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To the Siblings of Kids With Disabilities

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Dear Sibs,

There are some things that often come with being a sibling of someone with disabilities. Doctor visits, late nights, missing play dates and birthday parties, loud noises, food getting eaten, science projects getting ripped up, both parents being occupied… you name it. My twin brother who has autism and I are 26 years old, and I can tell you it’s definitely a lifelong journey.

Stay strong. Don’t get too discouraged.

Know that your parents love you just as much as your sibling and want what’s best for you. They may be having a tough time trying to balance the unique day-to-day situations involving your sibling, along with with your interests, wants, and needs; however, your parents are true warriors and they are trying their best. They may even ask you to help them keep an eye or your sibling sometimes because they are feeling swamped. Be patient! They are exhausted, yet they keep giving.

Don’t forget you are a warrior too. You’ve likely had to grow up faster than most children and you’ve seen things others have seen. You may have tried to play with your sibling, and they may not have played with you back. It can get lonely. Your parents may sometimes set higher expectations for you because they want you to succeed as the shining star you are. Being a sibling of someone with disabilities makes you a more humble, caring and unique person!

Chances are your sibling looks up to you, so the responsibility of setting a good example and helping your parents look out for them could be a lot to take on sometimes. But if you’re like me, you do it without hesitation because your sibling is someone special to you. What’s important to understand is that your sibling is watching you and wants to be like you in one way or another, even if they don’t show it. When I was a teenager, I started playing games with my brother, involving things he liked such as Disney songs and movies. When I figured out how to play with him, even for a few minutes at a time, our sibling bond blossomed.

Now, I am a Special Education teacher because I enjoyed my sibling experience with him so much. I had to overcome a lot and I’m still working on it! It does get easier, though. Your parents are so proud of you and your sweet sibling loves you more than you know. You are such an important member of the family. You hold everyone together. You are appreciated.

If you feel that you are in need of support or just someone to listen, check out what sibling workshops (sibshops) are happening in your area. Local universities in my state (Florida) held them all the time while I was growing up. They are support groups containing other siblings who may have similar stories to share. There are also ice breakers and fun activities in these workshops. I got a lot out of these programs; I became so involved that I began facilitating my own support groups at Florida State University while I was in college.

Keep your head up, get involved, and stay mighty!

Originally published: February 18, 2018
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