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A Sibling’s Perspective: Growing up as a sibling of JMCC clients

March 22, 2021

Meria and her art work

At the John McGivney Children’s Centre (JMCC), we are dedicated to providing care and services to support the whole family. In addition to our clients and their parents and/or caregivers, families often include siblings. Through a variety of programs, such as siblings' groups and events, we work to support siblings of JMCC clients and connect them with others who may have similar experiences. Meria El-Morad has two siblings who have received services at JMCC. She shares her experience as well as some advice for other siblings.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am grade 12 student at Vincent Massey Secondary School in Windsor. Since the pandemic hit last March, I have been participating in school online in order to keep my family - especially my two siblings who are medically fragile - safe. In September, I hope to study neuroscience and/or psychology in university. For fun, I like to spend time with my friends and obviously this year has been a bit challenging for that. However, I have been able to keep in touch with them virtually or outdoors going for bike rides or walks while wearing masks and keeping our distance.  

What has your experience been like having two siblings with special needs who receive services at JMCC? I am a very curious person and I always ask a lot of questions. I have been asking my mom and dad, since I was very little, what the future  will be like for my brother and my sister and trying to understand how their lives would differ from mine. I think this is 100 per cent why I want to be a medical researcher one day – to potentially learn more about conditions like theirs and find ways to improve their quality of life.

I realized pretty early on that my family wasn’t ‘normal’. Spontaneous outings and trips are just not something we can do. Everything takes a lot of planning. However, as I get older this is normal for me and I am used to it. I try my best to help my parents out with my siblings – either by helping to get them ready or even taking them out on little outings. For example, my brother loves trains, so sometimes I take him to the train station so we can watch the trains together. Even though doing fun things as a family takes more planning, I feel very lucky to have a lot of wonderful memories of growing up with my family.

I must admit that I do worry sometimes. It is important that we are always conscious about keeping them healthy and safe. I also know that one day it might be my responsibility to care for my siblings and I am prepared for that.

My parents are amazing people who definitely have a lot of added stress in their lives. They have always worked to ensure that all of us kids feel special and I know that growing up it was always my goal to not ever add any more stress to their lives.

What does the John McGivney Children’s Centre mean to you? When I was little I just remember thinking that the Centre was such a cool place. My parents would often bring us along to appointments and I would get to play with the toys, etc. I also always loved attending the Superhero Fun Day – it was such a great day for our family!

As I got older, I began to understand a bit more what a lifeline the Centre is for my family. My siblings were able to receive a lot of the therapy services they needed right here in Windsor. The school was also such an awesome place and I know my brother especially really thrived there! The clinical staff and the teachers are just such amazing people and it is obvious how much effort they put into their work to make sure the families who need the Centre are getting all of the support that they need. We are so lucky to have JMCC here in Windsor – it is just such a special place that means a lot to my family.

Do you have any advice to share with other siblings? I think most importantly I would say try not to let yourself worry too much and try your best to just be a kid. However, you will worry and that is totally ok. Just make sure you find an outlet and someone you can talk to! I think exercise is really important if you get frustrated or angry – go for a bike ride or a run, participate in your favourite sport and make sure you are spending time with your friends. These days – even if that is virtually – it is still good to have that avenue to talk and share and have fun!

Stay tuned to the JMCC website and social media pages for more information regarding programming for siblings.

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