I have been sent a blog from Ciara who is a Campaigns Support Officer here at Mencap.
It is a joint blog written by her and her brother, Huw. Enjoy!
Ciara: My brother was born in1977 and I was born in 1979.
My brother is two and a half years older than me.
Huw: I don’t remember my life before Ciara was born, so in that sense, we’ve always been part of each other’s lives.
Ciara: When we were young children, we sometimes argued like any other brother and sister, but we always made up in the end! He and I didn’t go to the same schools when we were growing up, but we had a close relationship.
Huw: We have quite different personalities: Ciara’s emotions are easier to see.
She is very outgoing and quite comfortable speaking to a room full of people.
When she decides she wants something, it’s not a good idea to get in her way!
I am more even-tempered, rather uncomfortable in the spotlight, and more likely to avoid an argument
As kids we also had very different interests.
Although we argued and didn’t have a huge amount in common, we got on well in general, and we cared about each other a lot.
I was protective of Ciara and she was proud of me.
I became aware of other differences between us.
Ciara found some things more difficult that I did, especially at school. I think at the time I put a lot of it down to our age gap. To me, she was always simply my little sister.
Ciara: When I was 10 I went through a difficult time as I was being assessed for special needs education.
I was also being bullied at school so I wasn’t happy at school.
My family were told that I had a learning disability and that it would be better for me if I went to a special needs school.
When I was 11, I went to the school. The school was over an hour away from our home, so my family decided it would be better for me to stay at the school during the week.
I stayed there from Sunday evenings until Friday afternoon and then came back home for the weekend.
I had to go to that school because I needed the right support to learn new things and achieve new skills.
I found it hard to go to a special needs school after being at a mainstream school because it was a different school to the one I had been at.
Because I was going to go to a special needs school, I felt as if I was stupid.
I was worried that I would be seen as different and that no one would like me.
I found it hard at the start as I had to go back to the school every Sunday after having a nice time at home with my family.
Huw: I remember that, at least to begin with, Ciara was very upset about staying at the school, and about going to a school which I think she felt showed her as different from other kids. Ciara had been at mainstream schools up to that point and I think by that time she felt very self-conscious about the areas where she struggled.
There were tearful scenes on Sunday nights. It must have been very hard on our parents, having the responsibility to make the best decision they could for Ciara but having to see her so upset as a result of that decision.
It was strangely quiet on weekday evenings, when it was often just Mum and me at dinner, by contrast with weekends, when all four of us were home and were often loudly serenaded by Ciara’s karaoke machine!
Ciara went to college locally at about the same time as I went away to university. We didn’t live full-time in the same house from when Ciara was 11 onwards.
Ciara: A few years later my brother met my future sister in-law, who lived in America. I was very happy for him that he had found someone that he loved.
After a while they got engaged. He left the UK to go and live there, and they got married. I was really proud when they asked me to be one of their bridesmaids. It was a lovely day. I met her family members and they were really nice.
I was pleased for him that he was happy, but I was sad sometimes because I missed him.
I couldn’t just go and have a chat to him as he was in a different country. I used to talk to him by sending emails and used the internet.
When he went away our relationship changed because we started having two different lives.
When he came home for visits, we would get really close, but on the day that he had to go back to America, it was sad because I didn’t like saying goodbye. I knew that I would miss him.
Huw: It was such an exciting time in my life, falling in love and then having this amazing adventure halfway around the world, that although I missed my family a lot, I think it was a lot harder on them, at least to begin with.
When we started our own family this changed and I started to feel the distance more keenly. That was part of the reason we decided to move to the UK. I was away for about nine years.
Ciara: During that time, I had started working for Mencap and was thinking about my own future.
I wanted to live independently in my own flat. I had also met my fiancé Mark, and had started being in a relationship with him.
Huw: When I emigrated I felt that Ciara was still very much my kid sister, although she was 22 – she was still slowly gaining her independence and learning more about the world. Nine years later, Ciara is very much a grown-up, living independently with her fiancé and with a successful career as a spokesperson for Mencap.
She routinely does lots of things I find very daunting, like giving speeches about disability issues to conference halls full of people.
Ciara: I see more of my brother and his family now and enjoy spending time with them.
Now my brother and I feel like we are equal. We are both in relationships and we have jobs.
I am a proud aunty to his two children. I really like having fun with them.
Mark and I are getting married this May. My brother has been really supportive of our decision about wanting to get married.
He has given us lots of help and advice.
He is going to be best man at our wedding. We know that he is going to do a really good job!
Huw: I’m really looking forward to seeing Ciara and Mark start a new chapter in their lives when they get married. I’m honoured that Mark asked me to be his best man.
I’m very proud indeed of my sister. She has proved that if a person with learning disabilities gets the support they need, they can accomplish a huge amount.