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66 MARCH APRIL 2016 goodKIDS FOUR TEENS SHARE THEIR HEARTWARMING LESSONS IN PROTECTIVENESS PATIENCE ACCEPTANCE AND LOVE FOR THEIR Special Siblings We often hear from the parents how much of their day-to-day attention is justifiably spent on their child with special needs. But we wondered what is it like to be the brother or sister So we asked some siblings to share their thoughts A TALE OF TWO CHILDREN By Brooke Benjamin Over the course of my satisfying albeit short seventeen years of life Ive experienced the best of times and the worst of times within my very own household. As the sibling of a child with a disability my day-to-day life surely differs from those of most other kids my age. When I was about three years old my younger brother Jackson was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I didnt understand it at the time but this diagnosis changed my life forever. Being Jacksons sister can be tough I sometimes feel as though my parents hold me to a higher standard. High grades and good behavior are simply expected of me but for Jackson these same behaviors often warrant a reward. As Ive gotten older and more mature Ive realized that Jackson and I are entirely different children. When I was younger I wanted my parents to treat me the same and I often felt like I was denied attention or uninformed about what was going on within my house. Sometimes I felt pushed aside like an unwanted toy when my parents focused on Jacksons well being rather than on mine. Looking back now I am embarrassed that I ever felt this way. My parents especially my mom spent a lot of time with Jackson because he simply needed the extra help. Unlike me he was not a natural self-starter the years Jackson spent in therapy accompanied by my mom were to teach him the qualities that to me were instinctual. I applaud my parents for recognizing the defining features of both of their children and although it took some time for me to appreciate their actions I know they have raised both Jackson and me to be the virtuous individuals we are today. I didnt understand it at the time but this diagnosis changed my life forever. -Brooke Benjamin 17 pictured here with her brother Jackson 14. A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA By Jordan Dwyer Growing up with my brother Alec has opened my eyes and my heart to all kinds of people. My brother Alec was born with a little something extra he has Downs syndrome and he rocks his extra chromosome. Alec has helped me realize that life is not about what a person looks like how smart they are or how they talk. Who they are on the inside is what matters most. Many people perceive Alec as someone who is different but once they get to know him they quickly learn that he has a heart of gold. He has the ability to turn anyones bad day around with his infectious smile and cheery wit. Throughout my life Alec has proven to me that anything is possible. Watching him excel at the things he is passionate about whether its playing basketball swimming lifting weights wakeboarding or scoring a touchdown in a football scrimmage forces me to realize that the excuses I try to sell myself about struggles in my life or my friends lives are nothing compared to what Alec and kids like him overcome every day. Watching Alec work so hard for what he wants without giving up and without excuses gives me a clear perspective of what makes a true champion. Many if not all families struggle with some type of adversity or unfortunate circumstance. What others may perceive to be a hardship for my family we see as a blessing that most will never experience or understand. My family is different but I would not change it for anything. In so many ways I look up to my older brother and aspire to be more like him. He does not judge or manipulate. I am not even certain that he is aware of his differences. Alec is an absolute joy to be around and he is a constant reminder of what is important in life. Throughout my life Alec has proven to me that anything is possible. - Jordan Dwyer 18 with his big brother Alec 20