Jennifer was ten years old when her sister Vanessa was born. She remembers her dad pulling her aside to explain Vanessa was a little different because she had Down syndrome. “I remember thinking, “Okay, sweet; I have another little sibling,” Then I ran back out to play,” Jennifer said. She didn’t care that her sister had Down syndrome. To her understanding, it would just take Vanessa a little longer to learn things.
Sister with Down Syndrome Influenced Sibling’s Life
“She has shaped me to be the type of person I am today,” Jennifer said. Growing up, Jennifer was always very proud of Vanessa, even protective of her. She never hesitated to let people know how amazing her sister was. Vanessa accompanied Jennifer everywhere she went. “I had really great friends…who loved Vanessa as much as I did,” Jennifer said.
Because of Jennifer’s childhood experiences, she knew she wanted to work with kids who had disabilities. She declared her major as Special Education and currently teaches children age 0-5 who have special needs.
Vanessa even had an influence on who Jennifer chose to marry. “I married an amazing man who happened to have a son from a previous marriage who has Down syndrome,” Jennifer said. If she didn’t have Vanessa for a sibling, who knows if she would have taken on the task of parenting a child with Down syndrome? “It’s different being a sibling versus a parent, but honestly, his son is the reason we got married,” Jennifer said.
Your Life Will Never be the Same
There may be times growing up when you are embarrassed or frustrated having a sibling with Down syndrome or another disability. However, your life will never be the same but in a good way. “You do not know how lucky you are to have that person in your life,” Jennifer said. Learning how to love someone who is different is an amazing experience and one you can learn a lot from.