I feel like many new parents wonder how their other children will be affected when they receive their child’s diagnosis. I did wonder how Mary’s diagnosis would affect Alex. Especially since there is a six year age difference between them. He was so excited to be a big brother while I was pregnant, but would that carry over after she was born? Would he feel resentful that she will be getting more “attention” in the way of therapies and appointments?
I’ll save you the suspense, I worried for nothing. These two siblings are as close as can be, even with the age gap. Mary’s eyes light up when her brother comes home from his dad’s house. She is so excited to see him and will rush over to hug him. And every morning, he comes into her room with me so he can say good morning to her. They have their typical sibling fights “Mom, she took my toy!” “Mom, she hit me!” “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” (that one is Mary). But they are each other’s favorite person.
Something I read awhile back that I find to be very true is “If you don’t know how to treat someone with special needs, see how their sibling treats them.” I can tell you that Alex treats Mary like a normal little sister. He tries to keep her safe, he is very insistent on teaching her new things (he taught her how to high five and fist bump. You know, important things when you’re a big brother), he tries to keep her out of his stuff with little success, and he wants to include her in everything he does because, as he says “she’s my little sister and I love her”.
The future is very unknown for both children. We don’t know who will want to move out and live on their own as soon as possible and who may live with us for awhile. We don’t know who will go to college and who will go trade school. The future is full of possibilities for both of them. I just hope that what ever the future holds for them, they keep this closeness they have developed.
When we found out about Mary’s diagnosis and reach out to the Down Syndrome Association, the Early Matters coordinator gave us the book “We’ll Paint the Octopus Red” to read to Alex. I think it was just as much for us as it was for him. It’s a story about a father telling his daughter that her new baby brother has Down syndrome. She starts asking about what he’ll be able to do, and they realize he will be able to do all of the same things as she does, but it might take a little longer. It is really cute and I highly recommend it.