What Having a Sister With Down Syndrome Is Like for Me

On March 17, 2005, my life changed, though I did not realize it until years later. On that day, my wish at every fountain in the mall, every shooting star, came true — I had a younger sister. Erin was the best sister I could have wished for, even though I may not have known it at the time.

Soon after my sister was born, my cousin was born, too. As they both grew, I noticed some differences between them. My cousin Liam was talking before my little sister Erin was. He never had any therapists come to his house, while Erin had therapists at our house almost every day. I realized my sister was different; I just did not know how. When my sister was about 1, my parents explained she has Down syndrome. I did not know what Down syndrome was, all I knew was that Erin was my amazing sister.

As a little 5-year-old girl, I did not realize the major impact my little sister would have on my life, but now I can’t think of any major memory she was not involved in, from my high school graduation where I could see her out of the corner of my eye cheering me on, or me cheering her on when she killed it on stage for a dance recital. Every important moment of both of our lives we have been there, cheering each other on, and for that I am forever grateful.

Now that I am at college, I appreciate the little moments with Erin even more, like blasting Taylor Swift and singing at the top of our lungs in my bedroom as I do her hair or playing in the pool. My favorite part of every trip home is when I walk through the door and she yells, “momo” and comes over and gives me the biggest hug. I can’t imagine my life without the support and love Erin has given me — and also taught me. She has inspired me to become involved in my community, to pass the love and support we give each other to even more people.

My sister has also inspired me to become involved in activities to support people with disabilities. I have been a volunteer at Challenger Baseball since I was a seventh-grader. I am Erin’s buddy, even though she is better at baseball than me. Challenger Baseball is a baseball league for children with disabilities that encourages physical activity and group activities. All the kids, including my sister, look forward to putting on their uniforms every Saturday morning. Also, I am involved in the Gigi’s Playhouse Rochester. Gigi’s Playhouse is an achievement center for people with Down syndrome that provides numerous free services.

I volunteer at Playhouse Pals, and any other activity that needs help, but my favorite is Science Club. Science Club was a club I had the privilege of running my senior year in high school with some friends. We ran different experiments with all the participants, but my favorite part was that Erin was able to come. Seeing her and her friends have fun and learn together will always be one of my favorite memories at Gigi’s Playhouse. Now that I am at college, Erin enjoys going to Gigi Fit and Teentastic. I love seeing pictures on Facebook of Erin and all her friends.

Now at 18 I know what Down syndrome is, but I also know Down syndrome does not define my sister. My sister is an intelligent, funny and kind 13-year-old girl. She goes to school, plays baseball, and is an amazing dancer. She is the youngest of five and and can make anyone smile. She loves Taylor Swift and Kelsea Ballerini, and will always be there for me. When my little sister was born, I did not realize the profound impact she would have on my life. She never fails to brighten my day and can put a smile on anyone’s face. Erin is not only the best sister I could ask for, but she also has taught me about the power of love and support.

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