My name is Hannah Alves, and I have an older sister with Down Syndrome. Her name is Sabrina, and she is 36 years young. I say it that way because ever since her 30th birthday, she has insisted that she is getting younger. As it is for most individuals with older siblings, I look up to her.
When people ask me what it was like growing up with an older sister with Down Syndrome, I never really know quite what to say. She was my older sister. We laughed and played, fought over toys and busted our knees biking on rocky roads with plenty of potholes. We sometimes got into trouble and always seemed to giggle our way through it. I remember idolizing her. She participated in Special Olympics, taught me how to swim and to ride my bike. She used to go to Tae Kwon Do classes with me, and she was a fantastic gymnast.
I never really noticed she had an intellectual disability until I was 6 or 7, when she got angry at me for asking her to sit down and read with me. I didn’t get it. I just wanted to play and read a book with her, but she couldn’t. After my mother explained some things to me, I understood. As we get older, I still find that she influences how I grow and develop as an individual. I continue to learn so much from her. She loves with all her heart and gives everything her best shot. She has taught me that labels don’t define anyone.
I truly feel blessed to grow up with someone like my older sister, not only because she is an amazing person, but because it has colored the way I think about life and the diverse group of people I interact with each day. I truly appreciate diversity, and I appreciate being exposed to so many beautiful individuals through Sabrina- her friends and their families. I enjoy the sense of community we share when we are together.
I think inclusion is so important because the only way to feel comfortable with one another is to be around one another– to build community. It is easy for kids to be fearful or uncomfortable with things they don’t know. In this context the only way to break down those barriers, and for understanding and acceptance to come to life, is through inclusion. I think that growing up with this mindset has really influenced how I view diversity in all aspects of life. To further understand the human condition, it is absolutely necessary to expose yourself to diverse populations. Through exposure and experience with diversity, common humanity grows. If you seek out diverse environments, you will eventually find that there are so many things binding us all together.
–Written by Hannah Alves, edited by KIT staff.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.