My Special Needs Sibling: What I Want You to Know

In July of 1996, an angel was born. That angel is my little brother. He has Down syndrome, but it is in no way who he is. My brother has blessed my life in more ways than I am able to count, or even consciously realize. As someone who has a sibling with special needs, there are things that I want the world to know about him and other members of the special needs population. I do not aim to speak for all siblings in my position, but rather share my personal experience and how my life has been impacted because of my brother and his joy.

The stereotypes concerning individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities can be hurtful, as many assume that if someone has a disability they are automatically less of a person than those around them, with a lack of opportunities to succeed and thrive. This is absolutely not true. I have seen the way that individuals look at and speak to my brother, and overall it is with positivity and acceptance. However, I am able to recall times where uneducated responses to my brother and his “condition” caused me to feel especially protective of him from those who may hurt him with their words and glances.

I do not want to speak for my brother, but he is too kind to ever speak out about any injustice he’s received from others. I want you to know that my brother can do anything he sets his mind to. He takes every moment he’s given and lives it to the fullest. He smiles at everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from. He lives life for the little things, the connections, and interactions that make life as amazing as it can be.

From someone who has a sibling with special needs, please do not underestimate the ability of individuals with Down syndrome, or any other special need(s).

Refrain from seeing their special need(s) as a limitation, and instead empower them and encourage them to chase their dreams and full potential.

Be educated about your words and actions, as I know from personal experience that my brother picks up on much more than he ever lets on.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions; families with individuals who have special needs would much rather interact with you and have a discussion than see you whisper or point.

Understand that although stereotypes may have some accuracy to them, that they should not be taken as fact.

Do not assume that all individuals with Down syndrome (or other disabilities) are the same because they are not. Every person is their own individual, with unique capabilities that set us apart from everyone else.

Yes, my brother is very cute, but he is much more than that. Do not pity or look down upon individuals with special needs because of their appearance,

Get to know individuals within this population. Often times, members of this population are left behind/forgotten about because of how others perceive them. I can guarantee that interacting with this population will positively impact your life and teach you more about yourself than you thought you could ever learn.