by Meredith Whyte and Alison Whyte
How would you describe your relationship with your sibling?
Meredith: Our relationship is not just a sibling relationship, but also a friendship. We support each other and share thoughts on different topics or things going on in our lives.
Alison: Our relationship is a strong one, though we have our ups and downs like anyone else. We live very different lives right now and that gives each of us interesting and unique things to explore when we visit each other. I am the risk taker in our family and I encourage Meredith to take risks as well, while simultaneously trying to get our parents to feel okay with those risks. Meredith has a great memory and I rely on her to remind me about getting gifts for birthdays and holidays!
Has your relationship changed over the years?
Meredith: We’re closer now that we’re older. We have grown to respect, and understand each other as we grew up.
Alison: Yes! We did not get along when we were younger and I think we would both admit that we weren’t very nice to each other. I feel guilty about this now that I am older, but I try to remember that it is normal for siblings to fight! We’ve always been very different in terms of personality, but now that we are older we can appreciate each other more.
Do you think it’s important for people with disabilities to be connected with other people who have disabilities? Why or why not?
Meredith: I think it is important to be connected with people who have disabilities, and people in the general people population. The reason is to keep a variety in your life.
Alison: Absolutely! I think we all have a basic human need to connect with people who are like us. That doesn’t mean we don’t develop meaningful and strong relationships with people who are different from us, but I think having support from peers we can relate to in some way gives us self-confidence, improves emotional well-being, and supports strong communities.
Do you think it’s important for siblings of people with disabilities to be connected with other people who have siblings with disabilities? Why or why not?
Meredith: Yes, the support system, and the opportunity to learn from each other is important.
Alison: For me, getting to know other siblings of people with disabilities has changed my life. When I first learned about the sibling movement in 2007, I felt like my world opened up. Now, wherever I go in the world, I seek out other siblings of people with disabilities and I find that no matter how different we might be in terms of identities or background, we have this one thing in common that allows us to be immediately connected. My life wouldn’t be the same without the support and advocacy that comes from the sibling movement!
Meredith and Alison are siblings from Michigan. Meredith currently lives with supports in Wisconsin and Alison lives in Washington, DC and works for the DC Department on Disability Services. Their story reflects the value of the sibling bond, and the Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) works hard to celebrate and represent the importance of siblings supporting their siblings with disabilities. Donating to the SLN this holiday season will help our organization remain a strong network of sibling advocacy. Thank you!