Everyday after school, I ask my eight-year old brother,
Aaron, how his day went. Sometimes he tells me he had
a good day and got a red stamp as a reward. Other days,
he tells me he sat in the principal's office for lunch
and was sent home early.
Good or bad, I am always sure that it was an adventure.
My brother is a little different from most children.
He has Down syndrome, meaning he is mentally-challenged.
When I was seven-years old, my parents sat me down
and told me that they were going to have another child.
Two days after Aaron was born, I became worried that
something bad had happened. My parents cried a lot and
a couple of people that I did not know had been coming
over to our house.
My parents told me that my newborn brother had Down
syndrome. They explained to me that Aaron had a trisomy
21 (extra genetic material on the 21st chromosome).
They then explained that my brother was mentally challenged;
I now had a "retarded" brother.
Little did I know this tiny genetic difference would
cause so much frustration, joy and love.
Many children with Down syndrome never get the chance
to shed their light on the world. Joni Eareckson Tada,
the founder and CEO of Joni and Friends International
Disability Center, said, "over 90% of pregnant women who
are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to have an
This statistic breaks my heart. While children with
Down syndrome do require extra time of the parents,
the payoff is well worth it.
Aaron brings me joy on a daily basis. I enjoy wrestling
with him and playing "tickle time," as well
as helping him with his homework and watching him participate
In each activity he does, he has friends, despite his
disability. I am quite sure we are all better off knowing
Because of my brother I am a more compassionate person.
If I see a disabled person at an event, I try to help
them in a simple way, like offering to tie a shoe, or
help find a parent.
Sometimes the people around me mock those with special
needs. I find this hurtful, since my brother could very
well be the person they make fun of one day.
Aaron has a truly great personality. He cares deeply about
his family and friends and is passionate.
He enjoys making "friends" with television
characters. Sometimes his Toy Story action figure Woody
loses his hat and Aaron becomes extremely distressed.
He cannot sleep at night until Woody's hat is found.
Our family adores him as well. My sister Lauren and
I sometimes argue over who gets to spend time with Aaron.
My parents have meetings often, usually with his school,
to plan how he will get care.
I once asked my mom if she ever got frustrated at how
much time she had to take out of her work schedule because
of the little guy.
"Never, ever," she said.
The importance of patience and tolerance
Two years ago, my family was at church, which has a multi-level
kid's center with an elevator Aaron enjoys riding.
On this morning, Aaron decided to take off his shoes
while he was in the elevator. When the next person who
tried to use the elevator got stuck inside, we knew
that Aaron had pulled something. Eventually, we figured
out he had broken the elevator by jamming his orthotics,
which are custom insoles, inside the shaft.
Occasionally my brother will also have a major outburst
or throw a temper tantrum. Then other parents stand,
looking down their noses at my family as if we were
the scum of the earth.
They seem to assume my parents simply let their child
run around and yell because they don't care, which is
not true. My parents do everything they can to encourage
Many people would get frustrated if they had to live
with Aaron everyday. However, for me, I have never known
it to be anything but a blessing.
Not everyone can or should have a special needs child
in their family, but everyone should be tolerant and
polite to the ones they meet. These people mean the
world to their family and friends.