The University that I attend isn’t too far from my hometown. It’s easy for me to go home whenever I want and I do so often to see my family. But there’s one member of my family that no matter how often I come home, is never tired of seeing me; my brother.
Ahhhh brothers. They are gross, dirty, annoying, and mine well, mine just happens to have Down syndrome. Considering that Jason (my brother) was born when I was two-years-old, I really don’t know what it’s like to have a brother who doesn’t have Down syndrome. When I was little, it meant nothing to me that he had Down syndrome; he was just my little brother with low ears, stubby hands, and a flat nose.
As I got older I learned more about what Down syndrome actually is. To give you the gist of it, it occurs when there is an extra chromosome, or piece of a chromosome, attached to the 21st pair of genes. It’s a genetic defect and the parents did nothing to cause it. Many people view having someone in your family who has special needs as a burden or challenge; for me, it’s just a part of everyday life.
When we were in school together, my classmates would get mad at me for teasing or making fun of him. “You’re so mean, Kodie! He has special needs!” they would say (as if somehow I never noticed that detail). “I’m not making fun of him because he has Down syndrome,” I would say, “I’m making fun of him because he is my little brother and that’s what big sisters do.” But the truth of the matter was if I didn’t make fun of him, who would?!
Everyone has always LOVED Jason. He walks in and the whole room lights up with excitement. People run up to him and say things like, “Hey buddy what’s up?!” or “Ahh it’s my man Jason!!” and exchange high fives and “man-hugs”. I usually then would jump in and say “Hi *insert name here*, nice to see you too!”
I know I sound really bitter and weirdly jealous of my brother with special needs, and trust me sometimes it does get pretty old hearing about how wonderful Jason is and how he’s so sweet because he has Down syndrome, but Jason is also one of the greatest people in my life. When I am upset Jason is the first to notice and always asks me what’s wrong. I mean this kid is so great that when I come home from college he turns down the covers for me before I go to bed. He is always willing to give up his own bed whenever someone stays at our house, and he genuinely looks to put a smile on anybody’s face. But there is something I need you all to know. Jason is not sweet and loving because he has Down Syndrome.
Jason is who he is because that is who he is. He is an individual who cares deeply about others, loves to listen to John Pardi, and will never turn down a slice of pizza. Extra chromosome or not that is who he is. He is extremely confident in who he is and believes that he can change the world; he is right because he already has. He is not only confident in himself but values others and makes them feel confident as well. He thinks he is amazing, and that everyone else is just as amazing. This has nothing to do with his low ears or stubby hands. This is why he is my hero, even with a flat nose.