Siblings Of Special Needs Children - Helping Siblings Cope


In the previous article we learned about how siblings of a child with special needs may feel about their unique situation. Here are some ways to help your typically developing son or daughter manage life with a brother or sister with special needs:


Listen to siblings. Let all your children know that it is safe to express any feelings they have, whether positive or negative. Demonstrate your willingness to accept the perspective of a brother or sister of the special needs child - although it may differ from your own. Tell your kids that feeling guilty or jealous is normal. Pay attention if a child feels overburdened with excessive responsibilities placed on him or her in caring for a disabled sibling.



Teach your children that the family unit is a whole - all members contribute to make things work. The child with special needs is just as important a family member as anyone else. Everyone strives to meet the unique needs of everyone else. Each person in the family is valued unconditionally. Every person is loved and appreciated for who he or she is. We are all partners in caring for each member of our team.


Every family member is also a separate being. Help your children develop special interests and talents. Make certain a child does not define himself or herself solely as the brother or sister of the child with special needs. Try to make time to focus on your other children - the ones who do not have diagnoses of disabilities.

Sibling Support Groups

Your children may be willing to try a support group for kids in their situation. Brothers and sisters of a disabled child need to become informed about the medical condition involved. They may be involved in caring for the special needs child, but often they have no official way of learning this information. Or they may just want to feel included in this matter that is so prominent in the lives of their sibling and parents. At sibling support group, brothers and sisters can legitimately get their questions answered, and their thoughts solicited.


If a child shows signs of anxiety or depression for more than a few weeks, professional help may be a good idea. Be alert to a sibling feeling hopeless or incompetent, worrying a lot, trying to act perfect, having difficulty concentrating in school, or experiencing physical ailments. Your child may need outside help just for him or her.   


On the positive side, sisters and brothers of children with special needs grow up with so much opportunity to develop into strong, capable people who are naturally attuned to the needs of others. In the long run, these siblings usually take tremendous pride in their special needs siblings, and in their special coping families.