Dear Sibling of a Special Needs Child,
The first thing I’d like to say to you, is simply: Hello.
I want to let you know, I see you there. Fidgeting, waiting, hoping. I see you watching as everyone smiles at your sibling, while you stand back just a little ways. Yes, I do see you, and I can see by the way you stand that, often times, you feel unseen, unnoticed. I see you try extra hard to simply be noticed by strangers, whose eyes are automatically drawn by the gravitational pull of your sibling’s ‘special-ness’. I cringe at the hurt expression on your face, when someone finally says to you, almost as an afterthought, “Oh, aren’t you a cutie, too!” I’ll even admit, I kinda want to punch them in their well meaning faces, on your behalf.
As someone so fortunate to be a part of your life, I see quite a lot:
I notice the extra help, the patience, the love and concern you show your special needs sibling. I can tell that, when you start ‘acting out,’ it’s because you’ve simply had enough, and you need it to be your turn. I know that your need for extra praise, acknowledgement, and reassurance is different yet equal to your siblings need for medication, special accommodations and allowances.
I saw that when your sibling cried for a fallen toy- one difficult for him/her to retrieve- you jumped in quick as a bunny and returned it to those little outstretched arms, and then gave your now happy sibling a kiss. When your sibling had to get another shot, you did a silly dance to distract, and I know that no one had to ask you to do it. Your heart is just that big.
When you went to a playgroup, where all of the other children were like you, able to run and play at your much faster pace, you kept going back to your sibling, and waited till he/she caught up. You also made sure no one knocked him/her down, either. I saw all of that, and more.
I understand that sometimes you are conflicted, your love and frustration can wage a battle in a single half hour of play with your sibling. You wonder “Why can’t he/she just be like me?” You even wonder, “Why can’t I be like her/him?’ It’s not fair that your sibling takes up so much of your parents time and attention away from you, I know.
I see that you are really, really funny, and that you work really hard on coloring in the lines. I know that you are both smart and perceptive, and sweet and feisty as well. I bet you think you get in more trouble than your sibling does, too.
Though you may not always realize it, your parents adore you. They are so incredible proud and grateful that you are exactly you. They don’t want you to be anything but you; they simply, wholly love you. They love you exactly as much as your sibling, not less, not more. So while your sibling may have needs that are special, you are both differently and perfectly special people. Different is okay, in fact different is good. The world would be so boring if we were all the same!
I’d like for you to know that you, in your own right, are a gift, a prize, and a treasure. You will grow up to be a human with a deep capacity for compassion, and you will make lives better just by being in it. How do I know this? Well, because I can see you. Chin up, little one. You are special, too.