Q: How old was Michael until we knew how severe his condition was?
Given that children with Down Syndrome develop slower than other children, we didn't really understand the severity of his condition until Michael was about 4 or 5 years old. Since I was growing up alongside Michael, my parents had an easy comparison for Michael's development. While I started walking at 9 months, Michael took his first comfortable steps at age three. Michael didn't start talking until he was about 18 months old, but then his progress began to decline. Since we were 3, Michael hardly says any words. If he's upset or hurt he'll manage to say "Mama," and in High School he would repeat "Hooray!" after someone. Otherwise, Michael is very intelligent, but lacks the ability to communicate vocally or through sign language.
Q: How did Michael learn how to speak when we were growing up?
We would practice everything together, but he would practice the same way that I would. We would watch tv together, especially Sesame Street and Barney, and had a bunch of fun little toys that would teach the alphabet. When we were about 18 months-2 years old, he would repeat small words with us while we were playing, but gradually stopped attempting to speak afterwards. As of today, the only words that I've heard him say are "Mama," "Hooray!" and "Julia." Honestly the one part that I struggle the most with with being Michael's twin is watching him being unable to communicate. You can always tell that he's trying to say something, but doesn't know how to say it. He'll tap you on the shoulder or keep pushing you, but nonetheless won't be able to tell you anything verbally. We do have a very strong connection, and personally I do believe that twins can be a little "telepathic." We understand each other's feelings well, and always enjoy each others presence.