After talking for just twenty minutes, it’s clear how one little girl ended up with such loving, caring, and protective twin brothers. When I initially inquired about their daughter’s diagnosis, they explained that though she has mild Autism, a seizure disorder, and ADHD, “it’s just the way she’s always been,” according to Dad. Unprompted, Mom continued, “It’s who she is and I wouldn’t really change it if we could because that would change her. Obviously, it’s difficult at times, but I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.” Their language provided me with a small window into their parenting approach. Not once did they attach the word “disability” to their daughter. She has a diagnosis, she has strengths, she has weaknesses, and she has a distinct personality, but she is not defined by her disability.
That attitude has carried over into their children, particularly their two sons. The four siblings interact like normal siblings would, fighting at times, yet always loving one another. Dad says “they all have a special affinity to look out for her and care for her.” Though the children all know their sister’s diagnosis and her challenges, they look past all of that and focus on her personality, which has been much stronger recently since her language skills are improving. The boys know she loves Justin Beiber, like her older sister, and that she loves to be social. Their parents have taught them that everybody’s different, that “everybody’s got good things and bad things and [they shouldn’t] single people out because they’re different.” As one of the twins says frequently, “Her brain is different than ours.” Thanks to this attitude, the family doesn’t hold back on activities just because of their daughter’s diagnosis. They go to church together regularly, go out to dinner, and even attend the boys’ sporting events and their eldest daughter’s dance recitals, just like any other family would. They’re “not going to use [her diagnosis] as a crutch” and they’re not going to hide anything. They’re not ashamed of her daughter, only proud. Their mother told me, “I’m the kind of mom where I would tell the whole wide world because I would rather people learn about it. We just feel like by talking about it there will be a better understanding because it is who she is.”
Though the twins are only seven and their oldest daughter is only twelve, their parents have preconditioned them to understand that one day they will be responsible for their sister, and it’s something the siblings have embraced. The boys are still very young and aren’t entirely aware of the choices they will have to face in the future, but given their current bond with their sister, I feel confident that they will remain loyal and protective brothers. One of them once said, “Mom, one day when she’s living with me, I’m gonna paint her room pink because that’s her favorite color.” I find the bond that these boys share with their sister incredible and inspiring. They’ve learned from their parents that each person has his or her own range of abilities and that everyone deserves to be loved and included in the community.