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When My Son Asked If His Sister With Down Syndrome Will Get Her License

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How should I answer this?

Taking a second to think, I chose to be open and real with my son.

“I don’t know if sissy will ever drive a car. Taking a written driver’s test would be hard for your sister since reading is hard for her and writing is even more difficult. So, I am not sure if she will ever drive. But, she’s only 10, so that’s a few years away.”

“That’s what I thought,” my son replied.

My 7-year-old son is a thinker and a planner. He is more of a planner than I ever was as a child. He talks about getting his driver’s license when he’s 16 and buying a truck. He talks about going to college and having his own house one day. He talks about fixing motorcycles and riding dirt bikes as possible professional options.

Sometimes, these talks lead him to reflect about his sister. “I wonder if Jaycee will go to college,” he mentioned one day.

“I am not sure. Some people with Down syndrome do, but Jaycee has difficulty learning and speaking. So, I am really not sure. It’s OK if she goes to college, and it’s fine if she doesn’t,” I replied.

“Going to college is a choice,” he replied in agreement.

Another day when we were talking about his future in building motorcycles, I asked Elijah what job he thought his sister may have one day. He couldn’t think of anything.

I told him I thought she might make a good pizza maker at a restaurant because she loves pizza and helps us make it at home. He wasn’t sure if she could follow the directions or if she could resist eating the pizza. He has a point there.

Later that day, he came to me and said, “Mom, I have been thinking. I know one job Jaycee could never do.”

I wasn’t sure what he was about to say next.

“She can’t be like you mom. She can’t teach people to talk.”

True, being minimally verbal, I doubt Jaycee could ever be a pediatric speech-language pathologist. But, I was happy that my son continued to think about possible jobs for his sister long after our conversation ended.

These conversations happen ever so often. I encourage them. We have always been open about Jaycee’s Down syndrome within our family. It is not looked at as something that is “bad.” We don’t shy around the subject. We encourage questions, and we talk about Jaycee’s difficulties as he sees them.

family of four in a car

I am grateful my son thinks of his sister. It has always been my hope that they would have a strong relationship where they consider each other’s needs. My son is on that track. He wonders what her life will be like years from now, as I do too. Jaycee may not be able to verbalize these questions about her brother’s future, but I do know she cares deeply about him. Whenever we go to the doctor without my son, Jaycee will ask throughout the day, “Bubba?” She wants to know why her brother isn’t there with her.

I don’t know what the future holds for Jaycee. I don’t exactly know what her life will look like in 10 years. But my hope is that Jaycee and her brother will have that connection and concern for each other that lasts a lifetime.

Originally published: August 26, 2016
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