Sixteen years ago, even though I was only two years old at the time, I did not realize that the kid who repeatedly pulled my banana curls out of my head, who kicked me on the couch, and who stole my Beanie Babies from my bed would be so influential in my life. When my brother Michael was eighteen months old, it was determined that he had developmental delays. I remember the many doctor visits we went
I remember numerous therapists having him solve puzzles, use puppets, and use swings for therapy to improve his fine and gross motor skills, speech, and behavior. I remember him learning sign language at eighteen months because he was unable to speak. Michael was eventually diagnosed with a long list of developmental disorders such as ADHD, apraxia of speech, learning delays, all forms of Dyslexia, as well as motor delays. Therefore, growing up in my home was very different and at times more challenging than my peers, as we had to focus a lot of time and energy to accommodate Michael’s needs. Despite all of these challenges, it has helped me grow to be a better person.
From Michael, I have learned to be compassionate and mindful of others. I have realized it is important to care for the people around me because life is not only about me; it’s about how I affect the people who are in my life. At an early age I began to help my parents by assisting with Michael’s needs, like getting him dressed or getting him a snack. I knew that my actions would make Michael’s and our family’s lives easier. Michael has taught me that helping someone is not a burden; if someone needs assistance, why not help them? If I made someone’s situation less difficult, I did something right. Having compassion for others positively affects both them and me.
Because of Michael’s disabilities, I am more accepting and less critical of people. I'm not quick to judge others’ actions, words, or appearances because I consider the possible reasons behind them. Being accepting has ultimately made me more open-minded. I am interested in hearing what people have to say no matter who they are. I don’t care about fitting in with the “in-crowd”. I am inclined to consider people’s ideas because I admire those who are different, just as my brother is different. When I am with Michael, I don’t see a person with disabilities; I see someone who has a great sense of humor, who is always smiling, who thinks every day should be a party, and who is intelligent. Michael’s uniqueness has helped me grow into the person I am and makes me appreciate differences among people.
Because of Michael, I'm proud of who I am. And I am also proud to be his sister. Outsiders may feel sorry for my family as we have to deal with the challenges that come with a special needs child, but my parents and I don’t see it that way. I would never ask for a “typical” brother. If I did, I would not have experienced the things that Michael has taught me. My family and I are fortunate to be blessed with someone who has shaped us to be the best people we can be. I have learned to be compassionate and accepting as well as proud of the person I have become and I owe it all to Michael.