Born to Shine: Learning to Find Strength in Differences
We are not invisible; we are all born to shine. It is a warm, feel good story, Parents will realize they can really empower their kids
~Jami Hamel De La Cerda
An Invisible Sibling
While Sam was learning to find his own voice, Jami was learning about the concept of an ‘invisible child’.
The term is a well-described phenomenon, says Doctor Michael Allshouse, Medical Director of Pediatric Surgery and the Pediatric Trauma Program at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, California. “The term ‘invisible’ in this context is not a widely recognized description or diagnosis but it rings true,” he explains, “I think it was something Sam felt because of the constant attention paid to his twin, Elijah. It is pretty easy to see how Sam might feel that he is not getting his share of notoriety or attention.” Dr. Allshouse explains that, siblings with a condition such as DS often receive more attention in a family setting. “That may or may not be justifiable, but to a nine-year-old it is tough to see the logic or the need.”
“Kids with DS are often very uninhibited socially and can be very engaging and friendly,” Dr. Allshouse adds. “Having a twin with DS can be challenging because they are often the center of attention, both at home and in public. This can be particularly challenging early in childhood when children are really competing for time with Mom and Dad.”
As a physician, and as a parent of five children, three with DS, Dr. Allshouse says “It will would be nice if every family with children with disabilities were acutely aware of how important it is to be fair and equitable in the distribution of parental time. A very wise man once told me that families with children with DS have to ‘find a place in their lives for Down syndrome… then put Down syndrome in its place’.”
Dr. Allshouse says “We have seen this type of sibling disharmony happen repeatedly over the years. Sam’s “invisibility” is a real thing to him and I have seen it happen in many families”. He continues, “Making parents aware that they need to spend time sustaining relationships with all the siblings, their spouse and close friends ultimately makes everyone’s life more enriched and can probably eliminate the negative emotions of sibling envy and paradoxically make the ‘invisibility’ disappear!”
Sam knows he is not alone, and so he dedicates his story “To all of my friends who feel invisible. To all of the brothers and sisters out there who can help. To all of the adults who think they know how their child feels,” he adds in his dedication, “I bet you would never guess what they are really feeling. It’s really worth listening and hearing what they say. I don’t know any other twins, but I know there are many kids out there who felt like me.”
Sam’s book, ‘Am I Invisible?’ is available in all Fresno County Libraries.
For more information, visit DLCLIFE.org or SamNJam@dlclife.org