Having a Sibling with a Disability

So I’ve talked about my brother Evan a lot on my blog and how much he has affected my life, but I wanted to take this opportunity to talk to some other people about their experiences with their siblings.

Gilbert Uriarte is a 19-year-old Linguistics student at Arizona State University, and his 29-year-old brother Johnny is clinically diagnosed as being MOMR (moderately mentally retarded), as well as being hearing and visually impaired.

Gilbert (left) and his older brother Johnny (right).

Gilbert explained that Johnny will sometimes break out in a tantrum if his routine is broken, and that, “If anything I feel like he’s the younger sibling and I look out for him.”

Looking out for Johnny is all Gilbert has ever known, but he said that, “it was harder for other people to understand that he was handicapped,” and that the stares and dirty looks are what really bothers him.

Johnny was born with his disability, so Gilbert has never known any different, but 19-year-old Gilberto Valdes’ experience with his brother has been much different.

Jorge Valdes, Gilberto’s older brother, is a 25-year-old who holds two bachelor’s degrees from New York University. When he returned from New York to his home in Texas, his family noticed that he was acting very different.

After some convincing from the family, Jorge visited the family doctor and then was referred to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with schizophrenia and Aspergers.

“The brother that I grew up with and that I knew is not there anymore,” said Gilberto.

Gilberto said that talking to Jorge is like talking to and adjusting to a new person entirely, because “…his old personality is gone,” but he added that Jorge is still very intelligent.

According to Gilberto, doctors are still uncertain what really caused the change or what will happen with Jorge’s future.

Both Jorge and Johnny have had different pasts and will have different futures, but they both are fortunate enough to have brothers who love and care for them.

Living Life to the Max

Max Hughes is a 12-year-old boy who has been diagnosed as mildly mentally “restricted,” (it is actually retarded, but remember that’s not a word anymore!) autistic, he has cerebral palsy, seizures, and he has ADHD.

Max’s story is a unique one because he happens to have a twin brother, Nick. For five years pediatricians and specialists told Max’s parents that he would have a learning disability, but that he would soon catch up to everyone his age and everything would be fine. Then after Max turned five the diagnoses started rolling in.

Although to anyone else it may seem as though this would be an impossible task, Max could not have a better family. Emily, Max’s mother, had another son, Teddy, and he and Nick have helped Max to grow and learn.

Max may be labeled with all of these disabilities, but according to Emily, “Max doesn’t know the word ‘never,'” and his strength has made him go beyond what doctors said he would be able to do.

Please watch the video above to learn more about Max and his incredible life and family!

Walking for Special Needs

October is coming up soon which means Halloween, pumpkins, costumes, and more. But there are some other things coming up in October that may just top Halloween!

There are two walks that benefit different special needs organizations, and they are both on October 28 (I wish they weren’t the same day). Regardless of the need to choose between these two awesome organizations I hope you all do end up choosing to go to at least one, because these are great causes.

The first is Walk Now for Autism Speaks, held in Tempe, that will help to raise money toward research and better future for those with Autism.

The second is the Buddy Walk, held in Tucson, which promotes understanding and education about Down Syndrome.

We walk somewhere every single day, so why not take some time on Sunday, October 28 (Ask off of work NOW!) and walk for a reason. Nobody wants to walk alone, so grab some friends and make everyone come out to help some great causes.

P.S. You DO NOT need to know anyone with Autism or Down Syndrome or even know that much about either of them you just need an open mind and heart!

Tiger Woods ain’t got nothing on these kids

Tuesdays in late September are still in the high 90’s in Arizona, and Arizonians will still golf. But if you happened to be at Bear Creek Golf Course in Chandler, Arizona, on this specific Tuesday you would have seen a group of people on the course that were having more fun than everyone else.

The ages spread from teens to twenties, but they all helped each other and definitely were not afraid to speak their minds. They spent the late afternoon going from the sand trap to the driving range to the putting green.

These people meet everyday Tuesday for a few months for Special Olympics Golf Skills through the City of Chandler and Special Olympics. Many of the kids in involved in this have Autism, and some have Down Syndrome or another type of special need.

Any time you get a group of kids together some will lose focus and their attention span will become shorter and shorter, so naturally this happened at different times throughout the hour and a half. But there was something that sometimes doesn’t happen with kids, they all were there for each other to lend a hand or to give encouragement.

Evan (left) gets encouraging words from Maddie (right) when he gives up.

While the kids are having fun golfing they are learning as well. Their coordination is improving and they get to have time to be social with their friends.

Editor’s Note: Special Olympics has groups all over the United States and anyone can volunteer even if you have never worked with people with special needs before!