Our Brother With Down Syndrome Is Like a Kaleidoscope


Editor's Note

The poem in this story has been published with permission from Cooper.

I am one of four kids. The oldest is Phillip, then me, then Cooper followed by Jacob. Phillip has Down syndrome and is 10 years older than Jacob. I am one year behind Phillip, and Cooper is four years behind me.

My parents once told me they were quick to have me one year after Phillip because they thought the best thing for him would be to have a sibling. People often thought we were twins when they saw my mom pushing the double stroller. Being only one year apart, my developmental path synced up with Phillip’s in many instances and we met a few milestones together, such as walking independently for the first time. In a way, I was the big sister, even though he was really the big brother.

I was a leader to Phillip during much of our childhood and I never really thought twice about it — it was just the day to day way. My instincts were to guide him and level the playing field for him in any situation. Maybe that is why my personality has a bit of a tough edge — to this day I often think I know what’s best for him. Even if I don’t, I put on that facade. In a way, I became the “big” sister and it has been normalcy to me.

Then Cooper came along four years later. Phillip and I were starting school at this point. Cooper joined the pack and naturally adapted to the system Phillip and I had going on for years. While Cooper learned about Phillip through my “bossy big sister tendencies,” as my parents may joke, he was able to be a lot more reflective of who Phillip is. Much more than I could be as a kid.

We kept a wooden kaleidoscope in our foyer, which inspired Cooper to write this poem for a writing assignment in middle school.

Kaleidoscope Brother by Cooper

I have a brother who is like a kaleidoscope.

Every day I look at him, I see something different.

Sometimes the light glows in a million cheerful colors.

Sometimes the light feels dark and full of mystery.

I wish I could climb into the kaleidoscope, and see how it works.

That’s why I dream of teaching kids with disabilities.

I find it odd how people say he has Down Syndrome.

Because when I look at him, I only see up.

Isn’t that something? This was obviously one of those school projects our family kept. If you’re like me, you wonder how a middle schooler could formulate something so deep. Cooper, as a young kid, was able to grasp who Phillip really is — something I feel has taken me over 20 years to grasp. I was always so caught up with getting Phillip to, quite frankly, just do stuff, while Cooper could understand Phillip on a more sophisticated level from a young age. Cooper noticed Phillip’s depth and reflected on how Phillip might see the world. This shows how a lot of the time, kids take in a lot more than adults think they do — just as Phillip takes in a lot more than I realize he does.

Through this poem, you could see how Cooper looked at Phillip with admiration and respect. He looked up to his big brother! Kids have a beautiful way of looking past limitations and seeing the good in people. As an adult, I wish to be more like that. If everyone viewed everyone as a kaleidoscope, there would be a higher level of inclusion and acceptance of all kinds of people.

Getty image by saiva


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