The Kids On the Block
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Michael Riley

Michael Riley is an identical twin, and it’s difficult to be one of two kids that people treat as one.  Ehen people say “There go the twins!” instead of “There’s Mark and Michael,” Michael and Mark are especially upset.  And like most twins, Michael and Mark both work at being viewed as separate individuals by the adults and children around them.

What makes Michael’s situation a bit different from that of other twins is that Michael’s twin, Mark, has cerebral palsy.  Because Mark uses a wheelchair and wears protective headgear, their differences are quite apparent and their concerns differ from those of other sets of identical twins.  However, Michael and Mark’s situation is not as unusual as it might seem.  Sets of twins where one of the twins has a disability and one does not is not uncommon.

Michael is an “individual” who is close to his brother, but not tied to him.  Michael represents the concerns, problems and rewards of being a sibling of a  child with a disability.   Through Michael, children learn about sibling rivalry, jealousy, competition, anger, love and brother-to-brother situation that characterize the relationship between Mark and Michael.  Michael demonstrates that sisters and brothers with or without disabilities have a desire to secure personal, intimate time with their parents. 

When a family includes a child with a disability, such as the Riley family, there are a number of concerns that the family faces.  Among them are the thoughts and feelings that siblings have regarding their brother or sister’s disability might require, and they may feel guilty about the resentment they carry regarding their sister or brother’s disability.  Some siblings need to be assured that they did not “cause” their sister or brother’s disability, nor can they “catch” it.

Families should talk openly and honestly about their child’s difference and create an environment that is conductive to discussion.  Siblings need to heave the facts about the condition and be encouraged to ask questions to share their own feelings, even if these are sometimes negative or unsupportive of the child who has the disability.