Real Talk

Down Syndrome Awareness: The Love and Compassion of Two Sisters

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and we sat down with two sisters who shared what it’s like growing up with a brother with down syndrome.

down syndrome awareness month

In an effort to shed light on the condition this Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we interviewed sisters, Audrey and Alec Alquiroz, who were more than happy to tell stories about their brother, Renz. “Usually, it’s always our Mama who gets interviewed. So it’s nice that we also get to talk about our relationship with Renz!”

Audrey, 27, is the eldest. She’s an online academic assistant and a freelance actress. Next to her is Renz, 25, who used to work as an office assistant for a tech company in Makati. However, because his condition classifies him as a person with comorbidity, he stays safely at home. Last but not least is the youngest, Alec, 23, who works as a video editor for a US-based marketing agency.

Growing Up with Renz

down syndrome awareness month

“During our childhood, we didn’t really feel like there was something wrong with our brother. But we knew he was someone special. Growing up with Renz was not something extraordinary because we treated him like he was just one of us!”

Nonetheless, over the years both sisters learned that he was somehow different and had special needs. “He was given extra attention by our parents because he needed it more. As children, we were brought up to have more understanding and be more compassionate.”

“We still fought a lot back then though. Even until now! Because like we said, we didn’t really treat each other differently. Like any sibling, there are times that he’s super makulit and mapang-asar.

down syndrome awareness month

But when it comes to the well-being of Renz, Audrey and Alec agree that they make decisions in favor of him. “We always make sure that he is prioritized.”

When asked what Renz likes to do and is passionate about, the sisters are quick to answer, “He is a performer and he aspires to become a star. That’s why our bond usually revolves around the things he enjoys. He also likes taking pictures, traveling, and our common denominator is eating great food. These are the things that keep our relationship strong.”

“He doesn’t like being pestered when he watches his favorite TV shows because he likes doing that alone and quietly.”

The Challenges That Strengthened Both Sisters

The sisters are definitely protective especially when people stare at Renz with questioning looks for too long. “I think the most challenging part as a child was explaining or sharing awareness to other people—especially our friends and classmates.”

And with the pandemic forcing all of them to stay home, it’s been hard on the whole family as well. “It’s been difficult especially on Renz, who already got used to his routine of going to work and attending school. So to keep him healthy and fit, we always encourage him to eat healthy food and exercise. Sometimes, we bring him outside for a stroll—just for him to have a breather. Tiktok has been there for him as well. He likes using it to socialize.”

On top of these challenges, the sisters had to step up since their parents don’t have work at the moment. And to ensure that their brother stays protected, they taught him to always wash his hands and use alcohol all the time. “Whenever we go out, we taught him how to use his face mask properly and to not go near other people.”

“When the vaccines became available, we made sure that Renz got vaccinated first to provide us a bit of relief.”

Dreaming Big for Renz

“Just like us, Renz dreams of having a job to pay the bills and buy what he wants. He wants to be a productive person who can help out his family—aside from being a star, of course.”

The sisters try to let him experience every opportunity that they think might be good for him. “We let him enjoy things and learn from those. Like this one time, we brought him to this commercial audition since he wants to be on television. Or we agree to every TV interview that would expose him and make him feel like he’s a TV star like his idols.”

Using Down Syndrome Awareness Month to Educate Others

Having a brother with Down Syndrome is not easy, especially when a lot of people don’t understand the condition. Audrey and Alec hope that by educating others, more and more people would be accepting of it. “Education is the key to acceptance,” they shared. “Like you and I, people with this condition also have dreams and flaws. They deserve to have a normal life.”

With this mindset, they treat Renz like any other typical person but are just more aware of his special needs. “When we were younger, we didn’t understand why people would think a certain way about people with special needs. As we grew older, we learned that we cannot blame people for their lack of knowledge. What we wish for is their kindness. If they don’t have anything good to say, especially about things they know nothing about, then just don’t say it.”

“Compared to before, we’re grateful that little by little, people are becoming more aware of this condition. Thus, they are more accepting of people with special needs. There’s still a long way to go. As siblings of a person with Down Syndrome, we want a safe space where our brother can live with no judgments and be given equal opportunities. Strengthening our education system would really be of great help, too.”

Read more stories on Down Syndrome Awareness right here on Modern Parenting:

Having A Child With Down Syndrome Is A Blessing Says Akiko Thomson and Chips Guevara

Read The Touching Story This Mom Wrote About The Moment She Found Out Her Son Had Down Syndrome

Michelle Aventajado Shares What It’s Like To Raise A Special Child

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