My sister has...
When I was 3-4 years old, a preschool friend had asked me if my sister was mentally retarded. My response was, "No, she just takes a little longer to learn stuff." Having a sibling with a disability, watching her grow up and witnessing that she needs some extra help, from everyone (family, friends, educators, etc) provided me with valuable insight into life, in general. Everyone is different in their own right.
Everyone needs help in one way or another.
As I got older, that simple truth provided a lens into how one [should] live among society. Embrace each other’s differences. Cliques, circles, groups, whatever you want to call them... while they may create a support system for like-minded individuals, I never felt like I was part of them, or, for that matter, needed to be part of them - and I think that's a good thing. It's not right to exclude people for their differences, whether intentional or not.
Enhanced Empathy & Emotional Intelligence:
It wasn't until I got into the "real-world" (a.k.a. not living at home) that I realized how important these topics were. I believe they go hand-in-hand with having added perspective. Being the oldest in our family, I witnessed and experienced, first-hand, the effort my parents invested as my sister entered the education system. What was seamless for me was quite the opposite for my sister and my parents. Being part of their struggles, knowingly or unknowingly, taught me a valuable lesson in understanding other’s emotions. A lack of empathy from educational leaders toward my parents was the heart of the problem.
Outside of my parents' challenges raising a child with a disability, growing up with my sister, I can remember a time when there was a chance she may be non-verbal. From all this time spent with her, I picked up on little behavioral cues that, to this day, help me better perceive how she may be feeling on a particular day. No words are needed, despite the fact that she's a chatterbox these days! In the "real-world," these skills are invaluable (and some may argue, more important than IQ) because it's essential to be able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. My whole life I've been trying to put myself in someone else's shoes, so that I could understand the WHY behind behaviors instead of questioning them.
She has inadvertently been taking care of me for 31 years, keeping me grounded and reminding me of what's truly important in life.
While these attributes can be learned, I feel that the 168,000+ hours (20+ years) I've logged with my sister meant these skills were inherent from when she first came home from the hospital. Every time I return home I'm quickly reminded of how loving & compassionate my sister is (from notes left on my bed, hidden in drawers, hidden in my suitcase) and I realize just how much of a blessing it is to have someone like her in my life. She has inadvertently been taking care of me for 31 years, keeping me grounded and reminding me of what's truly important in life.