In March of 2009, at 15 months old, Lauren was nonverbal. She didn't babble much and didn't use 'mama' or 'dada' meaningfully. We were told by her wonderful Early Intervention teacher to try sign language. Neither my husband nor I knew sign language, but were willing to learn if it meant we could communicate with Lauren better. We started off in April of 2009 with a baby sign book from our local library, only learning helpful signs such as 'more' and 'up.' She did her best learning at night, right before bed. We could teach her several signs at a time and test her in the morning she would remember them all correctly! By July 2009, she had about 25 signs that she used frequently to communicate with us.
By March of 2010, she had 100 signs: Everything from people (mom, dad and Avery, her sister) to foods to toys. It was then we got our hands on a copy of Signing Time by Rachel Coleman. Wow. Lauren would watch the DVD a few times and would know all of the signs and their meanings.
As of January 2011 Lauren is verbal, but still signs when she speaks. She knows 350 signs and uses 75 spoken words. She is a quick learner, needing only to be shown the sign and its meaning a few times and she memorizes it. We are still teaching her signs, because we consider ASL to be her first language. We have about seven Signing Time DVDs, and Lauren has them all memorized. She knows all of the songs, and can sign right along with Rachel.
Lauren has received private speech services through a therapy center for nearly a year. We noticed that after the first session, she was speaking more. Lauren's Speech/Language pathologist wrote a book for kids specifically to help them speak. It is Lauren's favorite book and she will be videotaped as part of advertising for Miss T's book.
When I first learned of Lauren's diagnosis shortly after birth, I honestly didn't know much about Down syndrome. The books that were given to me by the local Early Intervention office were outdated by 20-30 years. The things that were written in the book were so depressing: 'Your child will probably never walk/talk/learn to use the toilet. You will have to take care of your child for the rest of his life, because they are incapable of learning.' Yes. Those were the things a new young mother and father were being told. How heartbreaking.
The more I read about Down syndrome (once we had access to Internet and modern books) the more hopeful I became about Lauren's future. And then we started signing with her. We were amazed at how fast she learned things (you know, because she was 'incapable' of learning). She has a very bright and successful future ahead of her, and we are so very proud of our baby.