When I was a lot younger, I never remember thinking that I had a sister with Down Syndrome, it never occurred to me. She was just my sister, Ela, that I did everything with, no questions asked. Sometimes I'd get annoyed with her because she'd yell or hit me or cheat in some game we were playing, but every sibling did that, it was no different with Ela. I would go to things like the annual Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome, her weekly speech appointments, and her physical therapy sessions, but I never once thought of her as a girl with Down Syndrome.
The first time I really remember ever even thinking about the fact that Ela had Down Syndrome was when I was in the 4th grade, and she was beginning Kindergarten. I can recall realizing that she had to have some more teachers and helpers in the class with her at certain times, and while I don't remember thinking that was in any way odd, I do remember being aware that not everyone had to have that extra assistance. Once again, however, Ela's Down Syndrome never defined, or has defined, my life or hers.
My mom has always said that I never let Ela's disability stop me from treating her like a normal kid. I never gave in to her crying or yelling, I never let her win a game, and I most definitely never let her get away with ANYTHING. If my mom got me in trouble, you bet I was going to sell Ela out with no hesitation. I spoke my mind and made sure she was treated as my equal. My mom always tells me that it all began when I was around 4 or 5 years old, and Ela was 1 or 2. She was cooking in the kitchen and Ela and I were playing in the basement. At one point, Ela actually hit me while we were playing. Now, I have been told that up until this moment, I had always been sweet towards Ela and hadn't really gotten upset with her, but that all changed here. All of a sudden, after my mom thought I was just going to let Ela get away with whatever she did, I yelled, "Okay, that's it, now you're going to get what you had coming to you!". I have no recollection of this moment, and unfortunately, I have never been able to live it down. But to my point, from an early age, Ela's disability didn't stop me from making sure that everything was "fair."
While this whole "no sympathy" thing may sound a little harsh to some people, I truly believe that it has benefitted Ela in the long run, whether anyone has ever realized it or not. If I had let her win at things or let her treat me unkindly because of the age old "she has a disability", I often wonder if she'd be the same person today. People always tell my family that she is pretty advanced at everything she does, and I really do think that's because I've never given her a chance to slack on anything. I've always made her keep up with me, and that's always what she's strived to do. She has never been been able to go the "easy way out" in my household, and that is what has shaped her into a really intelligent and advanced girl. Always getting what she wanted in life would have never helped Ela succeed, in my opinion, but having to compete and work hard really pushed her to become very smart and dedicated.
Ela is, and always will be, my equal. I cannot say it enough. To me, she is not a girl with a disability, she is not even different. Ela is my sister, end of discussion. I guess if you take anything away from this, it should be that life with a sibling with Down Syndrome doesn't have to be unique, you don't have to look at it as anything different than the norm. People often think that they need to treat Ela differently than they would any other person, but the truth is, Ela is no different than any other kid. The way I see it, the best thing I can do to help Ela succeed in life is to push her to become the best possible version of herself, because she is capable of so much. If I let her take the easy way out of everything she does, I'd be depriving her of the chance to reach her full potential. Life with Ela may be different than other siblings' lives, but it's become my normal, and my normal is making sure that she is the best she can be.
Hi! My name is Serra Tuzun and I am currently a junior in high school. My sister, Ela, who is 3 years younger than me, has Down Syndrome, and I thought it would be a great idea to share my experiences with her to the world. This blog is just a way for me to let other siblings to children with down syndrome know that they are not alone!