7 Lessons I Learned From Growing Up With A Special Needs Sibling

As a younger sister of someone with special needs, I did not always understand my brother. I vividly remember being so embarrassed of him when we would go out in public; he would throw temper tantrum or talk very loudly. This led to other people around us to stop and stare. Why was my older brother acting like this? Why couldn’t he just act his age?

Now having had lived 20 years with my older brother, I have a much better understanding of him than I did when I was younger. Here are 7 lessons that I have learned over those 20 years.

Follow your dreams

My brother loves acting and wants to grow up one day to become an actor on Broadway. Although acting is a very difficult field to enter, he refuses to give up and takes acting and theatre classes in hope of one day reaching his dream. His persistence is incredibly inspiring, and pushes me to study hard to reach my personal, academic, and career goals.

Your struggles do not define you

My brother struggles with languages, which means reading and writing are difficult for him to master. However, he refuses to let this define him. He is so much more than what he cannot do.


Patience is definitely not something that you are born with; it is something that you have to work at. I truly believe that growing up with a sibling with special needs has allowed me to gain a sense of patience that I otherwise would not have. This is still something that I have work at everyday because being patient is hard! Keeping your cool in tough situations is key.


Having a sibling with special needs has taught me to be accepting of others’ differences.

Nerding out is okay

My brother loves meeting celebrities, whether they are a singer, actor, etc. He even has a book with photos of all of them! You should definitely not be ashamed of what you love, whether it is watching The Bachelor or Keeping up With the Kardashians.

Family is important

My brother is very special to me. When I see that he is hurting, I hurt too. I cherish the time that I spend with my family, especially since it is a lot less than it used to be now that I am in college.

How much respect I have for parents with special needs children

When I was young, I used to say that I did not want to have children because they were “too much work”.

Being a mother is hard overall, but having a child with special needs requires more attention and time than you could ever imagine. For this reason and many others, my mother is one of my biggest role model. Watching her juggle my brother, my younger sister and I when my father works a lot is truly magic – she will do whatever it takes to ensure that we are healthy and happy.