, my niece and nephew came up for a week.  We had a lot of fun taking them out and spoiling them. They knocked a few things off their Chicago bucket list:

* Chicago White Sox game

*Taste of Chicago

*Millennium Park “The Bean”

bean

* Giordano’s deep dish pizza

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*Portillo’s Italian Beef

*Blain’s Farm and Fleet (not sure that was on the list, but a good laugh between me and Jenna)

Thank you to our respite workers, (Jodi, Kelsey and Lara) for taking Nick out during our staycation. It was fun enjoying Chicago with the kids, and just hanging out (and being the cool aunt).

Elbow Bumps….

Nick and Jenna

So, that’s our summer thus far.  On another note, I’m excited to share a great opportunity with you.  Recently I was approached to be in a partnership with A&E’s hit show, Born This Way!  This series features young adults who have Down syndrome showing everyone the possibilities.  I got an exclusive interview you won’t want to miss. Look for the blog post later this week.  Check the social media sites below  for more information, including a look at the trailer.  Let’s get the word out, and share this on your social media as well.

A&E’s Born This Way premieres next Tuesday, July 26th at 10/9c!

BTW FB creative.jpg

What a great summer, it’s been.  See you in a few days with my exclusive Born This Way interview! That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

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Nick Update

Nick Update

Nick flag

Vacation in Texas and the 4th of July were a lot of fun.  Nick’s cousins have been visiting us for the past week.  We’ve had a blast and look forward to sharing all about it next Monday.  Want to know more about Nick’s world, Down syndrome and autism?  There are a variety of categories located on the right side, below the archives  including:

Adult Day Programs for Special Needs

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Autism

Autism Safety and Wandering

Behavior/ABA

Down syndrome

Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism

Education and Special Needs

Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting

Fun Side of Nick

Government/Legal Matters Related to Special Needs

Health Issues and Special Needs

IEP’s

Parenting Special Needs

Physical Therapy and Special Needs

Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Resources for Special Needs

Speech and Occupational Therapy

Tech Stuff/Apps and Video Based Instruction

Toileting

We have daily updates on our social media sites below. Have a great week and see you next Monday with more of Nick’s world!

~Teresa and Nick

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Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July

Nick 4th of July

Nick and I wish you a Happy 4th of July.  Have a safe and wonderful holiday!

~Teresa and Nick

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