How a Younger Sister Changed the World for Her Autistic Sister (Happy Siblings Day)

Happy Siblings Day!

It is only this year that I learned of National Siblings Day. Growing up I remember a litany of Mother’s and Father’s Day cards but I’m positive my sister has never gotten a “Happy Siblings Day” card from me. Forgive me for being unusually excited to learn that there is a whole day dedicated to the most special of bonds – the one between siblings. Growing up my older sister and I were the best of friends. Only separated by two years, we were constant playmates and always together. We played and fought but most importantly, we always had each other. A best friend for life. What could be better?

Having two children was always a dream of mine. My oldest was diagnosed with autism at age 2 ½ and her father and I divorced shortly thereafter. The concept of having another child never entered my head after I had Ariel. I was 40 the year I divorced, my child had special needs, and there were so many strikes against any concept of Ariel having a sibling. Heck, I was just hoping to meet a nice man that would be understanding of me and my child.


As it turns out, luck was on my side and when Ariel was 4 I met an amazing man. He embraced me and my special child with all he had. He was (and still is) my knight in shining armor. When Ariel was 5-years-old I married this amazing man and we began to talk about having a child. My emotions and feelings were all over the place. Was I a good enough mother to deserve another child? Am I too old? What if I have another special needs child? The questions in my mind were endless but the desire and love in my heart was strong. The thought of giving my sweet girl the loving bond that I experience with my sister swayed my heart and mind. We made the decision and began to share the news with others.

I won’t even begin to tell you all the hurtful remarks hurled my way when I announced , at age 43, I wanted to have another child. Some commented on my age and my “old eggs” but mostly people seemed shocked that the mother of an autistic child would want another child. They would ask, “What if your other child is autistic?” Honestly, my only experience at the time was raising an autistic child. In some weird way I secretly hoped for another special child because that is my wheelhouse. What in the world would I do if I had a neurotypical child? I was 43 and knew nothing about children other than my experience with my sweet Ariel.

In June of 2014, Abigail was born. Ariel was with her father and refused to even come home and meet her new baby sister for several days. When she finally came home she was very hesitant, which quickly turned into complete ambivalence to her presence. Little by little my sweet girls grew and developed in their relationship. Watching them grow together has been the most beautiful experience of my life. They fight, they play, they laugh…but most of all, Abby at her young age is already at ease being her sisters protector and spokesman. They operate like a well-oiled machine, obliterating every doubt I ever had about introducing a sibling to Ariel.

In the almost 4 years that Abby has been with us Ariel has grown to talk more, play with others and has tried so many things that without her best friend and sibling by her side she may never have. Ariel and Abby are destined to be best friends for life.

That sister I talked about at the beginning is still my best friend. We live in different states but we’ve yet to go more than a few days without talking. There have been ups and our downs but in the end a sibling is a sibling. On National Siblings Day I can’t be with my sister, but I will be with my little girls basking in the beauty that is their loving relationship. I’ll smile even bigger knowing I made the right call. Having another child was the single best decision I’ve ever made. My autistic angel has grown and progressed beyond belief in the last few years with her sister by her side. Abby is the pure definition of amazing sibling.

As we celebrate the holiday on April 10th, I wish a Happy Sibling Day to you all and to my darling little “Special Siblings”! Now I’m off to find a card for my sister since I’m 47 years behind!

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Melissa Arceneaux
Melissa Koran Arceneaux came to Atlanta, Georgia in 1995 from Florida where she was a graduate of the University of Florida. Melissa moved to Atlanta to work for a series of record labels and spent several exciting years working in the music industry before transitioning to higher education in 2003. Melissa works full-time at Georgia Tech and is an older mother (at age 47!) to 3 ½ year old Abigail and 10 year old Ariel, who was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Melissa enjoys using a realistic, yet comedic approach to sharing her life experiences as a triple threat – an older, working mother with a special needs child. Melissa is married to Doug and the family enjoys frequent travels, swimming, and doing anything outrageous and fun!


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