Students with siblings who have disabilities share experiences

Kylie Lustig

SUPPORTING SISTER: Celebrating post-surgery, senior Kylie Lustig (right) embraces her sister Annie Lustig when she walks for the first time after three months of bed-rest. According to Kylie, doctors said Annie would never be able to walk in her life.

Elisa Kim and Addie Lyon, co-features editor, asst. features editor

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When senior Kylie Lustig saw her 13-year-old sister Annie Lustig walking again after a surgery in February 2013, she could not hold back her excitement. Some South students like Kylie have siblings with disabilities. Although hard at times, they agree that they have filled their lives with valuable and happy memories and have impacted them in various ways.

According to Kylie, Annie has disabilities including craniosynostosis which caused part of her brain to be missing when she was born. Doctors said Annie would never be able to walk or talk. However, Kylie said Annie has learned to do both.

“She can speak,” Kylie said. “She’s become more understandable over the years, but sometimes people don’t understand what she says because it doesn’t come out very clearly. But she can communicate pretty well, what she wants to say.”

Kylie said Annie has gotten a lot better over the past few years. However, Kylie still needs to help her with activities like getting dressed and preparing meals.

Like Kylie, senior David Thompson also has a sister with disabilities. David’s sister, Hannah Thompson, has cerebral palsy and dystonia. According to David, cerebral palsy stops her from walking and dystonia is a movement disorder that limits her control over her actions.

David said Hannah was born with the disability, so his family supports her on a daily basis.

“I need to help feed her, and meals take longer,” David said. “She can’t get a drink for herself, so I always have to be looking out for if she needs something. She can’t talk very well either, so [I] need to be able to read signs about it and work off that.”

Hannah graduated from college and now works as a social networker for a company and as a motivational speaker, according to David.

David said Hannah is very brave and loves going on roller coasters, parasailing and riding ATVs.

“She does just about everything that her disability allows her to do, and she tries more,” David said. “She’s really smart and a great writer. She’s brought many people to tears when she speaks about her disability.”

Senior Megan Pelos’s sister Christie Pelos is a sophomore at South and has Down Syndrome. Similar to Kylie, Megan has to help her sister with everyday tasks, but also enjoys spending as much time as possible with her sister.

“She loves watching movies, so when I spend time with her, I might take her [to a movie theatre],” Megan said. “She loves going out to eat, so [I] oftentimes take her out to lunch or dinner. I also go on walks with her, go to the park and spend time with her as much as I can.”

Just like Megan and Christie, Kylie and Annie also share lots of happy memories, Kylie said. One recent memorable event was when Annie began walking again after a surgery in February.

“She got surgery in February [2013] and she had to be on bed rest until mid-April,” Kylie said. “One of my favorite memories was when she started walking again. She had to relearn how to walk because she was in bed for so long and it was hard enough for her to walk already. I remember I took a video of it, and it was exciting.”

Although David has happy memories with his sister, there were also some moments that were hard on him. David said he gets upset when people don’t treat her equally because they assume she is not as intelligent as someone without a disability.

“It’s very apparent physically, but she’s fine mentally,” David said. “A lot of people look at her and say she’s physically disabled, so she must be mentally disabled. That has bothered her since she was born. She’s just like everyone else with how she thinks and how she communicates, and so she gets really pissed off when people are treating her like she doesn’t understand.”

Kylie has similar feelings as David in that she thinks people are quick to judge her sister.

“There’s one moment I remember, we were out at a restaurant,” Kylie said. “And [Annie] likes laughing really loud. She likes making a lot of noises.

This father and his teenage daughter, they were laughing at her. The difference was that we were laughing with her, and they were laughing at her.”

Kylie said that she feels she has learned a lot, about herself and others, from Annie.

“Annie, I feel like she shaped my personality,” Kylie said. “Like I’m very understanding of other people and their situations. I’m very patient. It takes a lot to get me angry. I understand that people are different. I feel like without Annie, I wouldn’t understand those things I’ve learned.”

Kylie hopes to go into special education in the future and said Annie was her motivation in making that decision.

“I don’t think I would want to go into special ed if it wasn’t for her just because all of the things that she’s taught me like patience [and] understanding,”

Kylie said. “She’s taught me a lot about myself. I’ve been able to figure out what I want to do with my life because of her.”

Just like how Annie impacted Kylie’s life, David said Hannah has impacted him. David said watching Hannah made him realize that people should remember that everyone needs friendship.

“[Hannah] struggled especially in high school when people would just say ‘hi’ to her in the hallway, and no one really ever wanted to hang out with a kid in the wheelchair,” David said. “That always made her really upset that people would think that they were friends with her just because they say ‘hi’ to her in the hallway. So it’s taught me that [people should] take more time out of their day to hang out with someone that may need it.”

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