“Is My Brother a Doll?” Explaining Special Needs to a Sibling

by Ana Villanueva

I was lying down in bed with my three-year old daughter Olivia and her brother Miguel when she asked me, “Mommy, is he a doll?”

I was surprised. I asked her why she thought that about her brother, and she said, “Because he doesn’t walk. He doesn’t talk. So, he is a doll.”

Honestly, I was caught off guard. I really didn’t know what to say. I thought that all my children already understood what was going on with their baby brother. I was wrong. Although my toddler knows there’s something different about her brother, she really doesn’t understand why he’s not walking, talking, or even playing with her.

I knew then that I had to explain to her why. But how could you explain to a toddler that her brother has global developmental delay? Or that he has microcephaly? What can her tiny mind understand?

I realized that I just needed to tell her that her brother is different. That everyone is different. I told her that Miguel is different the same way she’s different from her older sisters. She loves singing while her older sister Elaina loves writing. Sofia likes drawing.

I then told her that there are kids like Miguel who take a longer time to learn how to walk or to talk. Then she quipped, “Oh, that is why Courtney is coming to the house, to help him walk!” Courtney is Miguel’s physiotherapist. “But when will he walk?” she asked.

I said, “Baby, we’ll have to wait until he’s ready.” I then hugged her and said, “We just have to be patient. In the meantime, let’s give him lots of love and that will surely make him learn faster.”

She hugged Miguel and said, “I love you.”

Author: Ana Villanueva • Date: 12/12/2017

About the Author

Ana is a mother with four kids. Her youngest child, Miguel, is 2 years old and has microcephaly. He has other medical issues such as epilepsy, strabismus, and global developmental delay. She is a full time mom caring for her children and managing the household. She just started a blog to share her family’s experiences caring for someone with special needs. You can read their story at www.microcephalyjourney.com.

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