Every day is a happy day, says Nithiyabarathi Rajendran, whose ever-affectionate brother Yughendra, who has Down Syndrome, is her most ardent cheerleader. This is the second in a three-part series on young adults and their special bond with their sibling with special needs.
Nithiyabarathi Rajendran, 28, works at All Hands Together, a learning centre for children with special needs. Her brother Yughendra Rajendran, 17, is a student at Grace Orchard School. Yughendra, or Yugi, as Nithiya likes to call him, has Down Syndrome, a condition characterised by physical and mental developmental delays and disability.
Nithiya shares how her close relationship with her only sibling has made a difference to both their lives.
What was it like growing up together?
My brother Yugi has always been a happy child. He shows his affection through his bright smiles and warm hugs. Growing up with him is extremely fun! For example, if I am dancing to a song, he would join in and follow my steps. Sometimes, he would even teach me some of his moves. We always try to engage in activities that we both enjoy doing together.
I’ve always been protective of him since we were young. Yugi was born premature and he had to stay in the hospital for the first month of his life. During that time, I accompanied my mother to visit him daily at the hospital and learnt how to feed and burp him. Since then, I’ve been very involved in his caregiving.
Yugi is a very loving person who cares for others generously. When I am feeling down, he would comfort me by asking me what had happened. He’d also assure me that he loves me and will be there for me. Yugi’s encouragement always makes me feel better in difficult situations. What more can I ask for in a brother?
What challenges do you face?
I don’t face major challenges with Yugi. At times, Yugi may be slow to
complete some tasks
independently. For instance, it takes him a while to button up his shirt or pack his school bag. As far as possible, we try to set aside sufficient time for him to complete these tasks at
his own pace instead of doing them for him. We want him to learn to care for
himself. After a few rounds of practice, Yugi usually gets faster at completing these
Yugi is also afraid of using the nail
clipper, so it’s tricky when we try to help him cut his nails. My family and I
try to reassure him by showing him how it’s done. Sometimes, he is receptive but
most of the time, he requests that we cut his nails when he is asleep. I know
that Yugi tries his best to be independent and complete most tasks on his own,
so I am happy to do these little things for him.
How has attending a Special Education school helped Yugi?
My family and I are happy that we decided to enrol Yugi in a Special Education school, where he has a good learning experience and enjoys school. Grace Orchard School has a curriculum to help students learn daily living skills and other subjects at a suitable pace. Yugi particularly enjoys Vocational Education lessons because he gets to learn how to prepare meals. He feels a sense of accomplishment whenever he is able to complete his assignments independently.
Most of all, Yugi enjoys mingling with his classmates. He often talks about them and we’ve seen how happy his classmates are when they meet him. School has helped Yugi to gain social skills and he learns to interact with others. I am very thankful for the friendships that he has forged.
What’s something you have learnt from Yugi?
Yugi never stays angry with anyone for a long time. He is able to
put his feelings aside to assist someone, even if he is upset with him or her. He also always tries his best to help his family and friends feel better. For example,
when I put on a new outfit, he would tell me enthusiastically that I look nice.
When I look at Yugi, I see what it means to love other generously and show them
Any advice for someone who has a sibling with special needs?
Our special siblings are a precious gift to us. Yes, we may face barriers in communicating with and understanding them. But their unconditional love towards us is something that I am sure all of us can experience. We can support our siblings by practising daily living skills at home with them. They might take additional time to pick up new skills but being patient encourages them to keep trying.
Check out the other stories in this series: ‘I didn’t know how to play with her’ and ‘Know your sibling for who they are, beyond just the condition that they have’.