Upon learning I have an older sister, most respond with questions along the lines of “Where does she go to school?” or “Do you guys ever fight?” Well, no, we don’t ever fight, and not because we are some magic pair of siblings who never disagree. In truth, we physically CAN’T fight, because my sister can’t talk. A member of the autistic community, my sister Miranda requires unique and increased support from those around her. Many interpret this as meaning I—the special needs sibling—receive inadequate attention from my parents, however this is far from the case. In fact, I am grateful for my unique family dynamic, and would never wish to change it.
Despite having a sister, I can never relate to my peer’s experiences with their siblings; yet my relationship with my sister does not feel out of the ordinary, since it’s all I’ve ever known. Growing up, I developed a fascination with Miranda’s education. I would sit at the bottom of our basement stairs for hours, shadowing her OT sessions, and never pass up a chance to get involved. My friends always had questions regarding my sister’s form of communication—a specialized app on her iPad—and I loved teaching them how to talk with her. As I got older, I came to the disheartening realization that not everyone behaved as open-mindedly towards the disabled community as my youthful companions and Miranda’s teachers. Closely connected to the issue, I now have greater empathy towards special needs equality, meaning I passionately advocate for what’s right and recognize offenses towards the community that my peers often fail to understand.
Watching my parents care for Miranda fostered a deep appreciation for their hard work and unwavering dedication to her success. I have developed a strong quality of independence, not because I feel neglected, but because I recognize that this devotion to Miranda applies to me as well; therefore encouraging me to reduce any burdens on them by cultivating my own success. This self-determination has led to accomplishments in all aspects of my life, from school to work and sports.
People often ask me if it’s hard to have a sister with disabilities, or sympathize for the supposed challenge I face. While my family does have its ups and downs, and our lives certainly aren’t easy to navigate, having Miranda as my sister is not the burden most make it out to be. Rather, she’s my big sister and I love her exactly as anyone else would love their sibling.