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A sibling’s perspective of her brother’s disability

Paige Wilhelm story“Matt has possibilities”
By Paige Wilhelm

I have a brother, Matt who is eight years older. He has an intellectual cognitive disability. When I was around 3 years old, I began asking my mother why Matt did not live with us and I began to see differences between us.  I could not pronounce “disability” and I would say Matt has “possibilities.”

My mother has always been upfront with me concerning Matt’s disabilities and allowed me to ask questions. I do often wonder what it would be like if Matt did not have disabilities. What would he teach and show me? Staff will often say that he has asked for me or when my family visits without me, he always calls my name. Matt has shown me how to love. My point is that all people can show and receive love; you just have to change your perspective. Love is what connects us all as human beings. I am a more positive person because of my experiences of having a brother with a disability.  I always remember a piece of advice my Dad once gave me, he said that Matt and I are different but that we share a heart, which beats the same.

Matt’s disabilities prevents him from living at home because he requires 24/7 attention. Although, he cannot help the fact that he has a disability, his behavior often makes it difficult for us to do things as a family. He does not understand danger or the differences between right and wrong. He will often repeat things he hears whether they are good or bad. It frustrates me to hear Matt call my parents or grandparents ugly names and I have to remind myself that he does not understand the meaning of the words. My parents have often told me that having Matt live in a group home was one of the most difficult decisions they ever made. It was hard on their marriage, but they never considered leaving each other. They wanted to continue to make the best of Matt’s situation. I find that completely amazing.

My mother is one of the best advocates you will ever meet. Her passion is not just for Matt but for all people with disabilities; it is like no other I have witnessed. She is my hero because she and my Dad lost so many friends when they learned that Matt had disabilities, but they never gave up. I will follow her example and one day become Matt’s guardian.

When asked the question, “If you could do or change one thing to improve Matt’s life what would it be?” I can honestly say that I would not change Matt in anyway.  However, I would change some people’s view and I would have them put themselves in my shoes, to listen to someone say the “R” word, and know that my brother has a disability. I would show the world the possibilities beyond Matt’s disability and let them see how much he enjoys the outdoors, animals, and watching television just like others.

 If only every person could have the opportunity to see my brother the way I do, then they would have a better understanding of possibilities.

Paige Wilhelm, 16,  is an honors student at Gray Stone Day School in Stanly County. She is the daughter of Jeff and Jeanette. In the future, Paige plans to assume the role of guardianship for her brother.

Pictured: Paige with her brother Matt.


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