Having a special needs child isn't just a big deal for parents -- it's a big deal for siblings, too. On the long list of wishes parents of special needs kids have is this one: That your other children fill this child with love and acceptance. That wish appears to be fulfilled in a beautiful video called My Brother, Teddy. Filmmaker Kelly O'Brien captured the relationship between her then-6-year-old daughter Emma and her 3-year-old brother, who has cerebral palsy. Emma narrates, sharing what it's like to have Teddy in her family. It's clear she adores her brother.
Here's how O'Brien describes how her family changed the way she feels about her son.
While I spent those first few years longing for what Teddy wasn’t, my husband, Terence, was able to appreciate him for who he was. As both mother and filmmaker, I felt it was important to find ways to represent Teddy not simply as a tragedy or a constellation of delays and disabilities, but as the sweet, happy, and complicated kid that he is. Emma’s connection with Teddy reveals this perfectly.
I can identify with both perspectives -- my youngest sister also has cerebral palsy. She was born when I was a teenager, so my relationship isn't as close as that between Emma and Teddy. I'm a little envious of that. But I remember what it was like for us to slowly realize something was different about the youngest member of our family -- and grappling with the complicated feelings that come with finding out your sibling's life will be shaped so severely by her disability.
I think there are certain challenges to forging relationships that come with not being able to talk easily. You know there's far, far more going on inside, under the surface, that your sibling can't put into words. It takes patience and great emotional restraint to reach through those barriers, and it's clear Emma has done that. Here's her list of things Teddy loves:
Ice cream, sweet potatoes, the smell of oranges, rain on his face, snow falling. Summer, swimming in warm water, driving in his car seat, drums and guitars, dancing to loud music. Little kids, nursery school, windy days, sprinklers, having friends over for dinner, getting up early, going over bumps in the stroller, rolling over on his mat, trying to stand, holding hands. Fans and puppies. Apples and mobiles. Being tickled. Spinning around, playing with Terence (his father) and Emma, laughing.
So much detail -- she knows him so well. I hope Emma keeps her close connection with Teddy as they grow older. Goodness knows Teddy will need it -- but so will their parents. And what Emma gains from her relationship with Teddy, well, that's priceless.
What have you noticed about the relationships between special needs children and their siblings?
Image via Kelly O'Brien