A Sibling’s Perspective

This week Emily shares her story about her little brother, Evan and how he has changed her life and influenced her career choice. Thanks Emily, for sharing your story with us.

I’m Emily, I’m 29 and the little monkey in the picture with me is my little brother Evan who is 6 (yes there is quite a gap!). Our sister Elysia (who also had a high chance prenatally of having Down Syndrome but was born with the regular number of chromosomes) splits the difference at 17 meaning there is an 11 year age gap between each of us. 

I can vividly remember when and where I was when I found out Evan had Down Syndrome. I was 22 (nearly 23) standing in our living room looking out of the patio windows on the phone to Mom to find out when she would be home and I could finally meet and cuddle my baby brother. After being told that they wouldn’t be coming home that day, Mom told me Evan had Down Syndrome and that he’d be in hospital until he was ready to come home but that she didn’t know how long for. I remember feeling shocked and as soon as I got off the phone going straight onto the internet and Google. I wasn’t scared or upset I simply wanted to find out more that’s just the way I am. I loved my brother already even though I’d never even held him or seen more than a photo and wouldn’t for another 11 days.  

At the time Evan was born, I was working full time in a school as an NQT, Newly Qualified Teacher, and envisioned my future firmly in mainstream teaching. I’d been a supply teacher the year before and had even taught a class with a pupil with DS in there. I don’t remember much about her just that she went lower down the school for morning core subject lessons and came back to be with her class in the afternoons. When I was at university I did a weeks placement in a local special school and hated every minute. I couldn’t cope with the smells of the nappies at changing time as anyone in my family will tell you I don’t have the strongest of stomachs and even now I will only change nappies if I have no other choice. I felt lacking. I did not have the skill set to teach those pupils and felt entirely out of my comfort zone. Evan has changed all that. He’s taught me patience, compassion and the importance of the word yet amongst hundreds of other things. He’s made me a better person and a better teacher all by just being his adorable, cheeky self. 

After teaching in mainstream schools for 6 years, late last year I accepted a teaching position at the special school attached to Evan’s. I currently teach Year 9 pupils in an Moderate Learning Difficulties school and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve found the perfect school for me and without Evan I wouldn’t have known it existed. It’s part of the same federation as Evan’s school and shares the same headteacher. Our classrooms are less than 3 minutes apart but we rarely see each other which is perfect. I get to pick him up on Fridays and pop my head round during school discos to see him having the time of his life or give him a wave and reassurance during fire drills when we line up on the same playground.

Without Evan I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have learnt Makaton or the importance of non-verbal communication. I wouldn’t have the patience needed or such an in-depth experience of the EHCP process from the family side of things, Even teaching pupils with SEN in mainstream, if I’ve told parents of children in my class that my brother also has SEN they’ve been reassured, I get it: I understand. They’ve got someone they can moan about how long referrals take or how long it takes to fill in DLA forms because I’ve been there albeit not firsthand but I’ve certainly helped Mom and listened to her moan enough!

Having Evan in my life changed me and our family for the better. I love him more than words can express, the same for my sister, but I’ve never been as protective over her. Evan needs me to help him, to fight for him and I will. He’s my baby brother and even when he’s being a pain by throwing my glasses and then running away giggling his head off I wouldn’t change a thing about him!