Shout Out to The Siblings of Children with Special Needs
My eleven year old daughter memorized her brother's daily medication regimen. Not because she was asked to, or because she needed to, but because she decided she wanted to, "just in case." She is two years younger than him, but has played the role of big sister to him for as far back as she can remember.
When she started kindergarten, she came home from school one day and told me that her brother could be heard screaming (as he does when he is excited) in her classroom from down the hall. Her classmates laughed. She told me she raised her hand and told the class that was her brother. I will never forget her little voice saying, "and no one laughed anymore."
My son, who is now ten, told me a similar story during his kindergarten year. His class passed his brothers class in the hall, and a friend made the comment that his brother looked funny. With the most serious face, he told me, "I told him, hey! That's my brother and he has eps-ilepsy!" The friend stopped teasing.
Through their compassion for their brother, they taught their peers to treat him with dignity and compassion as well. By the time my oldest son was in the fifth grade, and his younger siblings were in the first and second, they had developed a routine. My daughter shared a lunch period with him and would always visit him, hug him, and got to know his classmates. When she or my youngest son saw their big brother during recess, they would take turns with their friends pushing him on the swing. Their classmates got to know him as well. The same kids that had laughed at him, simply because they had never known anyone like him, were waiting their turn to make him giggle on the swings.
These are my children's stories, but they are also the stories of the siblings of special needs children everywhere. The are the children who have seen some of life's hardest and most unfair circumstances at young ages. They have sat in waiting rooms of doctors offices time and time again. They have been away from their parents for days at a time during their siblings hospitalizations. They know seizure first aid, or CPR, or how to feed through a tube. They want to know those things. These are the children who sometimes feel they live in the shadows, who sometimes crave the attention of their parents that seems so unevenly distributed at times. These are the children who sometimes have to miss birthday parties or other fun events when their sibling is ill.
I'll never forget the night I found my youngest son, maybe seven at the time, walking out of my room, where his brother sleeps. "I was just checking on Matias," he said, and went on his way as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Another time, he and his sister had a very serious conversation about who would take care of Matias when I'm no longer able to. They both wanted to be the one who would take care of him. They ultimately decided they would share him. I've never asked them about this, but still these are the things these children consider before they have even seen their teenage years.
These children, who could be bitter and angry and have every right, instead choose compassion, understanding, and unconditional love. They are incredible individuals who are helping change the way the world views people with special needs, and perhaps one of the most important influences on how their peers will treat those with disabilities. I hope they know that they are never in the shadows, because their light shines too bright to be masked by darkness.
From the log of Heather McCain www.mommieneedscoffee.com