My Little Brother With Down Syndrome Teaches Me So Much

My Little Brother With Down Syndrome Teaches Me So Much

Having a sibling with Down Syndrome can be hard, but it is also a unique and eye-opening experience.

A lot of us grow up with siblings in our lives, whether they're younger, older or close to our age. While we don't like to admit it when we're young, our brothers and sisters help shape who we are and how we see the world. They also tend to teach us important lessons that we may have never learned without them.

When I was 4 years old, my brother was born. I was an only child before then and I remember being so excited to finally have someone to play with. Being young, it never occurred to me that there was anything different about him. He was cute, fun to play with and I enjoyed having him around. I would bring all of my stuffed animals to the living room while he was laying on the floor and make a circle with them around him because I liked him so much.

As I grew older, I began to see what other people usually see about my little brother. He didn't walk, talk or act like other children his age. That is when it occurred to me that my brother was different. But not in a bad way.

Growing up with a sibling who has Down Syndrome is a blessing as well as a challenge. For those who do not know, Down Syndrome is a genetic defect caused by an extra or third chromosome on the 21st set of chromosomes. It usually results in lower cognitive functioning and distinct physical features such as short stature, low muscle tone, upward slanting eyes, etc. But if you know someone with Down Syndrome, you know that these skin deep aspects have nothing on their cheerful and amazing personalities.

Having a sibling who "isn't like the other kids" can be a struggle. I grew up watching people stare at my brother and give him strange looks. I had friends ask what was wrong with him and why he did the little things he does. As a kid, I was always embarrassed. I used to think, "Why am I the one with the brother everyone always has questions about?" Looking back, I know it was something I had to go through in order to embrace the special person my brother is.

Now being in college, I look back at the way I used to be embarrassed of my brother and laugh. If there is one thing that having a sibling with Down Syndrome teaches you, it is that you have to have tough skin. Learning to accept my brother for who he is was difficult, but it also taught me not to judge others so quickly. It taught me that you have to be patient and be slow to anger with certain people. But the biggest lesson it taught me was how to embrace someone for who they are, little quirks and all.

Do I sometimes still struggle with having a sibling who is different? Sure. Having to take the stairs one step at a time or listen to him singing along to Aladdin for the 10 millionth time can be a little annoying. But it makes up for it when I get to see him do things that really surprise me, like read out loud or swim better than most people I know.

Having a brother with Down Syndrome is difficult, but it is also fun and rewarding. Watching someone go about life in a different way can change the way you see your own. If I had to sum up my experience is one sentence, it would be this: There is no such thing as DIS-abled, only DIFFERENTLY-abled.

Cover Image Credit: Crabb, Megan

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Why Having A Sister Is The Best Thing In The World

She's my built-in best friend.

I have considered myself one of the luckiest girls in the world to have been given the world’s best older sister to ever exist. We are a little over two years apart, yet, I feel as if the years between us don’t even amount to how close we are and how special and important she is to me. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that having a sister is the most amazing thing in the world. You are automatically given a life-long, built in best friend without even having to try. I, for one, know my sister is the only person who will always be there for me. She is my favorite person in the entire universe, she is my role model, she is the one person I will constantly look up to. All in all, she is my ultimate best friend.

Growing up, my sister and I dealt with the same minor arguments that all sisters face as they get older. Whenever my sister had her friends over, all I wanted was to hang out with them. Whenever my sister started a new sport, I immediately decided to try that sport as well. Half the time, the things I have tried in life are all due to the fact that my sister decided to try them first. All I ever wanted to do was be like her. And that’s exactly what I did. While it may seem like I didn’t really have a brain of my own or any real separation from my interests and my sister’s interests, as we both got older, we forged our own paths in very different ways.

As we both got a little bit older and a lot more mature, the pointless bickering came to an end and we actually got incredibly close. While I had always looked up to my sister from the start, this was different. We weren’t just sisters anymore, we were becoming best friends.

The day my sister left for college was one of the most emotional and heart wrenching days of my entire life. My best friend, my go-to, and my person was taken away from me and starting a new life in a completely new state. She would make new friends, and we would only have some small window of time to talk, over Facetime, of course, about our new lives away from each other. Honestly, I do not enjoy expressing my emotions and showing my weak spots to other people. When my sister left for college I don’t think I fully expressed to her the extent to how much I missed her. It took me a long time to be okay with the fact that she wasn’t right across the hall from me, that we didn’t share a bathroom anymore, that I could walk into her room and talk to her, and that we couldn’t steal each other’s clothes anymore. I thought that distance would strain our relationship in a really bad way. But, as it turned out, we got so much closer than we were before.

My sister is a brilliant, smart and intelligent person. She has the brightest future ahead of her. Whenever someone asks me about my sister, I am always so proud to speak about her and all of her accomplishments. When I visit her in college, we have the most amazing time together. I love getting to see a piece of her life that is outside of the one we share at home. And, as she is now getting ready to graduate from college, I only know the future she has ahead of her is going to be nothing short of successful.

Honestly, I guess not everyone is as lucky as I am to have the most amazing sister. She truly is my best friend in the entire world. She is the only person who knows how to make me feel better in my dark moments, and she is the one person who knows me better than I know myself. She is my rock, she is my person, she is my ultimate best friend, and I could not be luckier to have been given the greatest sister of all time. I am forever grateful.

Cover Image Credit: Franki Rosenthal

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20 Things Only Girls With Younger Sisters Can Relate To

You're stuck with her but you wouldn't have it any other way.

Being the older sister is a life-long job you can’t quit but you wouldn’t have it any other way. A younger sister is a built-in best friend that will always support you and have your back no matter what. Love her or hate her, she’ll always be by your side and you are forever grateful for her. Only older sisters can relate to these 20 things.

1. She always takes your clothes without asking

When you confront her about it, your mom always takes her side and reminds you that she looks up to you.

2. Your mom always bought you matching outfits and you hated it, but your sister was in heaven wearing the same clothes as you

3. You have to take the blame for everything

As the older sister, you can’t get away with anything.

4. You always have to set a good example for your sister

She watches you like a hawk and examines your every move.

5. You’re the designated chauffeur

This is especially annoying when your sister always wants to hang out with friends.

6. She always seems to want to hang out with you when you’re really busy

7. You feel weird when she starts to grow up because you have no control over it and want her to stay your little sister forever

You don’t even know how to react when she comes to you for advice on her high school drama.

8. She’s more social than you and always has plans, even when you don’t

You know it’s weird when your younger sister has Friday night plans and you’re spending your night on the couch with Netflix.

9. Your parents let her get away with way more than you ever did

And you don’t even have an argument against it because “times are different”.

10. You’re her designated protector and feel responsible for her

She’s your little sister and if anyone hurts her, they'' have to face you.

11. You constantly bicker, but you wouldn’t have it any other way

That’s when you know you’re really close.

12. You have joked with each other that no one else will get

“Sorry, you wouldn’t understand… it’s a sister thing."

13. You feel obligated to spoil her

Take her shopping, buy her coffee and food, you name it. You basically have no backbone when she wants something.

14. She leaves her stuff all over the bathroom

Especially her hair… UGH.

15. She’s always on board for a sleepover and gossip session

16. She’s got an equivalent amount of sass, if not more than you

Eye rolling is her specialty.

17. You got the same presents for Christmas, but they were “slightly different”

“Wanna trade? I like that color better.”

18. You can only be really weird with her and she won’t judge you for it

19. Anytime she’s in the car with you, you seem to miss a turn or get lost

She distracts you with her stories and you seem to forget where you’re going.

20. She’s your favorite person to mess with

And she’s a good sport about it too!

Love ya, Jess <3

Cover Image Credit: Lindsey McEvoy

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