Project: Just Like You is proud to present Penny! This is her story.

Penny is 10 years old and diagnosed with Down Syndrome. According to her incredible mom, Amy Julia, “All children with Down syndrome experience some degree of delayed development, physically and intellectually. That said, the range of possibilities for delays and for growth and learning is quite broad across the population. Most kids with Down syndrome take longer than typical children to learn how to walk and talk and read, for example.

Penny enjoys reading, ballet, spending time with her friends, playing piano, weddings, and playing with babies. My child is awesome because she is funny and kind and thoughtful. As soon as she hears of someone in need, she writes them a note to offer her care and support.”

Taken from a piece Penny wrote by herself, with a little help from her mom,

“Some of my favorite books are Ramona Quimby Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, Gooney Bird Greene, McKenna Ready to Fly, and Superfudge by Judy Blume. I like these books because they all have in common girls and boys my age who do things I like to do­­ like gymnastics, reading in bed, going to school, and being an older sibling.”

According to Penny, on her thoughts of having Down Syndrome, “I almost forgot to tell you about Down syndrome. My mom and dad thought it was going to be scary because they thought Down syndrome would hurt me and other people. But it actually was not scary and I did not get hurt. I have a great life.”
Penny, thank you for telling the world in your own words that of course you enjoy the same activities as your peers! Thank you for enforcing that Down Syndrome is not scary. It’s a part of who you are, and that you are beautiful and perfect just being you. You are an inspiration to us all, Penny!

Penny is #JustLikeYou

A Day in My Life, by Penny Becker


Interview with Lauren Costabile


Thank you as always for your support. As our site grows, we want to continue to educate you as we learn. In that spirit of sharing, today on Project: Just Like You, we’re interviewing Lauren Costabile. 

In 2015, the Down Syndrome Congress declared a “More Alike Than Different” theme for World Down Syndrome Day. Lauren created a short film (watch below!) that was broadcast world-wide during World Down Syndrome Day. In addition to World Down Syndrome day, Costabile’s videos have also been featured on: The Mighty, Upworthy, 

Love What Matters, Good News Network ,Elite Daily, and You never know what you’ll learn about someone until you interview them. So, aside from tap dancing, we discovered that Down Syndrome awareness is a passion for Lauren and we wanted to know more about that. 
PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: Tell us more about yourself. What makes you tick?
COSTABILE: I am a speaker, writer, film creator and an advocate for Down syndrome. I am a Jersey girl. I strongly believe in creating a world of inclusion through media, a world where we can put aside our differences and embrace the fact that we all deserve to be loved, included and accepted in our society. My mission is to show the world just how beautiful these people truly are! 


PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: How did you become so involved with the Down Syndrome community?
COSTABILE: 10 years ago, I volunteered as a counselor at a week long sleep away camp, the MidHudson Valley Camp in Esopus NY for children with disabilities. I didn’t have much experience with special needs before that, and the first camper I met had Down syndrome and he greeted me with a smile and gave me a big hug. He didn’t even know me and he showed me such love. This said so much about his character and it really stuck with me. 


PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: What are your thoughts about the “More Alike than Different” movement? 
COSTABILE: This movement has shown people that it’s so important to focus on our similarities as people instead of tearing each other down because of our differences. Disability or not, we all want to be loved and accepted. We truly are all more alike than different.


PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: What inspired you to create the “More Alike Than Different” video?
COSTABILE: I have a huge passion for children with disabilities, and children with Down syndrome hold a special place in my heart. My brother Paul works in the entertainment business and we always wanted to do something to bring awareness to this community. We wanted to create something that could really make a difference and change the way people view those with disabilities. We decided that World Down syndrome day was the perfect time to release something. We filmed a lot of the film at Gigi’s playhouse, a Down Syndrome achievement in NYC, where I taught dance at the time. A lot of the kids in the video were my students from the dance class. We film. We received a lot of support from the Down syndrome and special needs community! The positive feedback was overwhelming!
PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: What do you see for the future of the movement “More Alike Than Different?” 
COSTABILE: I hope that everyone will recognize that we really are more alike than different, that every life has dignity and extreme purpose and value. 
PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: Can you share a story of how your film has made an impact on someone’s life or changed their view point? 
COSTABILE: I heard that teachers were playing it in their classes to their students to educate and raise awareness. I thought that was so cool! I sincerely hope it made an impact on everyone who watched it and I hope it broadened their perspective and changed their opinion of what it means to have DS. 
PROJECT JUST LIKE YOU: Besides advocacy, what do you do for fun? 
COSTABILE: I spend time with my family and friends. I love to snuggle up on the couch and watch a good movie while eating a big bowl of popcorn. 

Lauren, thank you for corresponding with Project: Just Like You this week, and thank you for raising awareness that all children have a purpose and we have more in common than not as a human race! Please enjoy Lauren’s video below (you may even recognize one of the video’s stars: Princess Kayla- featured right here on Project: Just Like You!) To learn more about Lauren, check out her website and follow her on Facebook:



Project: Just Like You is proud to present Anthony! This is his story.

Anthony is 3 years old (he’ll be 4 in November.) Anthony is diagnosed with Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome. Trisomy 21 is a genetic disorder that occurs when an individual is born with 3 copies of their 21st chromosome. This extra genetic material causes cognitive delays, developmental delays, and medical issues.

According to his supportive mom, Amy, “Anthony loves all things music. He loves listening to music, singing songs, dancing to music, and playing music! He also loves Elmo and anything to do with Christmas, especially Santa. Anthony is awesome because he has the most infectious, sweet personality. He uses his smile to positively affect people wherever we go. Having Anthony has made me an infinitely better person. I am forced to slow down and appreciate the beauty and value in even the smallest things.”

Anthony, keep living life with your infectious, sweet personality! We love that you are so positive and kind. Keep dancing, singing, and enjoying the beat to the rhythm of life!

Anthony is #JustLikeYou


Global, Highlights

Project: Just Like You is proud to present Josse! This is her story.

**Josee is part of our global initiative as her story comes from Queensland, Australia!**

Josee is 3 years old. She is diagnosed with Trisomy 21 – the most common form of Down syndrome, at 13 weeks gestation. According to her very strong mom, Joelle, “Trisomy 21 means that instead of a paired 21st chromosome, my child has a triplicate 21st chromosome, in every cell of her body. Trisomy 21 occurs randomly at the time of conception. Because of this extra genetic material children with Down syndrome may have an intellectual disability, speech and language challenges, and take longer to acquire some skill sets. People with Down syndrome now have access to better medical care, access early intervention and ongoing therapies, and are now living into their 60’s. There’s never been a better time to be born with Down syndrome!

My child enjoys singing and dancing, she sings all day! Josee loves playing with her siblings and her beloved dogs, she likes shopping and picking ‘pretty’ clothes, loves eating ice cream, and riding on her bike.
My child is awesome because she has defied the poor prognosis we were given when she was unborn! Josee had an additional condition called hydrops, whereby fluid was accumulating in her tiny body and we were given no hope that she would live.

She is an incredible little girl, so curious about the world and lives every day with an enthusiasm people are envious of.
Josee is fun loving, engaging and energetic. She loves to do all the things any little girl enjoys doing, and her determination and persistence amaze us every day.

Josee, keep defying the odds! Keep exuding your enthusiasm for life. We love that you live with excitement and wonder. You are an example to us all about how to live life with gusto!

Josee is #JustLikeYou

Follow Josee



Project: Just Like You is proud to present Gracelyn! This is her story.

Gracelyn Kate is 2 years old. She’ll be 3 next month. She has Trisomy 21 Mosaicism, which means that a percentage of her cells contain an extra chromosome, and some do not. According to her strong advocate mom, Lauren, “Gracelyn LOVES to sing and dance. One of her favorite movies to dance and sing along to is Frozen. She loves puppies and babies. She speaks to everyone she sees when we are out and about. She’s very social! Gracelyn is very smart and knows a little American Sign Language, which helps her to communicate with us! She gives THE BEST hugs and kisses and is super affectionate!”

Gracelyn, we love that you are so affectionate and friendly with others! Keep singing. Keep dancing. Keep bringing joy to all those you encounter!

Gracelyn is #JustLikeYou



Project: Just Like You proudly presents Kayla! This is her story.
Kayla is 10 years old and is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. According to her phenomenal mom, Amy, “This diagnosis can mean so many different things to so many people. While it was scary at first (anything unknown always is), we embraced it as a family and decided we would never allow the diagnosis to define who Kayla is or would become. Because of that, we have never held Kayla back from activities that she loves and enjoys.
Kayla loves hip hop dancing, singing, all things Disney, roller coasters, modeling, doing pageants, advocating for individuals with disabilities, texting her friends, shopping, going to the beach, being an awesome sister to her brother Logan and baby sister Brynnley, listening to Taylor Swift, swimming, and doing just about everything that every “typical” 10 year old enjoys.
Kayla is amazing because she has taught us (and the world) more in her 10 short years than we will ever be able to teach her! She is kind, compassionate, loving, intelligent, sassy, and fun!
Kayla has been a model for Gap through a campaign with Changing the Face of Beauty), been on a three story billboard in Times Square, is a minor league NBA junior dance team member (Delaware 87ers), appears in a NY Times best selling book, and has a law, the Kayla law, named after her in Delaware! And while these may seem like “big” things…these pale in comparison to how amazing she is on a daily basis. Kayla is changing the world (and their view on individuals with Down syndrome) one smile at a time.”
Kayla, you continue to make an impact in a BIG way in society! You are changing hearts and minds. Your courage and confidence helps make this world a better place for all people. You are bold, beautiful, and strong! Continue advocating, shining, and smiling!

Kayla is #JustLikeYou
Follow Kayla-

FB- Princess Kayla


Instagram- @PrincessKaylaCourt


We have a very exciting line of featured children this coming week. All the children featured this week have Down Syndrome since this is Down Syndrome awareness month. Their lives are incredible! You will love reading about them. They are certainly living life to the fullest! 
There is also a website in the works, which will be up and running in the near future. This is so exciting since we will now be reaching out to everyone! 
On Thursday, Project: Just Like You will have it’s first photoshoot! These will be with some of our local Project: Just Like You children and teens with a few from other parts of the state as our featured stars. We will not be featuring anyone this day, as we will show what’s going on behind the scenes. 
As we continue to grow, expand and gain media attention, we need to have these professional pictures. And the photographer is none other than Patience Salgado! She is known in RVA as The Kindness Girl. 
Patience has been an inspiration in my life since I learned about her and her incredible works a few years ago. Her gift of spreading kindness caught on fast in RVA! She also blogged for The Huffington Post, was featured on Oprah, and is a recipient of the Richmond Style Weekly 40 under 40 award, these are just a few highlights! This is on top of being a mom of 4 kids! Now she will be helping with Project: Just Like You. 
However, Patience is defined by how she treats others simply with kindness and love. It is an honor and a joy for her to share her time with us! 
As always, thank you for your support for Project: Just Like You. We are here to share stories of all children with different abilities. We want all their voices to be heard. Project: Just Like You is actively working to change a mentality in our country and in our world. The message is simple- all children are the same. Changing the world! One story at a time. 
Please enjoy this picture of our little guy from our Pumpkin Patch and apple picking trip yesterday. 

Jacob likes riding in the wagon and taking day trips with his family. #JustLikeYou 🍂🍁🎃



Project: Just Like You is proud to present Taylor! This is her story.
Taylor is 13 years old and diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone people need to get energy from food. T1D strikes both children and adults at any age and suddenly. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. Though T1D’s causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers play a role. There is currently nothing you can do to prevent it, and there is no cure.
According to her incredibly strong mom, Allison, “My child enjoys swimming, camping, hiking, theater, her family and all around fun.

My child is awesome because everyday she fights, she fights for her health. She wakes up everyday with a smile and goes forward each day like she is like every other kid regardless of the interruptions diabetes brings her daily. She advocates and educates others about T1D. She volunteers for Type 1 Diabetes Funding and Advocacy (JDRF) and participates in clinical trial to better the lives for all Type 1 diabetics. She does it all with joy.”

Taylor, keep living everyday with a smile. Keep advocating and living life with joy. Your attitude and strength help make this world a better place for all of us.

Taylor is #JustLikeYou
Follow Taylor and be part of her tribe!



Project: Just Like You is proud to present Mariano! This is his story.
Mariano Salvatore is 5 years old. According to Deanna, his super mom, “My son has Erb’s Palsy which is a brachial plexus injury that occurred during the birthing process. Our son’s left arm was injured during delivery and he has been in therapy since he was 4 weeks old and has needed surgery and may need more in his future. Brachial Plexus injuries are injuries affecting the network of nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. Brachial plexus injuries can result in full to partial paralysis of one or both (bilateral) arms.

Stretching, tearing or other trauma can cause injury to the nerves of the Brachial Plexus.

Brachial Plexus injuries often occur during the birthing process. Availability of Brachial Plexus statistics vary widely, but where figures are available the general consensus is that brachial plexus injuries occur in 2-5 out of 1000 births. More children suffer from brachial plexus injuries sustained at birth than Down Syndrome or Muscular Dystrophy—yet information on this disability is not so readily obtained.- (obtained from the UBPN website)
Mariano is full of life and loves to play with his older brother Lorenzo Santino. Mariano loves to ride his quad with his Papa and he loves riding his scooter. He loves playing with his superheroes and playing with his cars and trains. He also enjoys the beach and swimming during the summertime. He loves being with his family and he is such a sweet caring little boy. He is our hero! Mariano is the most amazing 5 year old in the world! He lights up a room with his smile we waited what seemed a life time to hear him breathe and sometimes when he is playing I just watch him and think to myself how very blessed we are to have him in our lives! He is our miracle! He can make you laugh anytime! He is awesome!!”
Mariano, we love that you are full of life! You are a hero for all of us too! Let nothing slow you down and keep you from living life with zest!

Mariano is #JustLikeYou


Global, Highlights

Project: Just Like You is proud to present Mikey! This is his story.
***We are excited to announce Mikey is part of our global initiative, as his story comes from the U.K.***
My name is Mikey and I am 15 years old. I was diagnosed with Verbal Dyspraxia when I was 2 and a half years old. Verbal Dyspraxia is a neurological speech condition which means I had great difficulty making the precise movements required for speech. I had difficulty producing individual speech sounds and sequencing sounds together in words. This meant that my speech was unintelligible even to family members. I had to have many years of intensive speech therapy. It wasn’t until I was 8 years old that people outside of my family began to understand me. Now that I can be understood I still have word finding difficulties, not all my speech sounds are perfect and I find it extremely hard to talk to people I’m not familiar with. This diagnosis has also affected my literacy skills making all aspects of my learning difficult.
Having this diagnosis of Verbal Dyspraxia has been very lonely. There is such little information or awareness about it. When I was younger my family felt lost. We had no one to talk to, no one who could offer advice and no one who could tell us everything would be OK. This is why I decided to raise awareness by setting up a Facebook page to share my story of growing up with verbal dyspraxia. My wish is to raise awareness and support others that are touched by the condition, whether it is the person living with it, family members or friends. I want everyone to know that even though it’s a long hard journey there is hope.
Just last week I won a Young Achiever award at The Brummies (Pride of Birmingham), this was because of all the fund raising and awareness work I do. I just want everyone to know that just because people live with a neurodiverse condition of any kind it doesn’t make us any less than anyone else. As I like to say “We are too cool to follow the neurotypical rule.”
Mikey, you conquer mountains. You are strong. You are brave. You inspire many people, both young and old. We are all proud of you! Keep pushing forward and stay courageous!

Mikey is #JustLikeYou
Follow Mikey and his bold journey to raise awareness for Verbal Dyspraxia on his Facebook page and on Instagram.