In honor of World Down Syndrome Day, guest blogger Ellen Stumbo tells of the relationship between siblings and Down syndrome she's observed in her family.

March 21 is Down Syndrome Awareness Day. In honor of the occasion, guest blogger Ellen Stumbo shares a post about how Down syndrome has made her more aware of the love her daughters have for one another.

So Full of Love: Siblings and Down Syndrome

“Mom, sometimes, when I look at Nichole she is so cute that I feel like crying because my heart is so full of love.”

There are times I look at my children and I feel like crying because of the intense love I feel for them. It is a love so hard to contain that it spills out in tears.  I get this feeling, I am a mom. However, coming out of the mouth of Ellie, my 6-year-old daughter, it surprised me. It made me realize how uncommon this is, and how perfect these 2 girls are for each other.

When Nichole was born with Down syndrome, one of the hardest dreams I had to let go of was the type of relationship I envisioned my girls having. They are only 25 months apart, and I had great plans for them. They would be best friends forever. Because of Nichole’s Down syndrome, I wrongly assumed their relationship would not be close.

They Are Not Playmates

They do play together, but mostly, Ellie adapts to Nichole. Often, Ellie gets frustrated with Nichole stealing her toys and running wild throughout the house or dangling Ellie’s dearest Rapunzel by the hair. Nichole has a thing for yelling at Ellie in order to get her attention, which is not necessary, but rather bothersome. It is true that my girls are not the best playmates; however, they are closer than anything I could have imagined.

They Are Sisters

Every morning, they sit together on the couch as they watch a show before getting ready to begin the day. At school, Ellie hugs Nichole before they part to their respective classrooms, and if they see each other throughout the day, they try to get another hug. When I pick up the girls form school and we arrive home, Nichole runs to Ellie for more hugs. If Ellie picks up a book, Nichole nestles herself close to Ellie in order to listen to the stories and look at the pictures with her big sister. If Ellie jumps, Nichole jumps. If Ellie laughs, Nichole laughs. If Ellie dances, Nichole does too. If Ellie cries, Nichole runs to her side for a hug, a pat on the back, and gently strokes Ellie’s hair until her big sister stops crying.

I am amazed at the ways in which Nichole has molded Ellie’s heart. A heart that is full of compassion, acceptance, and gentleness. I see it in the way Ellie loves and treats others, or the way she loves her little sister. In turn, Ellie molds Nichole as she teaches her by example.

There Is So Much Love

This relationship they have, even this young, is simply incredible. The love they have for each other is a love that surpasses any expectations I had. It is the love that drives a 6-year-old to “get it” in a way that few children her age could even grasp, including some adults.

So I sit back and marvel about this love we live with, this vast love we get to experience. I worried so much about what the extra chromosome would do to my daughters’ relationship, but I had nothing to worry about, because there is so much love.

Ellen Stumbo

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Hopefully, you’ve observed special needs having a positive impact upon your children’s relationships. Realistically, perhaps you’ve observed some negative effects, too. Positive or negative, feel free to leave a comment about how your family’s special needs journey is impacting siblings.

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