Growing up with a little brother with Down syndrome

Cesilie and Mateo Candelario

“When first hearing about the DS diagnosis I cried, a lot. I was scared for the life he would have. I never thought he would live a bad life or be a burden, I was scared of the people that don’t understand and how they’d treat him. To be honest I’m still scared but I know that so many people love and care for him. My little brother, Mateo, was born in 2015 when I was almost 15. I still remember being called out of school to meet him for the first time. I was so nervous because I didn’t know what life would be like but I knew he’d be loved no matter what. When I met him, he was just a baby. Not a disability, not a statistic, nothing other than a baby I get to call my brother. It was harder than normal right after he was born because we couldn’t just take him home. He stayed in the NICU for 11 days, it felt like the longest days of my life.

As Mateo has grown, he has shown me everyone learns at their own pace, how to love unconditionally, and that life is worth living. He taught me to take life one step at a time, and even if it’s the tiniest step its worth being proud of. The small wins are still wins. Who knew someone so small could teach so much without even trying? He has been my rock through my hardest days and I will never be able to thank him enough. Waking up early for school was made 100 times easier when he woke me up screaming in the hallway or jumping on me in bed. Coming home from school was even better knowing I’d get to play with him. I would take him on trips to the beach or the mall with my friends and he was always content just being by my side (the goldfish and graham crackers helped too).

Mateo is now seven years old, full of excitement for life and still one of my best friends. We have learned so much from each other over the years and will always have a special bond. I am now 22, a little bit busier with my life, and so is he! I don’t live with him anymore and I don’t get to see him as much as I wish I did, but every time I see him it brings me so much joy. He grows so much in the times we are apart and it’s always so fun to see what new things he has learned. Mateo loves singing, dancing, sports, gymnastics, and school. He is bossy and funny but most of all he is himself. No labels. No stereotypes. No “disease.” Just Mateo.

I am so proud of how outgoing, strong, and intelligent he is today. I always knew he could do anything he set his mind to but actually seeing it makes me so proud. He has so many friends from school that care for him and it makes me feel better that he is loved and supported by so many people around him. I wish everyone could be accepting of others without judgement. There is no need to compare one another because every individual is different, no two people will ever be the same. People with disabilities don’t want to be treated differently, they want to be accepted and celebrated for who they are.”

By Cesilie C.

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  1. Becky Moore on November 22, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    Wow! Such beautiful and honest writing that truly gets to the heart of the matter. Mateo has taught her (any many others) and she teaches us by sharing her wisdom and experience. I am so grateful for these humans and these words!

    • Denise Montero on November 23, 2022 at 10:52 am

      We think so too. This is a very beautiful story. We are glad you like it!

  2. Terry Tringali on November 23, 2022 at 7:40 am

    Cesilie, what a wonderful big sister you are and what an exceptional reflection of your life with Mateo.

    • Denise Montero on November 23, 2022 at 10:52 am

      Yes, she is. This is a beautiful sibling story. We are glad you like it.

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