My Brother Has Down Syndrome

My Brother Has Down Syndrome

The Truth Behind the Stereotypes

I am the younger sister to a man who has Down syndrome. I've refrained from writing about it until now since everyone who knows me is aware of this fact, however this month is different. You see, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and people are sharing how their family member with Down syndrome defies society's expectations. So for this article, I'm going to take the time to tell you guys about my brother, Rion.

Being the second child, I never knew any different than having a brother with special needs. My brother was my playmate, my best friend, and my family; that was all. I never saw him as being different and to be honest I don't think I really thought of him as having special needs. To me, he was just a person. I recall my mom taking Rion and I to the park one day when we were kids and some of the other kids kept staring at my brother. While I never would've noticed, my mom was quick to notice and I remember hearing her explain to them why Rion looks so different from them. Still, to me he was just a normal person.

While I came to recognize later in life that my brother is mentally challenged, my thoughts on him didn't change. We always had the typical sibling relationship: we fought, I bossed him around, and he tattled on me for being the annoying little sister quite frequently. With that, I made a point to never treat Rion as anything less than human. The way I chose to treat Rion is the way I would treat anyone. When he gets lazy and claims he can't perform a simple task (such as picking up something small and moving it), I tell him he is capable of the task and I don't budge until he does it. You may be thinking that I'm awful for this, but I can assure you that it's been the best thing for him. In having higher (yet realistic) expectations for Rion, he has acquired the ability to do for himself and to not be totally dependent upon his family. He does his own laundry, makes lunch for himself, and even got into a college program for adults with special needs. I don't think any of that would've been possible if he hadn't learned to apply himself as he has.

Furthermore, my brother has had a full life in his almost-23-years. I haven't met anyone with quite the luck that my big brother has. The example that immediately comes to mind is his acceptance into Clemson LIFE, a collegiate program for special needs adults focusing on teaching life skills. His getting into the program wasn't luck, but what happened after that was. My mom videoed my brother's reaction to getting his acceptance letter, and the video has over 2 million views on YouTube. People from all over the world were congratulating Rion and showing so much support. The video wound up gathering so much attention that my family was contacted with two forms of exciting news: his video was such an inspiration that through it (without entering a contest) we had won a VIP trip to the Orange Bowl that year AND (unrelated from the Orange Bowl) Google was wanting to use a clip from my brother's video for one of their commercials! It was a crazy time that was spurred from my brother simply being himself and winning over the hearts of the entire world. Not many people can share in that accomplishment.

I am a sister to a man with Down syndrome. Don't feel sorry for him; his life is richer than any of ours. Don't place limits upon his strengths because he very well may prove you wrong. Above all, never assume that having a family member with special needs is something to pity. If not for him, I wouldn't have become the loving and accepting person I am today. Here's to Down syndrome awareness, making you aware of the truth.

Cover Image Credit: Susan Holcombe

Popular Right Now

Once Upon A Time My Sister Was My Rival And Now She's My Best Friend

Siblings: from rivals to best friends

For as long as I can remember, it has been my job to be the annoying little sister. I did the typical little sister things: I bothered her and her friends, I disagreed with her just to get a rise out of her, and I used all of her things without asking.

To say the least, I was a complete hellion to my sister, Marley.

These crazy antics of mine continued through elementary school and into middle school until she went off to college at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

What was I going to do with myself? I no longer had someone to constantly annoy nor was I going to be able to borrow things "without giving them back.”

But most importantly, I no longer had her there to laugh with, watch movies with, or someone to seek advice from.

Whether my sister knew it or not, she was my role model for absolutely everything. Her clothes, her makeup, and how well she did in school. She was everything I aspired to be like.

As the years went by, I became slightly less annoying--only slightly--and all of my antics began to die down. I no longer felt like it was "my job" to be the annoying little sister.

Now that I’m in college, and she has started a new life with her husband and a new job, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve grown incredibly close.

Marley is the first person I tell things about my life, the person I go to for advice, the one I can call when something hilarious happens on Tru TV’s “Impractical Jokers,” or someone to just catch up with on what has been going on in each other's lives.

On November 11, 2017, I gave a speech at Marley’s wedding where I stated: “I care about my sister more than anyone else here today and, being the little sister I am, I will protect her in every way that I can…” That remains true every day.

No matter the circumstances, I would drop everything to help my sister. She may live all the way down in Florida, but I would book the fastest plane to get me down there if she needed me.

We may fight with our siblings and do dumb things just to annoy them, but we will always have their back and grow closer as the years go by.

Simply put, we went from being rivals to best friends.

And to my sister: thank you for being you and for allowing me to grow up with such an amazing role model in my life. I don’t know where I would be without you.

Cover Image Credit: F8 Photography

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To My Big Sister

Thank you for protecting me and loving me.

My older sister and I are 22 months apart. I'm 20 and she's 22. Growing up was never easy for either of us.

I was the classic little sister. I took all my sister's clothes, her makeup, her everything. It was easier once she went to high school and her time to go to school was different than my middle school time.

Some of my friends are really, weirdly close with their sisters. They're best friends and have been their whole lives. It was never that way for Jordan and me.

The common thing my sister always said to me was, "You'll understand once you're in 8th grade" or "You'll understand once you're in high school." I still have no idea what she was talking about.

Jordan and I were always stuck together. We swam on the same swim teams and we played on the same soccer teams. I was always called "little Russell" because "Brick Wall" was already taken by my big sister.

So I get why you needed your space from me when we were growing up.

My sophomore year of high school was especially hard on my sister and my's relationship. She had to go out on her own for me to realize just how much I needed her in my life.

Whether she knows it or not, I look up to my sister a lot. From her mistakes, things she might think are mistakes, and who she is as a person.

My sister is strong, courageous, brave, beautiful, and so many other things I don't think she hears enough.

Jordan, you always have my back. Whether I'm right or wrong or if a boy was stupid and hurt me. You're protective of me and I don't think I've ever said thank you enough for how much you love me.

We were never ones to say I love you with words, rather actions.

Whether it was me checking on you when you were upset or you making sure I was okay after my breakups or when I was crying. You were always there for me.

Going to college, I think, made my relationship stronger with my sister. We're a lot closer than we were ever before.

Jordan, I'm sorry it took me so long to show you how much I appreciate and love you. To put it into words and to practically tell the world about you.

You're the best big sister I could've ever come into the world to. Whether or not we fought a lot growing up, where we are now means a lot to me.

I can't really show you that I love you in this, so I'll just say that I love you. Thank you for being my sister and my friend. I couldn't be me without you.

P.S. sorry you had to read this to find out how much stuff I stole from you growing up even though you probably already knew.

Cover Image Credit: Alex Russell

Related Content

Facebook Comments