Dear Special Needs Sibling,

I know you don’t have a diagnosis next to your name or an extensive medical history. You’re used to being known as so and so’s brother/sister. You wonder sometimes if anyone even remembers your name. Your sibling is called special by the world, and unintentionally seems to attract all the attention in your family. There are so many times when you feel forgotten, but I want you to know something. You are not forgotten, and you are far from typical. You are incredible.

I know it’s hard watching your brother or sister struggle. Your name may not be on the chart, but your life has been changed by their diagnosis. I know it doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not. It’s not fair for you or them. It’s hard, and it hurts way more than it should.

I know your life doesn’t look like your friends’ lives. You’ve had to sacrifice so much, even if you don’t understand what that word really means yet. You’ve missed out on sports teams, birthday parties, sleep overs, ballet recitals, and fancy vacations. You’ve been shipped off to family members and friends during emergencies. You’ve said your bedtime prayers over Facetime more times than you can count. Waiting rooms are the norm, and you can rattle off medical terminology like your ABC’s.

You’ve had to grow up too fast. You’ve listened to doctors and therapist tell your parents all the things your sibling isn’t going to do. You’ve heard all the side effects and possible complications. You’re scared more than you’re willing to admit. You’ve watched as your mom and dad fought back tears and tried to smile. They told you nothing was wrong, but you knew different.

And it broke your heart, but you pretended like it didn’t. You put on a brave face, and you tried to make your mom smile. You’ve taken on more responsibility than you even should, and you feel like it’s your job to keep everybody smiling and laughing even when you’re sad and scared inside.

I wish I had a way to make it all better for you, but I don’t. I can’t wave a magic wand and make your brother or sister all better. I can’t give you back all the time you’ve sat waiting at doctor’s offices and therapy centers. I can’t make the difficult parts of your childhood better, but I can tell you this. Your suffering is not wasted. You are going to be the most amazing adult.

I am convinced that the next generation of great world changers are going to be from special needs families because in the middle of all the hard and all the heartache, you’ve learned what really matters in this life. You’ve learned so many things that so many adults can’t grasp. You’ve learned things that a textbook could never teach you. You have seen real life. You’ve stood in the middle of a raging storm with no umbrella, and instead of running to hide, you’ve waited for the rainbow never doubting that it will come.

You’ve learned the value of hard work. You’ve learned to never give up. You’ve helped out in therapy sessions. You’ve been your sibling’s biggest cheerleader. You’ve encouraged them more than anyone else, and you have learned to celebrate every little milestone.

You are going to change the world because you look at the world and see each person as equal. You don’t see physical or mental ability as a gauge of a person’s worth. You understand that every life is worth fighting for even if it looks different from what the world considers normal. You know what it means to treat someone with true dignity and respect, and you consider it an honor to serve others. You don’t think of yourself as better than anyone, and you know that a smile is the best form of payment.

God hasn’t placed you in your family by accident. He is grooming you to be more than you can ever imagine. You are being refined in the fire. Special needs siblings, take heart. You are not forgotten. You are a world changer, and I can’t wait to see all the good you will do.