6 Lessons I Learned From Having A Sibling With Special Needs

6 Lessons I Learned From Having A Sibling With Special Needs

Whoever said that life is like a box of chocolates -- he knew what he was talking about.
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Meet Jack:

He’s outgoing and enthusiastic. He likes Netflix, as most Americans do. He indulges frequently in peanut butter -- reduced fat, if we’re getting into the particulars (but only because it has more sugar). He cheers for his school’s football team so passionately, he might as well be the mascot (although his position as assistant team manager will suffice). He’s well known around town -- for example, workers at our local McAlister’s Deli know his order by heart, and if it's a Tuesday night and the chocolate milk is running low, they'll hide one for him in the back. He also happens to be missing some genes on his seventh chromosome -- a genetic disorder known more commonly as Williams Syndrome, which affects roughly one in 10,000 people worldwide. It’s this last characteristic of my brother that rocked my and my family’s world when the diagnosis was made.

Having a sibling with special needs comes with its fair share of ups and downs, but surprisingly, more of the former. One of the many ups is that my brother’s taught me a lot. Here are six lessons I’ve learned from having a sibling with special needs.

1. You can’t plan your life and expect it to play out in that way.

Jack wasn’t diagnosed with Williams Syndrome until he was three years old. That means that for three years my family was imagining him growing up just like every other kid -- learning to drive, sneaking out to parties, heading off to college, you know the drill. That was a whole three years before the doctors dropped the G-bomb -- genetic disorder. Nonetheless, my parents took the news with stride, and life’s worked out in so many amazing and confusing and wonderful ways we had never before imagined.

2. Just because it's said, doesn't mean it's so.

Just like you can’t expect your life to go as you plan, you also can’t take certain news as fate. Just because an authority gives his or her word on a matter, doesn’t mean it’s correct. When Jack was younger, physical and occupational therapists predicted trouble ahead. And even at the time, his lack of ability to reasonably perceive depth made him terrified just to step off of a street curb. Despite these predictions, Jack’s developed a taste for action and adventure, including basketball, bike riding, and even cliff rappelling, as the opportunity has presented itself.

3. You share a lot more than just a last name.

When your sibling struggles in ways that many don’t, you become much more emotionally attached to his or her journey. You sympathize with his or her struggles, and you celebrate exuberantly with his or her successes. You share perspectives, as he or she shows you life with new eyes and appreciation for new things. You also share a bond that is stronger than any you’ve shared with anyone else. When we were younger, Jack and I would put our hands together in the shape of a heart, and then pinch our fingers down to make an infinity sign, saying “I love you times infinity.” Even though he no longer does this, being seventeen and "too cool for school," I know from his genuine and energetic greeting every time we get on FaceTime that we’re just as tight as we’ve always been.

4. You have to be the bigger person, even when you don’t want to be.

Growing up, whenever kids gave my brother a hard time, every bone in my body wanted to rip them a new one. I despised them, not understanding how people could be so heartless. As I grew up, I realized that people act in certain ways for various reasons, and although a certain comment or action might be unjustified, fighting fire with fire isn’t the way to make the world a better place. People may disappoint you in life, but when you stand tall and swallow your pride, you’re bound to come out on top.

5. Disabled does not mean incapable.

There are many things my brother struggles with due to his disorder, but hey, doesn’t everybody struggle with at least a thing or two? While there are certain things Jack struggles with, there are so many more that he excels at. He’s a pro at networking, thanks to his outgoing and cheerful demeanor. And when he was younger, there was no Transformers product he couldn’t transform, despite the unsuccessful attempts of everyone else in the family. And now, he is on track to becoming an Eagle Scout. Jack has obstacles, but to those, he says, “Challenge accepted.”

6. There is a God, and God is great.

Some people might think that a diagnosis of a genetic disorder would erase one’s faith on the spot. After all, how could a God call himself great and loving after giving so sparingly and unjustly to one of his creations? But it’s not like that at all. When you have a sibling with special needs, you focus in a little better on what actually matters. Rather than feeling like you’ve been thrown a curse, you realize you have been granted a huge blessing, one that presents itself in the form of countless little blessings. For me, they’re the mercilessly tight hugs I receive each time I come home from school. They’re the way my brother sits down beside me when I’m upset and gently tells me to “turn that frown upside down”. They’re the unnecessarily but wonderfully excessive introductions to strangers: “Hi, I’m Jack Davis, a member of [Boy Scout] Troop 72 at your service.” God may have thrown us a curveball when he gave us Jack, but I can speak for my parents and myself when I say we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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Dad, it's all your fault.
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I always tell my dad that no matter who I date, he's always my number one guy. Sometimes I say it as more of a routine thing. However, the meaning behind it is all too real. For as long as I can remember my dad has been my one true love, and it's going to be hard to find someone who can top him.

My dad loves me when I am difficult. He knows how to keep the perfect distance on the days when I'm in a mood, how to hold me on the days that are tough, and how to stand by me on the days that are good.

He listens to me rant for hours over people, my days at school, or the episode of 'Grey's Anatomy' I watched that night and never once loses interest.

He picks on me about my hair, outfit, shoes, and everything else after spending hours to get ready only to end by telling me, “You look good." And I know he means it.

He holds the door for me, carries my bags for me, and always buys my food. He goes out of his way to make me smile when he sees that I'm upset. He calls me randomly during the day to see how I'm doing and how my day is going and drops everything to answer the phone when I call.

When it comes to other people, my dad has a heart of gold. He will do anything for anyone, even his worst enemy. He will smile at strangers and compliment people he barely knows. He will strike up a conversation with anyone, even if it means going way out of his way, and he will always put himself last.

My dad also knows when to give tough love. He knows how to make me respect him without having to ask for it or enforce it. He knows how to make me want to be a better person just to make him proud. He has molded me into who I am today without ever pushing me too hard. He knew the exact times I needed to be reminded who I was.

Dad, you have my respect, trust, but most of all my heart. You have impacted my life most of all, and for that, I can never repay you. Without you, I wouldn't know what I to look for when I finally begin to search for who I want to spend the rest of my life with, but it might take some time to find someone who measures up to you.

To my future husband, I'm sorry. You have some huge shoes to fill, and most of all, I hope you can cook.

Cover Image Credit: Logan Photography

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The Government Has Its Place In Any Economy, But At What Limits?

The government does have a place in the economy. But really, what is it?

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There is an age-old argument that the government has no place in American economics. That the market determines an equilibrium price, that consumer pays that price willingly, and firms sell at that price happily. That the government's inefficiencies only serve as a detriment to the market's efficiency.

This argument has some validity. But the reality is that taxation isn't theft. And the government's role in the economy is pretty clear. Should it exist? Yes. Does it exist? Yes. Will abolishing it lead to greater market efficiencies and a better life for all? Hell no.

Property rights are of fundamental importance to market economies such as the United States. To even have a market that determines the equilibrium price, you must have a government. Why? Well, to have a voluntarily barter or exchange, there must be protection of property. Without it, theft would be rampant. Why would I pay someone for bread if I can take the bread? Why would I sell bread if the bread will be stolen rather than exchanged for? This details the need for government. Government arises out of a necessity to protect the rights of people. This protection of property rights creates a market. It allows individuals to own and subsequently trade whatever it is they own.

Some argue that the government's role in the market ends there. Once we have a system of national defense and police, we have no further use of the government.

This is also a flawed perspective. There are failures within the market. There are times where the market cannot achieve efficiency on its own. I could go through a non-exhaustive list of such failures, but that is more work than is necessary. Simply think about a monopoly. Monopolies are a prime example of why the market cannot be effective alone. In a situation like this, the government can create economic policy targeted at improving market efficiency.

There are times when government policy creates market inefficiencies (commonly referred to as government failure). In fact, there are times in which the government itself is inefficient at its own duties. This does not mean that government intervention is not necessary. Nor does it mean that all government intervention is bad. It simply means that those in power are not making optimal decisions. The general concept still stands: there are times where the market needs government intervention to operate efficiently. The failure of one government to effectively handle the market is not evidence against government intervention, it's simply evidence against the instituted policy.

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