Trudy loves her big brother! She is very lucky that he is only 2 years ahead of her so he has been with her and at the same nursery. Not so easy for me!
Patrick has been the inspiration for this blog as he offers her all the motivation she needs. He gave her the impetus to be mobile because she so desperately wanted to do what he was doing. The next thing will be speaking as she is so keen to interact with him. She used her first signs because she wanted to know where he was: “Patrick” and “brother”. I didn’t understand what she was saying so she used both signs with the word. He will do so much for her development, much more than we would ever be able to do, and I very much include him amongst the team around Trudy!
She has also had a great impact on him. We attend sessions and groups for children with disabilities and, as a result, Patrick has been introduced a diversity of people who are now ‘just part of the gang’. He has empathy for these children and shows great kindness. He was helping Trudy and her friends go down the slide at one of the sessions and he adapted how he went down to each child’s stage. He went down on his back with one boy who could not sit up.
They both work so well with each other that they come as a package – both as wonderful as the other in their own unique and individual ways. But I do realise that this relationship is different to other sibling relationships. Other households might not hear the words ‘Down Syndrome’ as often as ours, they might not get as many therapists turn up at their door – (Patrick believes this is normal). They might not use their hands when they speak and they certainly won’t wear odd socks purposefully on 21st March every year. We recognise that this is not the norm and puts Patrick in quite a unique situation, which will come with its own challenges in the future.
I heard a wonderful talk by Dr Brian Skotko at this year’s World Down Syndrome Congress. He is the brother of someone with Down Syndrome and talked about the strong bond between him and his sister, and also some of the responsibilities he felt as the brother of someone ‘different’. This sounded very familiar to me and I recognise this in our children. His book ‘Fasten your Seatbelt‘ allows siblings to talk about their feelings openly and honestly, and discusses how their relationship may be different to others. I think this will be very helpful to us in the future. His other publication, ‘Common Threads‘ is a collection of stories about people with Down Syndrome – something I always felt should be available to new parents and here it is!