What My 'Outstanding Olivia' Can Teach Kids About Down Syndrome
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Most parents don’t think about talking to their children. They just do it. They teach them to talk, what words to say and not to say and in time their children speak to them. As a parent, it is natural to have fears for your child, but one of them is not usually, “Will I be able to communicate with my child?”
I was no different. Even after knowing Olivia might have Down syndrome, it never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t be able to communicate with her. Even after confirming that Olivia had Down syndrome at birth, it never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t be able to communicate with her. However, that is a very real struggle my family faces every single day.
Olivia is going to be 3 this year and although she is still very young, her ability to communicate verbally is not there. We as a family are learning how to talk to Olivia using sign language. It is new and challenging but interesting and exciting. We teach each other new words as they come up and learn to use them in everyday life, especially when communicating with Olivia.
My oldest daughter Haydenn, who is 11, was teaching Olivia how to sign “I love you” and I was amazed watching them. Olivia couldn’t do it correctly, which was not surprising because a lot of her signs are what we call “approximate,” which just means the sign she’s doing is close to the actual sign. I was inspired by their interaction to write a story about Olivia and her sign language.
I wanted to teach people, especially kids, that children with Down syndrome can and do struggle with the ability to talk, but that this doesn’t stop them from learning to communicate with their families. And in no time, “Outstanding Olivia” was born!
My Olivia is outstanding to say the least, and so the title came easy to me. I included my whole family because we are all in this together and we work hard to help Olivia. I have high hopes of writing more books someday soon and always including signs in the books to teach kids. For now, I want to share this book with as many people as I can to raise awareness for Olivia and kids just like her!