A Sister with Special Needs


Natalie Gaston, Staff Writer

Ever wonder what it would be like living with a sibling with Special Needs? Haley Gaston is a 19 year old girl that lives in Birmingham and has Down Syndrome, but she is also my big sister. What is Down Syndrome? According to the CDC, “Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome…. Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down Syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is ‘trisomy.”  In school Haley does art, drama, and photography. 

What’s it like living with your sister with Down Syndrome?

For me it’s like living with a normal person with some quirks. For example, she gets into routines, like, after using the remote, she always grabs it and puts it back in its place, and when we leave the light on in the kitchen, she always gets up and turns it off. Now you may think that’s just her being tidy, but she gets into other types of routines too. She used to sling a shoe around by its strings when she was younger. We called it shoey, and for Halloween last year we bought her a unicorn hat (which she pronounces lil-a-corn) and to this day she still carries it around everywhere. I love my big sister even though she can be sassy at times. She’s funny, smart, and the nicest person you’ll ever meet, (unless she calls you a grandma. She calls me grandma and I tell her, “Well that makes you an even older grandma because you are older than me!”). 

The Downsides of Down Syndrome

My sister is really amazing, but there are a few downsides to her disability. One major downside for children with Down Syndrome is possible birth defects. For Haley, her birth defect was the atrial septal defect. According to the CDC, “An atrial septal defect is a birth defect of the heart in which there is a hole in the wall (septum) that divides the upper chambers (atria) of the heart.” Another downside is that people with Down Syndrome can do so much more than people think they can achieve. People with Down Syndrome have done so many amazing things. For example, a man named Frank Stephens made a speech to Congress about helping fund medical research for Down Syndrome.