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For a six-year-old, extra chromosome or not, I’m astonished at my daughter’s vocabulary in English and German. She puts together sentences easily, takes notice of words, tilts her gorgeous head a bit, and then tries them out. More recently, just like with adults, I’m anticipating the expression and logic of her thoughts. She usually comes through in clear, fun ways. Because she has a good ear and is creative, Ellen also challenges language, like trying out a variation of a theme on the piano, until she owns it. She already knows the difference between who and whom!

Ellen’s handwriting has been a different story. Fine-motor skills can be challenging for folks with trisomy 21, and although Ellen has defied the odds in so many ways, her writing has not always matched her verbal prowess.

My husband and Ellen’s teachers have worked a great deal with her to make the right shapes of letters and to order them neatly into legible words and sentences. As a lefty, penmanship never came easily to me until I decided to make it a real priority. That only happened, though, when I was 12!

Ben and I both are keenly aware that Ellen may be prejudged throughout her life. That is why we encourage her not to be shy about showing off her skills. I usually say to her as we drop her off at school, “Zeig, was du kannst!” — show what you can do. A few days ago, she was at a store and asked the very kind manager to read a sign for her. Without skipping a beat, I told her she would not have ice cream later unless she read it loudly and clearly to the store manager. She did.

I’ve accepted that writing may be one of the areas where Ellen may not astonish me right away. Yesterday, though, I heard a gasp of delight from my husband. He had opened Ellen’s homework book. Then he showed me. The work was far from perfect, but it was lovely and thoughtful, and, my father’s pride aside, as fine a piece as I could have written at her age. So maybe our beautiful child has turned a corner much sooner than expected. It could be a theme throughout her life!