She’s still a special sibling!
Posted on December 18th, 2012 by Beth
Reading Rachel Talen’s post about the Siblings Study Easter Seals released earlier this month made me think about my young friend Carly Gaither. Carly Gaither’s little brother Scott has autism, and he was the Easter Seals National Child Representative in 2008.
I interviewed Carly for an article back then and found out her class was reading Rules, an award-winning fictional children’s book by Cynthia Lord that looks at autism from an older sister’s perspective. “My language arts teacher told me we’re reading it because of Scottie,” she beamed. “And because of me, too!”
When I interviewed Carly for the story, she admitted that growing up with a brother who has autism is not always easy. Other kids made fun of her little brother sometimes. She described one time when Scott approached her group of friends and wanted to play with them. “We were playing something he probably wouldn’t want to play, and we told him that,” she said. “He started whining, and crying, and yelling really loud.” A group of teenagers hanging out nearby pointed and laughed at Scott. “It’s sort of embarrassing, but then it’s really sad, because they don’t know what’s going on with him. They just think he’s an eight-year-old baby.”
Carly had been through this before. Many times. She knew what to do. “I ignored them and pretend they didn’t do anything wrong,” she shrugged. “I just, like, forgot about ‘em.” Carly told me back then that reading Rules helped her realize she was not alone, and now, thanks to the generous support of MassMutual Financial Group, Easter Seals’ Siblings Study shows she won’t be alone as she enters adulthood with a sibling who has a disability, either.
Carly is 17 years old now and a senior at Hardaway High School. She is on the swim team and in chorus, and she participates in a dual enrollment program at their local technical college for a certification as a nurse aid. Adult siblings who care for their sibling with a disability who responded to our study said their sibling has had a positive impact on their quality of life — helping them develop patience, understanding, compassion and providing perspective — and from what Carly’s mother Barbara reports, the same goes for Carly’s relationship with Scott. Barbara told me that since Carly got her driver’s license, she frequently picks her little brother up from school. “They squabble like many siblings do,” Barbara said. “But she is still protective of him, and she has learned so much about compassion and tolerance from being his big sister.”