To the Siblings of Kids With Down Syndrome

I was 6 years old when my mom brought home my little brother, Samuel. As I write this, I am sitting with him in our basement watching HGTV. He is now approaching 16 years old. I can assure you, he fits the characteristics of a “normal teenager.”

Everybody loves him, he participates in sports (special Olympics) and after-school events just like everybody else. I have come a long way since being the school aged girl with a little brother with Down syndrome. I would say I didn’t quite understand it at first. My parents would tell me he was special, he was different, my little brother. To me, he was just Sam. I didn’t see the Down syndrome. At times I would see it, for example when I had friends over and some of them didn’t understand it. It would show when they didn’t know how to react or interact with him. Some of them did, those are the friends I still have to this day.

It broke my heart that some people didn’t grow up with people with disabilities in their lives somehow, because let me tell you, they were missing out. I am so incredibly grateful to have my brother in my life.

It is not always hugs and smiles, of course. My brother can be very opinionated, he has his own ideas and he doesn’t like being told “no.” I’ve found ways to work around his stubbornness. On the other side of things, I always have someone who greets me with a hug after a long day. I always have someone who is there for me. My brother looks up to me and I look up to him in ways I can’t explain. It’s the way he sees life that amazes me.

Dear sibling who is fortunate enough to have someone with a disability in your life, you have been gifted the secret to life. You may grow up sooner than your friends, but I think that’s a good thing. You will not be tempted to judge others, and if you do, you will think twice, and you may not. If ever your friends begin to judge or talk about other people’s differences, I hope you choose to educate them. I hope you choose to start a cycle of acceptance, of inclusion, of peace in the world.

When you make life about others, while not forgetting yourself, you can get so much more life in return. You will learn values and you will have qualities that will point you in the right direction if you are lost, all because of your life experiences with your sibling.

Sam, thank you for being the best part of my being. You have taught me how to love, how to love all people unconditionally. I will always pay it forward, be by your side in all your milestones, your big accomplishments and forever be your strongest advocate.

Getty image by magda_istock

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