Celebrating Siblings: the Handler Siblings

Photo of Marty with Gwen resting her head on his shoulder.

by Nora Handler

My brother Marty lived with our Mom and his brothers until she passed away.  Our parents realized Marty had some challenges and took him to a neurologist when he was in grade school but he never had a diagnosis.  He went to high school on a vocational track and then to junior college where he eventually received a associate degree in electronics.  His high school years were rough; he was bullied and made fun of and he never had any friends.  Despite obtaining his electronics degree he never got a job and worked on my Mom’s farm.

Marty was in his mid 40s when our Mom passed.  He came to live with me and my husband for a year and a half while my sister added on to her home to fit in all of our brothers.  During that time we took Marty to a psychiatrist and a neuropsychologist and he received a diagnosis of Autism.  This made him eligible for services and he finally got some job training and made his first friends.

After moving in with my sister and her family he got more job training, met Gwen, became a self advocate and his life changed.  He eventually moved into his own apartment and got a community job.  He relationship with Gwen brought intimacy and love to his life.  He advocated with her state appointed guardian for them to spend weekends together and go on camping trips.  They worked together as a team to get Gwen a better place to live.  Gwen lived in a state institution for many years and then decades in a 100 bed organization that she hated. After 15 years of advocating together Gwen will be moving to a group home next month.  They will be one train stop apart and Gwen will finally be living in the community.  I am so proud of them and they are over the moon.  This is a success story of sibling support.  We all learned about advocacy together.


Today, we ask you to consider making a holiday donation to support the work of the Sibling Leadership Network. Any donation, large or small, will make a difference in the lives of siblings with disabilities.

Giving is easy! We have a PayPal giving page, which you can access here: http://siblingleadership.org/get-involved/donate-now/

Additionally, we accept checks made out to the Sibling Leadership Network. Please mail them to our office at:
Sibling Leadership Network
332 S. Michigan Ave, Ste 1032 – S240
Chicago, IL 60604-4434

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One Response to Celebrating Siblings: the Handler Siblings

  1. Nancy Webster says:

    What a great story, Nora. Thank you for sharing it!!