Being the Other One

I just finished reading “Being the Other One”, and I’ll tell you hwat (I’ve also been watching King of the Hill), it has been one of the most relatable books on siblings I have read. It goes into an extensive talk about what it is like growing up with someone who has special needs.

Kate writes the book to talk to adults; so, parents, adult siblings, and professionals that work with these families (teachers, nurses, speech pathologists, etc). This book really hit home for me. From the conversations I’ve had with other siblings as well as the thoughts I had growing up, I felt it was pretty accurate in explaining what it is like growing up with someone with an intellectual disability. Not everything was exactly like how I grew up, but I could see how other people may have been affected in ways where I was not affected. For example, I was 12 when my brother with Autism was born, and his diagnosis and the effects on the family did not begin (to my knowledge) until I was 14/15. By that time, I did not see myself as acting out for attention from my parents or believing that the attention that my parents were giving my brother was unfair to me. Alternatively, I could see how a young child, where the age gap is closer to their sibling could feel that they need to act out or be perfect to get their parent’s attention. This example goes into what I think is the most important quote from the book

“It is important to remember we each have different responses to being a sibling of someone with special needs, and all of these responses are valid”

Everyone has a different response to what is going on in their lives, especially when it comes to siblings, even neurotypical siblings. Saying that a book encapsulates everything that someone feels towards a sibling with intellectual disabilities is absurd! Everyone has a different experience and taking the time to sit down with yourself/someone else and looking at your experience can be a helpful activity. Yes, some experiences may be similar, but ultimately, your experience is your own.

Before closing out, I want to mention another important point Kate makes:

Identify the needs of all members of the family

From my experience, when someone with an intellectual disability enters into the family, the dynamic turns into “ALL HANDS ON DECK”. Most of the energy goes into helping the individual who was diagnosed, but this change in the family affects the whole family. Addressing how a mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, grandparent, aunt, uncle, close friend, etc was affected by the diagnosis/change in how the family operates can assist in the transition. It can also allow for people to utilize more social resources and not feel so alone. Reach out to someone, even if its a “lets schedule a time to talk,” text. You never know how it’ll make their day.

Take care of yourselves until next time

-Mark

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