Young Life with a Brother with Down Syndrome
At a young age, I learned to be a responsible person. The instinct to be a protective sister came naturally. How could I not? The love of a baby, in my case a younger brother, came so natural. I couldn't imagine anyone not loving or adoring this small person. At this time, I didn't know he had Down syndrome, but it didn't matter. I think I was too young to understand what this even meant, and society wasn't open to those with disabilities during this time.
My older brother and I sang, talked, played, and made goofy faces with our younger brother. We loved it when we could get a grin. He was easy to entertain, and we found him a source of amusement. How could anyone see this child as someone who doesn't belong in society? I later learned society generally possessed that attitude. When my Mom and Dad first held him, they saw a beautiful child whom they immediately loved. An institution wasn't an option.
Yes, it was difficult and a big concern of what the future meant for him. Even though my parents grieved, they were still determined to make the most of the situation and give him the most normal childhood someone could have. This took unconditional love, patience, discipline, and strength. Often, Mom heard, "I would never be able to handle it. I don't know how you do." Mom always said a person just does because we accept what happens and make the most of it.
Mom said she wishes she knew 45 years ago what she knows now. She said she would not have had such worry and heartache if she knew the love, happiness, fun, and achievement (within his individual ability) that he has. The family didn't have support systems, social networks with other families, or advice on how to teach and train their child. Mom and Dad chose to take things as they came. Everyone who is a parent knows that every child is different from his/her siblings. Each child in a family has different gifts and talents. That is how my parents chose to see my brother, as a human being with potential to be productive in life. They would tap into it and see what he could do rather than what he couldn't do.
I highly respect the lessons about acceptance, love, limits, and discipline they modeled with us. I saw the model of believing in the best in others and never giving up on someone because of a disability. I think that is why I went into education as a profession. I do believe all children have value and purpose in this world. I have lived through a time when disabilities was a shameful word, yet I have seen great results with my brother. Blessings to you.