Four family members of children with special needs offer What I Wish I Knew Then.

Kylie dances with her best friend and sister-in-law Lauren.

“When Kylie came into my life at age 5, I honestly don’t remember thinking anything about her DS. I thought, ‘Zach is Zach and Kylie is Kylie’ with her unique abilities just like anyone else,” says Zach.

Zach is the slightly older brother of Kylie Purifoy. He and his sister are part of a close, blended family that also includes their younger sister Maycee. Growing up so close in age, Zach and Kylie shared the same school for many years and had a lot of the same friends.

“Kylie loves to FaceTime and talk on the phone with her best friend Lauren, who happens to be my wife,” says Zach. “When Lauren and I got engaged, she was initially somewhat upset because I was ‘marrying her best friend.’ Not a cool brother move.”

What is the best thing your parents ever did for you two?
The best thing they did for her and really all of us, was treat all of us siblings equally. They challenged all of us to be the best we could be with our own unique set of gifts. … There is a mutual growth that occurs when neurotypical individuals and individuals with diverse abilities spend time together.

They always made sure things were fair and respectable, but we learned so much … by just living life together. We worked out conflict regarding most things siblings argue about growing up: who gets to sit in the front seat, what movie we were going to watch, who was going to do which chores, etc.

Is there anything you wish you or your parents would have done differently?
No. I think a lot of times it's easy to worry about how we could have done things differently or better. In reality, you're making the best decision at the moment with the knowledge, insight and circumstances you presently have. Pray, act, react, evaluate and move forward a better parent, brother, sister, etc. A great lesson I've learned is to be grateful for the present moment and to not compare to others — "Comparison is the thief of joy."

Zach Fendley and his sister Kylie