By staff writer, Alison Cundy
While doing research, I unearth a video by Alicia Arenas, who calls herself a “Glass Child.” This term is brand new to me. Glass children are siblings of a person with a disability. The word glass means people tend to see right through them and focus only on the person with the disability. ‘Glass’ is also used because the children appear strong, but in reality are not. These children have needs that are not being met.
I am not a glass child, but I know families with children who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. It is likely we all know families with this dynamic. In the video mentioned above Alicia Arenas is talking about her traumatic experience growing up as one. For me, the video is impactful. Watch it here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MSwqo-g2Tbk.
Alicia Arenas’ Experience as a Glass Child
What I find most eye-opening is how Alicia did not spend time alone with her parents until she was thirteen. Her childhood was filled with trauma for her abusive, disabled brother, along with the death of a younger sibling, and that she contemplated suicide at the young age of eleven. She did not have the outlet or resources to get the help she needed, and no one in the family, or outside the family, recognized her need.
Alicia stresses the importance of friends and family making sure to spend time with these vulnerable glass children. She compares these friends and family member to a one mile-per-hour wind; a force powerful enough to alter the trajectory of a bullet by 15 inches. For a glass child, having a force like that can change their lives forever.
We Can Help Glass Children
Alicia’s story helps me understand how important it is to focus on the child without the disability just as much as the one with the disability. How can we all help? If you are a parent of a glass child, spend quality alone time with them. If you are a friend or extended family, Invite that child over to your house for dinner, take them to a movie, ask them how they are, drive them to counseling, be their friend. The smallest gesture and make a world of difference for these children. We can all be that brief gust of calm for these glass children. Imagine the lasting positive effect you can have in a child’s life.
Alison Cundy is the Engagement Associate at the Arc of Monroe County.