by L. L. Sandoval
Views From Our Shoes, edited by Donald Meyer, is a compilation of stories written by siblings of kids with special needs. They basically get to write about how they feel about their siblings, and what it has been like to be a sibling of a kid with special needs.
In their writings, they get to answer questions like: How did you learn about your sibling’s disability? How was it explained to you? Is your life very different from other kids in your neighborhood who are your age? How? These are just a few of the questions they can answer in their essays. I feel that the questions are such a great way of getting kids to start talking, especially when these kids may have felt brushed to the side.
To say that I think this book is a great idea would be an understatement. I, myself, have often wondered how my neurotypical kids are doing emotionally after all of the illnesses that their little brother has had to deal with. My youngest son, Jackie, has already battled leukemia, been diagnosed with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome (a severe form of epilepsy) and has mild cerebral palsy as well. I wonder what his siblings were thinking throughout all of the times he was in the hospital yet again. Were they thinking, “Here we go again with Jackie! Will that kid ever stop getting sick!” Or were they thinking, “Poor kid, I hope he gets better soon.” Or was it more like, “Wow, Mom sure does a lot for him, I hope she’s not exhausted.” I don’t know the answers to those questions because I was too busy dealing with Jackies’ medical issues.
In fact, I now believe that when a kid in a family has complex medical issues, the whole house has those issues! And why would I say such a thing? Because I know that my dynamic with each person in the house is different than it would have been if Jackie didn’t have his issues. For example, if I am to go out with my daughter shopping or out with my older son to eat, there has to be someone at the house who is adept at dealing with Jackie’s medical issues.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel he is a blessing to us all. I know for a fact that Jackie has taught us all something. For example, he’s the most “in the moment person” I have ever known. He doesn’t worry about what will happen three months from now, and it has taught me that neither should the rest of us. My older son is a worrier and I’ve pointed out to him that Jackie doesn’t worry, and perhaps he is better off. This was eye opening for my older son.
The author of this book, Donald Meyer, is the director of the Sibling Support Project. He has started what are called Sibshops, where siblings of kids with special needs can go and talk about home life or get support with issues they are dealing with. I wish I had known about these Sibshops before reading this book because I can definitely see the value that they would have offered my neurotypical kids. In fact, I just may go on a mission to see if my kids can still participate in one of these groups.
Another thing I like about this book is the list of organizations, such as Angelman Syndrome Foundation, Attention Deficit Disorder Association and many more. This is a great resource for people who may need to reach out to these organizations for support. There is also a glossary about different types of special needs, which is very helpful for anyone who is reading the book.
Overall, I love this book and I really love how it shares the feelings from kids about many different special needs. The message is just awesome: don’t neglect the forgotten siblings at home. Now that I’m done writing this article, I’m going to go and hug ALL of my kids.