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To the Typical Siblings of a Brother or Sister With a Disability

Dear typical sibling of a brother or sister with a disability,

Today I want to speak to you as a parent — perhaps not your parent — but a parent nonetheless.

Ellen's daughters

I know you’ve had to sacrifice so much, and I wish you hadn’t. For the many times you’ve thought it wasn’t fair, we’ve felt it too. And if you’ve had to miss out on life experiences, please know that we wish we could offer you the world.

Perhaps at times you’ve felt overlooked, because your sibling’s needs demand all of your parents’ attention. But they see you, they see you in the cracks of their vision, and their hearts hurt for the moments they’ve had to sacrifice time with you. But many nights they think about you, of the wonderful person that you are. I want you to know that the pride and love they feel for you could never be measured, you are what keeps them going many times. You make their days brilliantly beautiful.

And you’ve told us – your sibling with a disability has affected you too. Yes, there’s been sacrifices and some things you’ve had to give up, but you’ve gained so much from your sibling too. You’ve said your siblings with disabilities have shaped you into who you are today. We look at you, and we’re sure there is not a more compassionate, caring, accepting and kind human being walking on this earth.

We’ve seen you be frustrated with your sibling, because after all you are siblings. We’ve seen the frustration in your eyes. But then something happens – perhaps it is a look that as parents we don’t recognize – but we see that frustration be replaced with love. You can be annoyed by hands pulling at you and suddenly be a willing participant in the biggest, sweetest embrace that any siblings could ever share. I see the love in your eyes for your sibling, and I cannot believe that the two of you can share this kind of love. It’s not typical, but it runs so deep, and it reflects a quiet strength in you that brings me to tears.

We’ve seen you stand up to the bullies, even when it was scary. Because you understand so deeply that it isn’t right to diminish anyone, in any way.

And you have extended not only a smile but a friendship to the kids that others so easily overlook. Because you don’t, you don’t ever overlook people. You notice them, you affirm them. With your smile and friendship you remind them that they matter in this world too.

You are perhaps more mature than someone your age. You’ve probably had more responsibilities than most of your peers. I guess in some ways you’ve lived a different life, life impacted by disability. And every day you’re out there, moving in this world with an understanding about the beauty and value of life that makes you stand out, and understanding that few people posses.

You’ve known these truths from a young age, they’ve always been a part of your life. As the parents, we arrived to those truths much later in life.

And you smile at life, enjoying every moment. You are stirring the people around you, helping them to see what you see, to know what you know. You are affecting people’s perceptions of disability as you advocate for your sibling, as you give them a voice when needed. You have willingly embraced this role… it humbles me, it brings me to tears.

You are moving those around you, and you will continue to do so.

As parents, we hope to make this place a better place for our kids. But as the siblings – with hearts so full of acceptance, compassion, an understanding of the value of life – you will go out into this world and change it. Not just for your siblings, but for all of us.

Thank you!

If you ever wonder who we look up to, it’s you. We could not be prouder or love you more fiercely.

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