This is day 5 of 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. To view the story behind this series and the series contents, please visit the landing page. Today, I asked a childhood friend, Alyssa, to share her perspective of the sister of a brother with Down Syndrome. Their story is extra special to me, as her brother, Michael, was one of the first special needs children I ever knew as a little girl. I can guarantee that everything she says about him is 100% true.
Growing up with siblings is probably one of the craziest and life-altering blessings in life. One moment they can be your worst enemy you can’t seem to get away from, but then the next moment they can be your very best friend you’re exploring the world with. You laugh together, fight together, imagine together, create together, and explore together. I grew up with three brothers; so, yes, I was the princess or the “rose among thorns” as my dad would put it. My brothers and I have crazy memories together. We all have different personalities, different desires, different talents, and different paths in life. However, we have all impacted each other in some way or another. The one brother who has impacted my life more than any other is my brother, Michael. Michael was born with Down Syndrome which is a genetic disorder affecting the physical and intellectual aspects of a person. Although Michael might seem a little different than other people, and it might take him longer to complete certain tasks, he is an incredible person who loves to smile and share his contagious joy with whoever he comes in contact with.
Growing up with a sibling with special needs presents its challenges or perhaps embarrassments at times. People have stared at my brother when we would be walking through the grocery store, poke fun at his speech, or complain about his slowness. At times it gets frustrating waiting on him to tie his shoes so that we can leave to go somewhere, or being patient with him as he repeats what he is trying to say countless times, or completing tasks for him that he can’t physically do. However hard or frustrating those things might be at times, they are completely out-weighed by the innumerable blessings Michael has brought into my life. Those things have made me nothing more than protective of my brother and have caused me to love him with such a profound love.
Michael has taught me precious truths about life that no other person could have taught me better. He has taught me that no matter how mean, rude, impatient, or unkind people are, love them anyways. Michael has such a deep, unconditional love for everyone around him. He has displayed this love in my life in countless ways. Days when I’m short and impatient with him seem like the days he shows me the most love. He is always asking about my day and remembering things from previous days to ask about. He has always forgiven me despite my shortcomings and daily failures. He folds my clothes, vacuums out my car, gives me my mail, and always remembers to have a pen and gum for me at church. His love shines through his care for me, his eagerness to spend time with me, and his passionate desire to serve me.
Not only have I been impacted by my brother’s love for me, I have also been challenged and rebuked by his unique outlook on life. Living in a society that is constantly on the go and craving the latest gadgets or advancements in job positions, Michael chooses to live the simple life. No matter what, Michael is always content and easily pleased about almost anything. When I rush through life making sure I get everything done, I can’t help but to stop and look at his life and admire his love for the simple things in life. He loves doing word searches, watching sports games, playing sports, taking naps, and reading his Bible. He’s not rushing around, desiring the next gadget, or discontent with his lot in life. He’s peaceful and filled with joy pretty much all the time.
From a sibling’s perspective of growing up with someone with Down Syndrome: I would have it no other way.
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Michael’s life has taught me patience; Michael’s life has taught me true and total contentment; Michael’s life has given me an intense desire to help other children with special needs. Without Michael’s amazing impact on my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. He has touched my life in truly incredible ways. I didn’t have a choice to having a sibling with special needs; but honestly, having him as a brother is probably the sweetest blessing in my life.
Alyssa is currently a grad student and nanny living in Ohio with her loving parents and amazing brother who has Down Syndrome. Upon completing her Masters in special education and elementary education, she hopes to help children with special needs reach their fullest potential by guiding them to recognize and effectively use the gifts and talents God has uniquely given them. She enjoys baking, sunsets, mini-golf, ice-cream, scrapbooking, hanging out with family, and talking about her faith.