I was talking to a friend of mine today who is raising two beautiful girls, one who is a young teenager and another who is a “tweener” with autism. We began one of our many conversations about our lives and the challenges we face. Our conversation focused on the balancing act we walk to make sure we do everything we can for our disabled children while meeting the needs of our other kids.
The siblings of disabled children are unique, special kids. They have great empathy and understanding for anyone who faces challenges. At a young age they learn to recognize medical conditions like seizures and environmental factors that may be unsettling for their siblings. They learn to communicate without language, and they learn how to provide comfort and care with the stroke of their hand. They also understand therapy, doctors, medications, hospitals and even emergency rooms. They know their siblings are different and they seem to roll with that. They weather whatever comments they may hear with brave faces and hearts. But, they are still kids and in order to do right by them we understand that our focus cannot simply be about Quincy. We must make time to celebrate their lives, their activities, their achievements. We must make them understand that they are special and that even if our life is somewhat dictated by their sister’s needs, they will never take a backseat. We help them to foster lives that are separate from hers, so that they understand the pure joy of “normal” relationships and activities. And, we learn to forgive them when they have situations where they would rather not have Quincy take part. They need that…they deserve that.
They will grow up to be amazing adults who will treat people and situations differently because of their sister. They will have great tolerance and patience. Maybe they will turn to occupations that will help other families or people who face similar disabilities, like therapists or doctors. But, whatever they choose to do I know it will be spectacular and that they will make a significant impact in this world. As parents we must make sure they understand our lives are different from others, but it isn’t a bad thing…it’s just a different thing. If we can learn to celebrate our differences and learn from them, like our children are doing, our world will be a better place.