Oakdale Elementary Students Speak to Class About Having Siblings With Disabilities


Image courtesy of Westside parent Jen Shannon

Oakdale fourth grader Mallory Shannon spoke to her brother Brady Shannon’s fifth grade class about having a brother with disabilities.

For the past three years, Jena Coil, a special education assistant at Oakdale Elementary, has set up a meeting between the current fifth grade class at Oakdale Elementary. In the meeting, moms of the students with Down syndrome in the class spoke about their experiences raising children with Down syndrome. This year, Coil made changes to the meeting by asking the siblings of the students to speak instead of the moms. Coil said that her main goal of the meeting was to show the students that a disability doesn’t change the relationship between siblings.

“The moms of my students with Down syndrome have come and talked to the [fifth grade students] the past three years, and this year I wanted the siblings [of the students with Down syndrome] to come so the [fifth grade] students could get a different perspective of what it’s like to live with a sibling with disabilities,” Coil said. “My biggest goal is that their classmates see that it’s really not that different than having any other sibling.”

Coil said she thinks it is important for students to understand what it is like to have siblings with disabilities because she wanted them to see that siblings with disabilities are loved the same as siblings without. 

“I want the kids to understand that it’s really not any different,” Coil said. “You love your siblings for different reasons, and maybe your siblings aren’t annoying for the same reasons, but it’s really not any different.”

Brady Shannon is a fifth grader with Down syndrome at Oakdale Elementary. Mallory Shannon, Brady Shannon’s sister, is a fourth grader at Oakdale. She is one of the siblings who spoke to Brady’s class about her experiences with a brother who has disabilities. Mallory Shannon said she wanted to speak to her brother’s class about her experiences because she wanted them to know she thinks it is cool to have a brother with disabilities. 

“I think that it’s pretty cool and neat that he has [Down syndrome], and it would be cool if I got to go talk to his class about it,” Mallory Shannon said.

Mallory Shannon said she thinks there are small challenges to having a brother with Down syndrome.

“He can be sort of annoying,” Mallory Shannon said. “He’s not always very nice and helpful.”

Mallory Shannon said although Brady Shannon has Down syndrome, she does not treat him differently than how she treats any of her peers.