Support, Advocacy, Education and Community for those affected by Williams Syndrome


Matt and Kate

This cherished picture of my son and daughter was taken over three decades ago. As my children grew and their lives evolved, they boldly charted unique paths. Sometimes they supported their sibling’s decisions and at other times not. Neither ever hesitated to voice concerns when feeling the other was going astray.

Matt took his role as big brother very seriously, erring on the side of caution when it came to what his little sister should do. Not surprisingly, resentment and frustration blossomed on both sides. That was particularly true during the teen and early adult years. I suspect many parents can relate to feeling like a referee.

Kate, a free-spirited and gentle soul has many memories about those turbulent years. Maturity and motherhood has broadened and softened her perspective. She now laughs about tense, funny, and risky situations that are well behind in life’s rear-view mirror. With hurts shared and forgiven, her empathy runs deep.

Love is a four-letter word. And when the love is unconditional, endurance and resilience are the lubricants. As with parental love, sibling love persists through thick and thin, winding through the river of life. Sometimes the love gushes, swirls, flows gently, retreats or gets stagnant…depending on the changing environment. Yes, gushing typically retreats early in long-term relationships, but the other phrases stay for the long haul.

Travel on life’s river is ever-changing, risky and rewarding. My husband and I stand strong at our son’s side, until the day we can’t. As we step down, our daughter will step up, without hesitation. They’ve worked through their sibling angst and have great respect for each other.

Naturally, there remain a few residual triggers. But isn’t that true for all of us? Fiercely independent, Matt routinely reaches out for input from trusted sources if he feels the need. His sister is someone he consults. But to be clear, he’s seeking her input, support and reassurance, not unsolicited advice. Kate wisely opts not to should on her brother. Witnessing the next generation stepping up warms my heart and shows me ways that I can improve.

I salute all siblings who travel on life’s river together, with their own unique approaches.

Tarnished or not, your love shines through.

Susan Dunnigan

Susan Dunnigan and her son Matt  are familiar faces in the CAWS community, and she is a regular contributor to CAWS News.

You can connect with Susan on her website or email

Every month, CAWS sends out a new email newsletter filled with information, family stories and updates from the CAWS team. If you aren’t on the list, you can subscribe below!