Worth Repeating: "A Different Voice": Explaining my Child with Down syndrome to Her Sibling
Editor’s Note: What a beautiful article by guest writer Hallie Levine Sklar, on Love That Max
by Hallie Levine Sklar
About a month ago, right before bedtime, my four-year-old son Teddy crawled into my lap, wrapped his arms around me and said, “Mommy, why does Jo Jo talk in a different voice?”
“What do you mean, Teddy Bear?” I asked, smoothing back his bangs from his forehead, but of course I knew. Jo Jo is Teddy’s older sister. She’s five, with huge hazel eyes and a sensational mane of ash blonde hair. She also has Down syndrome.
“She talks in a different voice,” Teddy persisted, staring at me. He’s got the exact same eyes as Jo Jo, flecked with specks of brownish gold and green, but while hers have a slight almond tilt—one of the hallmarks of Down syndrome—his are wide set and round.
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure what to say. Jo Jo and Teddy are 17 months apart. For a while, they were like twins, and then, when Teddy turned two I watched as his verbal skills exploded overnight and he began to talk in elaborate sentences while my 3½-year-old daughter struggled still to say single words. Within a matter of weeks, he’d surpassed her developmentally, but he still played with her, still splashed in the bath with her and sang songs with her and insisted they draw together.
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