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Fresh Voices

Schroeder kids

Aaahh, siblings. What a blessing, what a curse. We love them one second, we strongly dislike them the next (notice how I didn’t say hate because I’m a good person). They are the reason bipolar disorders exist. Today I would prefer to focus on how awesome my siblings are, because let’s face it, as much as we fight with them they are some of our strongest advocates. Sometimes.

I think a lot of people are scared to ask what it’s like having special needs siblings (I have two siblings, both of them have autism as well as every learning disorder ever created). For those who are scared to ask, I’m going to lay down some of the epic truths when it comes to special needs kids, and educate y’all!


I have some stories I could tell you all. Little to nothing surprises me anymore because I have seen it all. And I’m only 15.

I remember coming home from grocery shopping with my mom and my sister; my dad was at work. We walk into the house to see all the lights off, blinds pulled down and curtains covering the windows. As we walk through the house, my brother emerges from the basement with full body armor. I’m talking heavy motorcycle jacket, snow pants, and a motorcycle helmet over his head as well holding a sword from his collection. Yes, you heard me right, my brother collects swords. To deal with the 95 degree heat in our house because our AC unit was broken, he was holding a Popsicle in the hand opposite to the one holding a 100 year old sword. My mother and I just stand in bewilderment with our jaws open, trying to comprehend. You wanna hear the explanation? It’s a hoot.

So here’s the thing, my brother thought the government had abducted my mother, sister, and me. So, to keep the bad guys from coming and kidnapping him as well, he thought the best thing to do was barricade the house zombie-apocalypse style, and stand guard with a sword, when in all reality the only damage my brother could do with that sword is give himself tetanus because that thing is rusty as all get-out. Honestly, this actually happened, I can’t make this stuff up.


You will never find someone more protective. Ever. There is no doubt in my mind that my siblings will forever be looking out for me. One time when I was in kindergarten, my siblings, my mother, and I went for a walk. I remembered that earlier that day I had left my hoodie at the school playground. We were already on our way home, so my mom told us to wait at a stop sign while she ran up to the school to grab my hoodie.

As my mom walks up to us, hoodie in hand, the following conversation takes place:

“How do I know that you are really my mom?”

“Tommy, it’s me, I went up to get Danielle’s jacket.”

“OK, well anyone could have told you that, I’m supposed to take care of Danielle and Katie.”

“Tommy, this is ridiculous, it’s me.”

“How do I know that?”

Yeah, it took a lot of convincing and a code word to get Tommy to follow us home.


I cannot talk about this one enough. You won’t find people more genuinely invested in how you feel. Anywhere. They know when you are feeling upset or down; you can’t hide anything from them. I swear, they can read minds. My sister asks me how I’m doing nearly every day. She asks me how everything is at church, how I’m doing at co-op, and just in general how I’m doing. It’s very touching and endearing, because with special needs siblings, you know it’s authentic. They have no poker faces.


You are their role model, whether you like it or not, sweet cheeks. They will copy you, try out your hobbies and interests, repeat everything you say, try and hang out with you and your friends...the list goes on and on. I suppose this is a truth with most siblings, but it’s amplified when it involves special needs siblings. I could probably write a ten page paper on this very subject because it’s so true.

(My brother and I even got our learner’s permits on the same’s that for copycat?!)

Danielle Tommy permits


The love these beautiful humans have for us is grossly understated. While you can look up the definition of the word “love” in the dictionary, you will see many different explanations and interpretations, but there will not be one to describe the kind of love that my siblings have for me. They love with reckless abandon. They love without limits. They love us with such complexity that I’m convinced we will never even BEGIN to understand the how’s and why’s.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I’ve asked God, “Are you for real? I have to deal with these hooligans for the rest of my life? You better give me an insurance plan that pays for mental hospital stays because I’m fairly certain that’s in my future.” But when my siblings ask for hugs at random, I know it’s because they love me, and want to feel my presence. When my sister asks me to play Minecraft with her, I know it’s because she’s trying to connect with me the best way she knows how. When my brother decides to give me an hour lecture about his interests and hobbies, it’s because he’s trying to share one of the pieces of his life that he loves best. It takes a very long time to see it, but you will find that they manage to express their love for us in EVERY SINGLE THING they do throughout the day. It’s a beautiful process, and one that I have been delighted to experience over the span of my short lifetime.

I hope that you will give your special needs sibling/child an extra hug or kiss today. I hope you know how much they love you! I also hope that for some people, I have taken away the fear of interacting with special needs people. They are some of the most kind and authentic souls on this planet. They give out the best hugs. The only difference they have from us is that they see the world through different glasses. And if you have the privilege of knowing one or more of these people, then I can say with complete conviction that you will live a more joyful life!

girls headphones

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Pouches' Community Corner

Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area Splash EventMassadYMCA

For the past seven years, Smart Beginnings has thrown the Splash Pool Party fundraiser. This summer, the event will be held on June 24, 2018 from 6:30-9:30 pm at the Steve & Cheri Thurston Water Park at the Massad Family YMCA. Tickets range in price from $12 for a single ticket, $20 for couples and $35 for a family/group of four and each ticket also covers a hot dog, bag of chips and a drink.