Special Needs Children Develop Character in “Typical” Siblings

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Special Needs Children Develop Character in “Typical” Siblings

Often we write about our son Joey (nearly 37) with special needs. His story as it intertwines with our lives and the lives of our 2 daughters is something we share with others to give hope, comfort, and encouragement. It hasn’t been easy, often not fun, and seldom comfortable, but we’ve all tried to make choices that are right in light of this journey on which the Lord has us. With these thoughts in mind, I want to spend this time blogging about our daughters Kristina and Kathleen. They are very typical in terms of their childhood development but they are very incredible in terms of their character! In the midst of many things our typical kids can’t or don’t get to do because of the family dynamics of having a sibling with special needs, I know our girls got to do most of what they wanted to do. Yet, I also am fully aware of the times of sacrifice by them because life was put on hold and they couldn’t go or do certain things. Without going into details about all those times and all those things, let me tell you what that sacrifice, doing without, not getting to do, and helping out did…. We have 2 of the kindest and sweetest young ladies as sisters for Joey. Joe and I can’t take credit for how they turned out, because we honestly see that they were fashioned by the Lord by giving us our Joey. They love and care so much for their brother, and that has been clearly seen not only in how they love and care for him, but how they love and care for others. In the early days I remember “catching” the girls tying Joey’s shoelaces without being asked, or helping him in the bathroom without being told. Later they’d help at things like “Joey-sitting” that were a blessing to us because we could leave knowing they knew how to care for him, and that they would do it well! I recall a time when Kristina (a tiny gal) went up to a full table of big tough high school football players and reprimanded them for trying to entice a male student with Down Syndrome to do something he shouldn’t! She marched right to the table, tapped the ring leader on the shoulder and scolded him and his tough-guy friends, and set the student with Down Syndrome straight that these guys were not “nice” and not being “nice” to him. I don’t know all that happened afterwards but I do know the table was silenced. (Way to go!) She didn’t see it happen again. I have watched our Kathleen set people straight (usually in a loving way) not to stare or make fun in words (like calling people “retard”) or action (like not being kind or helpful). She has always been one to see things from the corner of her eye and take care of it directly! I’m thankful for these gals, not just for sticking up for their brother and others, but because they are also two of the most “welcoming” people I know. They welcome people into their lives and homes without reserve. They watch other peoples children (and animals!) and reach out when they see a need. Need a meal? Need a ride? Need help? They’re there. And they’re here for us, too. They’ve learned (at age appropriate times) how to help Joey with his daily care (showering, toileting when needed, shaving, etc.) and how to do it that doesn’t demean him, but is helpful. They know he can do some things, but that other things he just can’t figure out….and they are watchful to know that fine line to allow him his integrity and yet they understand his inabilities. They are caring, sensitive, helpful, and attentive. I could go on, but I won’t! For those families on the early end of caring for one with special needs, you might not believe what I’m telling you is true. But given that we (as parents) model and guide our children rightly in the ways of the Lord (kindness, goodness, etc.), we will see results later that are gifts. Our daughters would be special gifts to us with or without our Joey, but having watched them develop and grow into godly caring women, now married to amazing men (a blog for another day!) is something we could never have anticipated. So, hang in there young parents….the time WILL COME! Watch the Lord work in the lives of your typical and atypical children…and look for the incredible to show up when you least expect it!

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