VIDEO: Julian Draws 8 Letters, Face, Person & Other Updates!

Hi everyone! Long time to blog. =)

Included below is an overall update first followed by a VIDEO of my little boy Julian at 3 years and 4 months drawing 8 letters  (H, T, L, I, A, O, Q and E), a face and a person. It is so amazing to watch him do this! (disclaimer – the video is quite long….but if you watch the first couple of minutes you see him draw a number of letters -…and the last few minutes are more letters, a face and a person).

Overall update:

Life has been keeping us busy and my two toddler boys continue to grow and do fun and new things every day.  The last time I blogged Julian had just turned 3 and I wrote an update on his new preschool and the therapies he receives there.

He LOOOOVES school and is fitting right in.  He says Hi to everyone, adores story time so much so that the teacher has to sometimes ask him to go back to his seat because he comes out of the circle to go get a closer look at the book.

When we drop him off in the morning, he knows right where to go to put his lunch (actually it is for snack) box in his cubby and he takes off his jacket with a little help. He loves to go around to all of the other cubbies and say the names of the other students. He can read most all of the names.

On the health front, Julian had his annual three year check up and his health is great.  He also had an eye exam and his eyes are still within range of not needing glasses, but are on the verge of needing them, so we need to keep getting his eyes checked (I think every 6 months).   He needed to have a neck x-ray because people with Down syndrome are at a higher risk for Atlantoaxial Instability which means that their cervical spine is at increased risk of injury.  About 15% of the Ds population has Atlantoaxial Instability which means they need to restrict physical activity. Julian’s neck checked out A-OK.

Julian Stats at 3 Years:
26 lbs (3%) 35 in (5%) at 3 years (my little peanut)

Anderson Stats at 1 year:
21.5 lbs (48%); 31 in. (86%) inches

As I post this – Julian at 3 years and 4 months is saying more and more words – one and two word phrases, sometimes three.  And he can sight read basic words in books.

Julian is becoming more and more of a “little man” and people have commented that he finally lost the round baby face he used to have. He is growing taller and finally went up a shoe size from size 5 to size 6.  Anderson wears size 5 shoes. We continue to get comments whenever we go out asking if they are twins (and usually commenting on how cute they are too). =)  Julian is still about 4 inches taller than Anderson but they wear size 24 months and 18 months respectively.

The boys have had more and more fun playing with each other, chasing each other and laughing hysterically with each other.

Here are some recent photos:

Anderson and Julian enjoying a fall nature walk:

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Above: Julian and Anderson getting tickled by daddy at the pumpkin patch.



Left: Julian the Dragon and Anderson as Roo from Winnie the pooh.




Julian meets Rachel from Signing Time!






















Julian was so in awe when he met Rachel at the MDSC Buddy Walk in Wakefield, he loved that he held her and he didn’t want to let go.  She also gave a little concert to everyone which was awesome.  Other than seeing all of our friends at the Buddy Walk, Rachel was the highlight!
Here are some Sign Language Posts from my blog that might be helpful if you are looking to learn more:

“What’s next”? How to Teach Your Baby to Read (& Sign)

VIDEO: My Baby Can Sight Read at 20 Months! (oh and he has Down syndrome)

VIDEO of Julian’s Sign Language at 19.5 months

That’s about it for now!

Julian’s progress with speaking, writing and reading make me excited for when he will enter Kindergarden. He is in an integrated preschool right now, where about half the class of 12 has some sort of special need, and half the class doesn’t.  The elementary school that he will go to is also integrated where students with special needs are included in the class with everyone else, and they get pulled out to get extra help with whatever they need.

How’s that for “more alike than different“?

And the key word in disability is ABILITY.  Tell me about your child’s abilities! I want to hear about every little milestone from starting to smile, to eating solids, to pulling up, to drinking from a straw cup, to crawling, to walking, to talking, to writing and reading, and more!

Thanks for reading,


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Julian is 3! Update on School & Therapy

My baby Julian turned three on June 5! I can’t believe it. This means that he is placing out of the 0-3 Early Intervention program for children with special needs.

He will now go to the integrated public preschool in our town, which happens to be located in the building of the school in our district, Harrington.  The preschool starts this coming Monday, July 8 and the summer session will be 9 – noon M-Th.  Then the fall session will start and that is M – F 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Julian’s last day at his old school (well it is really a daycare but we called it school) LINC, where he attended M W F from 8:30 – 5:30 p.m. since he was 10 months old, was June 28 (Anderson’s birthday!).  Saying goodbye to all of his teachers and friends there was a bit emotional. I cried.

At Julian’s new school called Lexington Children’s Place he will receive speech therapy (3x week), occupational therapy (2x week) and physical therapy (2x week).   He will be in an integrated classroom with 12 students and four teachers. Half of the class has some sort of special need (and IEPs, or Individualized Education Plans), and half doesn’t.

I also thought I’d share the document that one of Julian’s LINC teachers shared with us in order to help prepare his new teachers. It is a little window into Julian and how he operates during the day at school. Julian has really been flourishing in the school environment with his peers and I can’t wait for this next step.  I am a little nervous but confident that my little man will do well.

My “little charmer”

Julian Sherman


Does this child have any allergies or restrictions?


No known food allergies or food restrictions at this time.


What is the most effective way to comfort this child?


Hugs, calm reassurance.  Julian does not make ANY sound when he cries, and tries to hide the fact that he is crying.  We have had to watch his face carefully throughout the day to know when he is upset.  However, the times he gets upset are very rare.  When fearful of peers, he is likely to silently cry in fear.  Reading books is also a very calming/comforting activity for Julian.


What are some toys this child plays with frequently?


Books are an activity of choice for Julian. He often needs to be encouraged to explore other areas of the room, as opposed to focusing exclusively on books.  We were just starting to see him be more willing to explore the room independently, as his fear of his peers began decreasing.  The book area was often quiet and secluded, with few peers, so part of his resistance to leaving that area may have been due to it being a good place to avoid the “busy-ness” of other children.  He also loves any kind of art project, both at the table or at the easel.  We called him our little Picasso.  J  Challenging puzzles, fine motor tasks and ANYTHING having to do with numbers or letters was also a favorite.


What activities may this child avoid?


As the activity or noise level of his peers increases, Julian is likely to flee the area.  He often needed teacher support and reassurance to not flee, even when a peer came to just sit beside him.  This was improving within the last several months.  He was just becoming more comfortable joining into the mix with his peers.  It was never that an activity bothered him, but instead that the peers in the area bothered him.


Does this child prefer playing with peers or playing alone?


See above.  Prefers solitary play, but just recently saw him begin to both initiate contact and play with peers, as well as accept play invites, even from older children.  LOVES interactions with ANY adult.


How does this child handle separations?


Very well.  It was rare to see him hesitate at drop off.  Settling right in with a teacher with a book was a common drop off routine that Julian enjoyed.  Julian is always social with adults, even adults that he does not know.


How does this child handle transitions?

Julian may need extra prompting to stop his task (even after warnings) and join the children at the door during transition times.  A teacher often had to take him by the hand and lead him to the door to transition with the group.  It was common for Julian to purposely bolt (with a smile on his face) during our walks in the hallway and run in the other direction.  He would not stop or respond to our verbal instructions to come back.  He was very quiet (and fast) when bolting, so be prepared J.  We either held his hand during all transitions or made sure a teacher was right behind him at all times during transitions for safety reasons.  He would also quietly bolt out of the classroom when the door was open.  For safety reasons, we kept our classroom door closed as a result.


How do you know when this child is not feeling well?


This is difficult.  Julian will not cry or complain even when hurt.  The only signs we had would be Julian seeming more lethargic and less interactive than usual.


How does this child eat?  Favorite foods?


Julian has been eating with adult sized utensils and drinking from an open regular plastic cup all year in our classroom.  He needs help opening his lunch containers, but attempts it willingly.  Yogurt is a favorite food!  Julian would have ups and downs in terms of food intake.  Some days eating a lot, some days not.  He feeds himself completely independently and is very clear about when he is all done (verbally saying “all done.”).  At the beginning of the year, Julian refused all snacks and even sometimes lunch.  He would cry and become very distressed when we tried to seat him at the table.  We quickly learned that it had nothing to do with not wanting to eat, but instead that he was fearful of sitting that close to peers – especially peers that tended to be loud and active.  To help this situation, we placed Julian at the head of the table, where he had no peers directly on either side of him, and he could see out over all his peers.  This helped immediately.  Soon after that, he gained confidence and trust with his peers and no longer shows any hesitation sitting with any peers at any seat at the table.  Be warned that what may seem like disinterest in eating is possibly a fear about being around new peers instead.


How does this child go to sleep?


Julian needs a teacher with him at nap time to encourage him to stay on his mat.  Without a teacher nearby, Julian will repetitively leave his mat and repetitively test limits, even with teacher redirection.  Julian is usually very vocal at naptime, practicing his sounds, letters, and counting.  We are pretty sure we even saw him running through his speech therapy work during the quiet of nap time on many many occasions.  Once asleep, Julian would sleep for two or 2.5 hours.  It is normal for Julian to sleep with his eyes open.


Can this child set up his mat for nap time?


Julian can take his napping things from his cubbie to his mat for nap time, and upon awakening, return his napping things to his cubbie.




Julian was offered the potty at every diaper change.  He was somewhat fearful of our potty because his legs couldn’t reach the ground.  Placing a stool under his feet while seated on the potty made him feel more secure.  He is able to go to the bathroom on the potty (when comfortable), but does not tell us when he needs to use the potty.




Julian is extremely focused on mastering tasks that are a challenge for him, especially in the gross motor domain.  He will practice climbing a ladder over and over, for over 30 minutes, until able to master it.  His confidence on the playground has recently exploded in terms of both gross motor tasks (running, walking up and down a steep hill) and peer interactions.  He now can be seen wandering around the entire playground constantly engaged in tasks and just recently, has begun to sit down and join a group of peers for play on the playground.


Julian dropped the use of ASL with us several months ago and uses exclusively verbal communication with us.  He is very clear in his wants and needs and will state them verbally to you.  Even when he exclusively used sign, Julian was able to communicate all wants and needs to us very effectively.


Julian can identify numbers and letters, and sight read many words.  He can also point and count (verbally) with one to one correspondence at least up to five (most likely higher).


In order to increase Julian’s confidence in our classroom, we often looked for opportunities where Julian could teach the other students and make him the “expert.”  We had “sign circles”  – a circle time that Julian led, where HE taught the other children various ASL signs.  We also made sure that despite how quiet and reserved he was, Julian made his voice and power known with his peers – encouraging him to verbally, confidently say yes or no to peers (with teacher prompting) and making sure his peers stopped and waited for Julian’s response before moving on.


Julian is much loved by us and we all have been dreading his goodbye.  You will very quickly see why, as you are sure to fall in love with him very quickly as well.  Take good  care of “our boy” – we might feel a little over protective of him J – all out of our love and amazement for one ridiculously amazing child.  We will miss him greatly.


Please feel free to contact me at any time, with any questions or info on Julian.



Ashley Young, M.A.

Lead Teacher



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VIDEO Anderson signs “milk” 8 months old

Anderson is following in his big brother Julian’s footsteps by learning some signs. Here he is signing milk just a few days before his 8 month birthday (which is today)! For more information on sign language and early sight reading as well, please visit this post.

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VIDEO Pretend Play: Baby doll goes potty, then passes out

Julian and I were playing around with the baby doll today, putting on and off his socks and shoes as he likes to do. Then I took off the baby doll’s diaper and said does baby doll need to go potty? Julian immediately signed potty and then took baby to the bathroom. This is what ensued:  Julian thought the baby doll should fall asleep after going potty as you will see…(perhaps passed out after a long night of partying?) The sound cuts off in the video because I took it on my phone and it malfunctioned. sorry about that. I think Julian also sneezed at the baby in the end of the video. The whole time I was watching this I was thinking about my baby’s emerging pretend play skills. He is trying to put on his own socks too lately and of course I thought of his self help skills….you mommas out there who have kids in OT or other type of therapies can understand the immediate thought to how these day to day happenings translate right away to therapy milestones in your head! Anyway here is the cute video complete with a nice little plumber’s crack on my love bug.


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Julian Says the Alphabet – 32 mos old

Here is a video of Julian at 32 months old saying the alphabet with his dad! He can say most of them except for tough ones like J and K and a few others. Most of the letters are not super clear but you can make them out. He says the alphabet while his dad sings the A You’re Adorable alphabet song.

See previous posts below for some resources we have used to teach him. We have read him tons of books (his favorite!) since birth. We also play with his doodle drawer and practice letters to make it fun, use flash cards and lots of Signing Time videos, which always incorporate the letters visually and verbally.

“What’s next”? How to Teach Your Baby to Read (& Sign)

Julian Speech Development 26 months 

VIDEO: My Baby Can Sight Read at 20 Months! (oh and he has Down syndrome)

VIDEO of Julian’s Sign Language at 19.5 months 


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Educational Apps for Toddlers and Kids, Free & Inexpensive

We don’t spend have Julian spend too much time on the iPad but when he does, here is a list of the apps we have so far.  I would love suggestions for other apps we could download that are educational, easy to use and fun!

Starfall ABCs ($2.99) -Very easy to navigate for a toddler and probably our favorite app! You click on each letter there are a number of words and pictures to go with each sound. Note that there are a few times in this app where there is a puzzle or a maze and we have to help.

I Hear Ewe (FREE) – You click on each picture of either a vehicle or an animal and a voice says this is the sound a Helicopter (for example) makes. It’s a fun app.

Itsy Bitsy Spider by Duck Duck Moose ($1.99) – Thanks to my friend Anna for suggesting this app. THere are a number of things to click on that do things as a result – the rain falls down the spout, the window opens and shut, a hat falls off a lady, etc etc. Julian loves this app.

Preschool Prep apps – we have the meet the vowels and meet the colors apps because i think they were free to download. Each app is pretty short and to the point but well made for its purpose. We own all of the other preschool prep materials – books and videos and such which we love.

small talk phenomes (FREE) – this is an app that requires parental guidance. it shows a mouth up close making sounds so that julian can see how he needs to move his lips to make each sound.

voice toddler cards ($1.99) -simple flash cards for your toddler. alphabet flash cards ($.99) – another set of flash cards that have sentences that match

alphababy (FREE) – when you touch the screen a different letter or shape shows up. a simple app even for babies.

Special Words ($14) app is basically all of the DownsEd See and Learn materials electronically for $14.  this is one of the more expensive apps and i’d say worth it if you don’t want to spend the time downloading and printing/laminating all of the downsed see and learn materials, or buying them pre-printed. the app requires parental help with the tasks and the types of activities are designed to help grow with toddlers as they get bigger and learn how to read.

I hope this post was helpful and again, please comment here with other apps that you use!

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What are speech therapy touch cues?

Ever since we started speech therapy with Julian the therapists and our family have been using touch cues to help Julian learn to make sounds with his mouth.

Touch cues are physical prompts that are done while making a sound to help Julian identify how to form his mouth and the sound correctly.

Here is a video I made with Julian’s speech therapist to show Julian’s daycare teachers some of his touch cues.

Do touch cues really work?

Absolutely.  They are a very effective way to help a child who has a hard time making sounds with their mouth to learn how to initiate that sound. For example, one of Julian’s first sounds he learned with a speech touch cue was the letter M. The letter M requires your lips to be together and is a long sound so the speech touch cue is  putting your finger across your mouth and putting your lips together. Mmmmmm.

Do kids like using touch cues?

All I can say is that in Julian’s case he has loved it because he is a very visual guy and great with using his hands because of all of the sign language he knows. Touch cues are a very good way to actually show someone how to make a sound which is a pretty abstract thing to try to teach.

Do I have to use touch cues all of the time?

No. We don’t use them all of the time. It just isn’t realistic to think you are going to do this. but we use touch cues incorporated into our daily lives at least a handful of times a day when emphasizing a word or getting Julian to try and say something.

How do I teach other caregivers in my child’s life about touch cues? 

I decided to record one of Julian’s speech therapists using the touch cues and send them an email. I have included a copy of the email I sent to Ashley the lead teacher at Julian’s daycare as an example. Feel free to copy and paste and use it as a template.

Hi Ashley, 

Margeaux Julian’s private speech therapist and I met today and we thought it would be useful to do an email introduction (Margeaux is copied on this email) and also send you a video we made of the touch cues we are using in speech therapy to get the sounds “out” for Julian. Here is a link to the video Margeaux made. Please take a moment to watch and share with Mae and Kim. Thank you! If the above hyperlink doesn’t work, here is the direct URL to the video:
In working so closely with LINC and you and the other amazing teachers in the Blue Room, we also look forward to the feedback on anything in the classroom that you think will help Julian grow in his communication based on Margeaux’s initial recommendations (attached, see page 2 from her observation of the class this past Monday) since you spend a lot of time with him and are getting to know him very well 
Justine - Is it possible to have a parent teacher conference sometime in mid November perhaps when Julian will have been in the blue room a couple of months? As many of his therapists as possible would attend. We can cover his goals and progress, etc.
Becca - can you please forward this email on to Jenny – I don’t yet have her email address. For those who don’t know, she is Julian’s speech therapist through Early Intervention and she sees Julian at home once per week on Tuesdays. She has been getting some great words and sounds out of Julian!
Thanks all for taking such great care of our baby (not so much a baby anymore I guess!)
Gretchen & Tom
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Anderson crawling 6 mo. 1 wk old

Anderson is now moving around on all fours.  Here is a video.

Also a picture of how I found him in the crib yesterday morning.

I think we are in trouble…


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A personal update – postpartum depression x2

Many of you loyal readers might know about my struggle with postpartum depression the first time around when I had Julian. Well, this time around it came on later and with a vengeance around the time Anderson was 5 months old right before Thanksgiving. That is why I have been incommunicado with most of the world especially facebook, for the past month or so. Recently over the past couple of days some of the haze has lifted which is why I am able to write this post.  I have read my own advice that I wrote last time around to help get me through. It is not easy. This is a hidden illness that needs to be talked about more as I am sure many women have silently suffered when they really needed treatment.  My treatment this time around has been helpful to get me to the point I am today, which included a medication switch that I think has recently started to kick in to lighten the darkness a bit. Medication is only part of the puzzle though and is not a magic pill. The right medication can help lift the thoughts of suicide, inability to cope with daily functioning and life tasks, but it doesn’t help you get fully out of the darkness. I am still working on getting better. Anyway, I just wanted to share why I have been MIA lately and also raise awareness of invisible disabilities like mental illness.  I don’t expect to be able to update this too often so just know that this is a very tough time for our family and we appreciate your thoughts. If you or someone you know is suffering with depression or any type of mental illness, I urge you to talk more openly about it as that is what our society needs – similar to talking more openly about and advocating for more acceptance of cognitive and physical disabilities or other types of differences. If you are currently going through a depression or are a family member or friend of someone who is, please make sure to read my previous post about how to cope with depression. You can also send me an email anytime to if you need to talk or want advice.


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My little musician

Check out the new top banner on my blog! Seriously, my little man LOVES music.  This was at Julian’s school fair this past weekend. Pictures taken and banner designed by my father.  The instrument room was courtesy of Playful Tunes.  Julian was really drawn to the mini violin and played with it for about 15 minutes.  Can’t wait for what the future holds for Julian’s musical talents!

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