I know you don’t have a diagnosis next to your name or an extensive medical history. You’re used to being known as so and so’s brother/sister. Does anyone even remember your name? (They do, your mom and dad make sure of that, and they wish people would try a bit harder to be considerate). Your sibling is called special by the world and unintentionally seems to attract all the attention in your family. There are so many times when you feel forgotten, but I want you to know something. You are not forgotten, and you are far from typical. You are incredible. Loved. And worth just as much as your sibling.
I know it’s hard watching your brother or sister struggle. Your name may not be on the chart, but your life has been changed by their diagnosis. You haven’t been the one through it all, but you’ve stood bedside day after day, watching it all. I know it doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not. It’s not fair for you or them. It’s hard, and it hurts more than it should.
I know your life doesn’t look like your friends’ lives. You’ve had to sacrifice so much. You’ve missed out on so much. You’ve been shipped off to family members and friends during emergencies, sometimes without any warning. We’re sorry. You’ve said your bedtime prayers over Facetime or Phone calls more times than anyone should need to.
You’ve had to grow up much too fast. You’ve listened to doctors and therapist tell your parents all the things your sibling isn’t going to do. You’ve heard all the side effects and possible complications. You’re scared more than you’re willing to admit. You understand more than people may think, while so many things are so confusing. You’ve watched as your mom and dad fought back tears and tried to smile. They told you nothing was wrong, but you knew differently.
And it broke your heart, but you pretended like it didn’t. You put on a brave face, and you tried to make your mom smile. You tried to make your brother or sister smile. That’s one of your superpowers you know.
I wish I had a way to make it better for you, but I don’t. I can’t wave a magic wand and make your brother or sister all better, I wish I could. I can’t make the difficult parts of your childhood better, but I can tell you this. Your suffering is not wasted. You are going to be the most amazing adult. Teenager. Child. You already are.
I am convinced that the next generation of great world changers are going to be from special needs families because in the middle of all the hard and all the heartache, you’ve learned what really matters in this life. You’ve learned so many things that most adults can’t grasp. Things that a textbook could never teach you. You have seen real life. You’ve stood in the middle of a raging storm with no umbrella, and instead of running to hide, you’ve waited for the rainbow never doubting that it will come. And if it didn’t show, you went to find one, because that’s who you are.
You’ve learned the value of hard work. You’ve learned to never give up. You’ve helped out in therapy sessions. You’ve been your sibling’s biggest cheerleader, and goodness does my heart burst with pride when I see those moments. I can’t even put it into words. You’ve encouraged them more than anyone else, and you have learned to celebrate every little milestone.
You are going to change the world because you look at the world and see each person as equal. You don’t see physical or mental ability as a gauge of a person’s worth. You understand that every life is worth fighting for even if it looks different from what the world sees as normal.
Special needs siblings, take heart. You are not forgotten. You are a world changer, and I can’t wait to see all the good you will do.