The siblings of children with special needs sometimes share the responsibility with their parents for the welfare of their disabled sibling. Like many children with special needs siblings, our youngest daughter, Patty has mixed feelings about this.

While we were at a picnic in July, our oldest adult autistic child, Mary, went to the restroom in the park, which while clearly in the line of sight, was several hundred feet away. Both Ralph and I have a sense regarding whether she is gone too long in public places. When it seemed to be too long, Patty read our faces and said, “I’ll go check on her.” She walked to the restroom to see why it was taking so long.

While Patty loves her siblings intensely, she sometimes struggles with feelings of resentment. She fears that she will have to spend major portions of her life caring for her siblings. At the same time, she is fiercely protective of them. If someone treats them poorly, she is very upset. This also extends to any other disabled person who is treated poorly in public where she happens to be. Because of her siblings, she has developed a soft heart for others with special needs.

When her brother moved away, she was beside herself. She is very close to him, so she missed him intensely. At the same time, she was so worried about him that she had headaches for weeks.

Maybe her feelings about being her siblings’ keeper are overwrought. Her brother is managing in his new town and at his job. He struggles, sometimes, but we all do. Her sister is doing well at her temporary job at the shelter. They sometimes are her keeper, although she hasn’t yet come to accept this. Her brother helped her get a job at college. Her sister sometimes makes lunch for her. Her siblings have softened her heart toward others. She is blessed to have them in her life.