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Valerie Matheson has maturity beyond her 10 years.

Though she is 18 months younger than her brother, Ryan, who has Down syndrome, she is very much a big sister to him.

“She started to recognize that he’s different, but he’s just her brother,” Valerie’s mother, Karin Matheson, said. “They, like any siblings, have their moments, but they are very close and love each other so much. She’s always watching out for him and protective of him.”

Valerie is a student at Greenville Classical Academy, where she excels. She likes math, reading – she is a fan of Harry Potter and Serafina books – and playing the piano. She said that when she is older, she might want to be an engineer or a writer. No matter what she decides, it is sure to be centered on kindness to those around her.

“I just think that everybody should be nice to each other, so I try to be nice to everyone as much as possible,” Valerie said.

Since her brother is mostly nonverbal, Valerie often serves as his voice, helping others to understand him.

“I think having a sibling with special needs has made her the person she is,” Karin Matheson said. “She doesn’t see other people as different. She just sees kids.”

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