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Sibling Spotlight - Arielle Salmon


Imagine applying for jobs, going for interviews and getting turned down every time?  Or imagine you were constantly told that you are not capable or good enough at completing tasks or following directions?  Well, this is how a person with disabilities might feel every time they look for a job. You would be amazed at what a person with disabilities is capable of doing.  That’s why it is important to give somebody a chance. This topic is very important to me because I have a twin brother who has cognitive disabilities” Arielle Salmon.


This is the intro to a speech written by Arielle Salmon, a 19 year-old college student for her Public Speaking Class in 2017.  Arielle’s twin brother Brendan has been a part of the Jawonio family since he first came for services as an infant. Arielle has been a witness, supporter, and cheerleader for her brother from the beginning.  Here is her story:

“When Brendan and I were born, he had to stay at the hospital for longer than me because of issues he was having. As we grew from infants into toddlers, Brendan walked and talked late.  Jawonio worked with him on speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy and audiology services for his hearing. There were always therapists at our house working with him. There was a lot of attention in our house focused on Brendan and what he needed to grow and develop.  My parents worked really hard to make things equal between us. For example when the therapists came to the house to work with Brendan, they did activities with me too so I would feel included, and I did. I felt a part of everything.

We always did a lot of family activities together like playing games and going on fun outings.  Here is a photo of me pushing Brendan around in my baby doll stroller. We have had a lot of fun times playing together as kids.  

When we went to elementary school we were separated.  Brendan had to go to Laurel Plains where they had a great program for him.  I went to Woodglen Elementary School. It was hard to be separated because we were so much a part of each other’s lives.  In Middle School we went to the same school so we saw each other. We had Chorus class together. Sometimes it was hard to be in the same class.  I would try to help Brendan with something and he would get upset with me. He wouldn’t want the help and I am his older sister, he didn’t like being bossed around.  He still doesn’t!


Growing up my dad got Brendan into sports and coached his teams.  Sports were so great for Brendan because he made so many friends. It also made him physically active and gave him self-confidence.  


In High School we were separated again.  He went to a great program and he had ambitions to go to college.  He works really hard to accomplish a goal. He wanted to get his driver’s permit.  He studied and studied for months, and he passed the test. He wanted to go to college and he worked really hard to get there.  He completed a program at the College of St. Rose in Albany last year and is now living and working in Albany.

The thing about Brendan is that he inspires me to take chances.  He’s always saying to me “You gotta get out there Arielle!” Things that anyone else might take for granted, he values so much.  Having that independence of going to college, making friends, traveling home on the train by himself for visits. And he really fights for what he wants.  If my parents are concerned about him doing something on his own, and he really wants it, he pushes really hard to make it happen. He has such determination which inspires me and everyone around him.  He has no fear. For my public speaking class I was nervous about getting up and talking in front of everyone. But then I met a student in the class who has disabilities who got up and made a great speech.  I thought to myself if she can do it and Brendan can do everything he has done, I can make this speech. It was about people with disabilities working. This is a very important issue. People with disabilities can work and are good workers.  I’ve seen it with Brendan. Our parents and his teachers have always made sure the Brendan applied for jobs that were appropriate for him. Since he struggles with some things that come easier to other people, he works harder at it. I am amazed by the things my brother is able to accomplish when he puts his mind to it.


People with disabilities like Brendan deserve a chance to work and provide for themselves.  People with disabilities are human beings just like the rest of us and they deserve to be treated equally that is why I want to advocate on this issue.  One day I would love to open up a restaurant or a company that hires people with disabilities so that I can give people the ability to work and continue to learn and improve their skills.  If my plan works, I envision spreading awareness about this so that other businesses can follow.

One of the things that I admire about Brendan is that has both main stream friends and friends with disabilities.  That’s always the way it has been with him. He is outgoing and likes to be social. He and his friends are always going out and having fun.  It makes me want to join in. With Brendan away at school in Albany and me living at home attending Rockland Community College, the house is so quiet!  I miss him.

As his sister I have always looked out for him, and try to help him, to support him in what he wants to do.  My parents always tell me to focus on my own life and goals. They want the best for both of us and support us both so much.  But I will always look out for Brendan. I sometimes think about the future and that one day, as my parents get older they may not be able to take care of him.  I will have to take on that responsibility of looking out for him and making sure he has what he needs to take care of himself. It’s a lot to think about. But right now I am focusing on my studies.  I completed my Associates Degree at RCC, and am now attending St. Thomas Aquinas studying Therapeutic Recreation. I want to help others reach their goals like Brendan has.  

I am so grateful that Brendan is my brother.  Brendan helped me to become the person that I am.  He taught me patience and respect. He has impacted my life so much and helped me become who I am.  

I am also so grateful for Jawonio.  If it wasn’t for Jawonio, Brendan would not be where he is today, he wouldn’t have learned to walk, talk or think for himself.  Jawonio helped him develop and grow and believe in himself.”



Thank you Arielle for sharing your story! 

You can see the video that the entire Salmon family made together to get the message out to the community about Jawonio below.


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About us

We provide care for over 10,000 people with special needs each year.

Our mission

Jawonio is a registered 501c3 organization and the premier provider of lifespan services in the Hudson Valley of New York State for individuals with developmental disabilities, behavioral health challenges, and chronic medical conditions. 

Jawonio is dedicated to advancing the independence, well-being, and equality of people with disabilities and special needs.