Seniors share insights on special needs siblings

Living with a special needs sibling has taught a handful of seniors some valuable life lessons over the years. A total of nine seniors have a sibling with special needs that range from diseases like Down Syndrome, autism, Angelman Syndrome, Coffin-Siris Syndrome, and more. Having a sibling with a disease has opened the eyes of these seniors as they reflect on how their life is unique. In spite of the constant surgeries, doctor visits, and adjusted home life, they find joy and appreciation.

Triplets Lucas, Ethan, & Mary Kate Bandstra

These seniors share lessons and stories with each other about how their special needs siblings have influenced them. The appreciation is mutual as these nine seniors understand each other in a different way. “We actually all talk about it together a lot. Whether it’s across the lunch table or when somebody brings up a certain story,” commented Lucas Bandstra. “It is pretty cool to be able to personally relate to fellow classmates through our special sibs. We love them a whole lot.”

From patience to new perspectives, the seniors agree that their reality has opened their eyes about life. “It has taught me a lot of patience and understanding. In living with someone who can’t help how they are, I have learned to love them for them, and not focus on the things they can’t do, but focus on the things they can do,” commented Delaney Vroom.

Sisters Hallee & Delaney Vroom

A growing appreciation for parents also is expressed by some of the seniors. “I have so much respect for my parents for the daily things they have to do for Johnny.  I feel like parents of special needs children need so much more respect and attention than they get,” said Will Dembski.

Everyday life is affected for these seniors, but a lot of the things have become a routine for them. “I put Teah on the bus every morning before I go to school. I do tend to lose my patience once in a while because it is more difficult to get her to put her shoes on or put her jacket on,” commented senior Taryn Hugen. “I just have to take a deep breath and realize that it takes her longer to do things sometimes.”

 Joy and smiles are also found from having a sibling with special needs. “My brother is so funny! Some of his jokes take a minute to understand, but once you get them, wow,” commented senior Haley Albright. “He also memorizes every episode of a show he’s ever watched. We will be watching a show, and he’ll tell me the very next line that is about to be said.”

Siblings Austin & Haley Albright

Senior Cora Groenenboom also agreed that her special needs sibling brings her joy.  “When we are riding in my car, we watch him sing along and play his air guitar. It is one of the best thing about him because he gets so happy and it just warms my heart up,” she said.

Sisters Teah & Taryn Hugen

A separate identity and soul lies within each person with special needs. That is what these seniors want people to realize, for their siblings have feelings and talents too. “I wish people would realize just because they have a disability does not mean they do not have feelings,” said Hugen. “Teah can still hurt, be mad, sad, and happy.”

In the end, everyone is unique and has their own abilities. These seniors recommend getting to know someone with special needs, for it has changed their life for the better.  “All of them are awesome and all of them are unique, so get out of your own pride, and talk to them. You will love them,” commented Albright.


by Mary Kate Bandstra /




One thought on “Seniors share insights on special needs siblings

  • October 4, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    this is so beautiful Mary Kate!


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