Michael Riley – Sibling of a Child with a Disability

MandMMichael is Mark’s identical twin brother who finds it difficult to have a brother who gets all of Mom and Dad’s attention. Like all siblings, they have their ups and downs, their strengths and weaknesses.


Michael Riley is 11 years old and in the fifth grade at Woodburn Elementary School. He is also an identical twin. Sometimes Michael finds it difficult to be one of two kids who people treat as if they were the same person. When people say, “There go the twins!” instead of, “There’s Mark and Michael,” Michael and Mark are especially upset. And like most twins, Michael and Mark both work at being viewed as separate individuals by the adults and children around them.


One of the first things Michael and Mark rebelled against was allowing their grandmother to dress them alike. “Grandma used to buy us identical clothes for birthdays and Christmas,” says Michael, “but when we told her we liked looking different, she understood. She doesn’t do that anymore.”


What makes Michael’s situation a bit different from other twins is that Michael’s twin, Mark, has cerebral palsy. Because Mark uses a wheelchair, their differences are quite apparent. Their concerns are different from those of other sets of identical twins. However, Michael and Mark’s situation is not as unusual as it might seem. Sets of twins where one of the twins has a disability and one does not is not uncommon.


Michael lives with his twin brother, Mark, four year old sister, Suzette, and his mom and dad, Bonnie and Matthew. Michael enjoys building models, playing with his good friend, Jason, and challenging his brother, Mark, to races. Michael is an “individual” who is close to his brother, but not tied to him. Michael represents the concerns, problems, and rewards of being a sibling of a child with a disability.