The Smile in My Pocket: Special Needs Siblings

“Nichole, do you need the smile in my pocket?” As a little girl, my momma would offer me her “extra” smile when I was feeling sad. I had forgotten she used to say this until just the other day, as we all eventually turn into a version of our parents, I looked at my own daughter’s downcast face and offered, “Grace, do you need the smile in my pocket?” It was without thought that these words tumbled out of my mouth, and I couldn’t help but smile at the realization of what I had just said. But my little girl was not smiling. Not even close. 

It was not a look of discontentment or boredom that covered her face. There was no trace of selfishness. Instead, it was a look of deep sorrow—an emotion that flooded her heart and reflected in her eyes. I knew this look. I had seen it before. 

My sweet girl buried her face in her hands and wept. She wept for her baby brother. She was burdened for him as the new school year approached. She prayed that he would make new friends and that his teachers would love him; because it’s hard watching her baby brother try to find acceptance in a world where autism is still very misunderstood. 

This was the cry of a special needs sibling. 

We know that parents of special needs children sometimes need extra support and encouragement, but we often forget that special needs siblings also daily give of themselves, their time, attention, and love. They need support and encouragement too. 

Here are just a few things we have learned from our precious daughter. 

Special Needs Siblings Feel Deeply

Special needs siblings are exposed at a very early age to the lack of understanding our society has for people with disabilities; many times, they feel responsible to make a way for their sibling. Special needs siblings want so much to have a connection with their brother or sister; toys, movie preference, and activities take a backseat to the possible opportunity of simply winning a glance, a smile, or even a touch from them. Just as my husband and I sit and pour out our hearts to one another about the future and well-being of our special needs son, our daughter also loves her baby brother and is concerned for him, praying desperately for him to succeed. We should always keep in mind the deep heart aches of a special needs sibling. 

Special Needs Siblings Sacrifice Greatly

Therapy sessions, doctor appointments, procedures, and tests ... this is the life of a special needs family. We try to remind our daughter that she doesn’t have to be the doctor, the therapist, or the teacher. “Just be his big sister” we say as she prompts her baby brother with verbal cues before she will allow him to have another pretzel bite. Disability becomes a family affair. Our homes are not like everyone else’s. Our lives have a unique ebb and flow. In the midst of all this, we desperately try to make special time for our daughter. Time that is only for her. Because many special needs siblings, by nature, give of themselves relentlessly. 

Special Needs Siblings Need Encouragement

If you know a child who is a special needs sibling, please encourage them. They carry burdens heavier than many their age. They have also acquired beautiful gifts that take many of us a lifetime to learn. They recognize that love requires no words. They know the significance of being a friend to all people regardless of ability. They have learned to find the beauty in life amidst the struggle. They have learned to choose relationship over possessions. It’s true that special needs siblings carry a perspective of life that is weighty at times and yet equally as beautiful. The weight of these gifts should be matched by as much encouragement as we can give. 

Special needs siblings feel deeply, sacrifice greatly, and need our encouragement. Maybe you could offer them the smile in your pocket?

First Published at Irresistible Church


First Day of School

First Day of School

A Smile is Worth a Thousand Words

Ezra does not have many words. I will say that over the last half year, he has definitely made huge strides in his communication skills (words and sign language) and we are so excited for this! I believe communication is one of the biggest obstacles in our Autism journey so far. There are few words that Ezra uses consistently, that demonstrate comprehension.

Often times, Ezra becomes very frustrated because he cannot communicate his needs or wants. I cannot imagine how trapped he must feel to not be able to express himself.

There are patterns in Ezra’s behavior that, as his parents, we have been able to pick up on and we can sometimes guess what is bothering him or what he wants. Other times, as Ezra’s frustration mounts, we are left scrambling to try to understand what the cause is and often times we feel helpless.

Each day we have a new opportunity to try to connect with him, learn from him, and get into “his world”. Each day we have a new opportunity to find a way to communicate our love to him.

I am so thankful that there are ways to communicate other than using words. Other than using my words to say “I love you, Ezra”, I show love to my sweet boy by laying on the floor with him, rolling his toy car back and forth across the kitchen floor, tight squeezes and hugs, and dancing to his favorite tunes.

He may not always be able to bring himself to look me in the eye, but he has a beautiful smile that will stretch across his face. In moments like these, his incredible smile is all the communication I need. His smile communicates happiness. His smile communicates excitement. His smile communicates love.

I cannot begin to express what joy it brings to my heart to see my sweet boy’s smile. His smile is one of God’s many sweet reminders that everything is ok!

I have faith that the words will come. It may take time and hard work, but they will come.

But for now, a smile is worth a thousand words.

This past week we visited New Life Ranch in Colcord, Oklahoma. New Life and the staff that live there, hold a very dear place in our hearts. We had a wonderful visit and were able to capture a few of Ezra's amazing smiles while we were there!

This past week we visited New Life Ranch in Colcord, Oklahoma. New Life and the staff that live there, hold a very dear place in our hearts. We had a wonderful visit and were able to capture a few of Ezra's amazing smiles while we were there!