In Her Shoes is a series written by readers to give us a glimpse into their lives – to see what it is like to walk in their shoes. Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Brianne Whitley – my lovely sister-in-law! She is going to share a peek into her life, and tell us what it is like to have a sibling with special needs. You can also follow her on her new crafting and lifestyle blog – Whitley Life, and on Facebook! Let’s join our friend as she shares with us what it is like to walk in her shoes. ~ Love, G
According to the National Down Syndrome Society website, “one in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome.” I am fortunate enough to have a younger sister with down syndrome. There are many people that don’t know a lot about down syndrome, or the struggles that they go through. The definition from the National Down Syndrome Society on what down syndrome is and what characteristics they have is, “In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.”
With these visible characteristics, a lot of people can tell when a person has down syndrome. This being said, a lot of individuals treat those with down syndrome different than they do anyone else. They just want to fit in like anyone else. They want to be able to do whatever anyone else is doing. Having a younger sister, I know this first hand.
One memory I have of my sister trying to fit in [and just being a pesky little sister ;)] would be the time when I received a really nice make-up set for my birthday. I had it sitting up on my vanity in my room. I went up to my room after school one day and found her playing in the brand new make-up set that had not been used yet. She had it everywhere. All over the floor, her face, her arms, the vanity, and even her hair. You can imagine how upset I was when this happened. Thinking back to that time, I really I wish I would have taken a picture.
As a sibling to someone with down syndrome, growing up was sometimes a struggle. My parents have done an amazing job raising us, but sometimes its hard for a child to try to explain the emotions they are experiencing to a parent. I know I did. I remember sometimes feeling jealous of my sister, she monopolized so much time when she was younger. Sometimes I felt like what I did didn’t matter. I would get upset or angry, and my parents never really understood what caused it (most of the time, neither did I). It’s hard to describe some of the emotions I had while growing up. Most of the time it was written off as being a dramatic teenager, which most of time time it probably was. More recently, I have met others who have siblings with special needs. They experienced a lot of the same feelings I had while growing up.
Looking back on my feelings as a teenager, I would chalk up most of my feelings to raging hormones and not knowing what to do with all of them. Sometimes it’s nice to know that there are others out there that had the same feelings you did. I would get so frustrated with myself for some of the emotions that I did have towards my sister. They wouldn’t last very long, but having even the thought of jealousy made me uneasy.
I love my sister so much and don’t know what I would have done without her. She is such a light in my life. Even though we fight like “normal” sisters would, she is such a joy to be around. One of our favorite things to do is turn up the music in my parents basement and sing and dance until we’re too tired to do dance anymore. I’ve had several friends recently come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate me bringing my sister around our group of friends. As much as I told my parents it was a pain to bring my sister around with me, I loved bringing her with me. Being able help make people more aware of down syndrome and show people that they just want to be part of the group as much as you or I want to be part of the group, really makes me feel like I’m helping make a change.
Check out http://www.ndss.org/ to find out ways you can help spread awareness of down syndrome to your community.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” —Thomas Merton
To read more encouraging stories, or if you are interested in sharing your own story, please go to the In Her Shoes tab near the top of the page. I love learning about the people in this series. Connecting with others seems to make the world feel not quite as big and scary. We’re all in this together. I can’t wait to hear from you, to read your stories, and learn more of what it is like to walk in your shoes.
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