What about the siblings of a child with special needs?

My colleague Cynthia wrote a great post about sibling rivalry (check it out here), and this line really resonated with me:

“Children don’t need to be treated equally. They need to be treated uniquely.”

This is especially true when one of your kids has special needs. Here are some tips on how you can help your other children find some balance in their lives, and hopefully avoid rivalry and resentment:

Young siblings together at a parkInclude them in therapy/intervention sessions, home visits and meetings within the home

  • Ask your therapist/consultant to give your other child a ‘job’ to do.
  • Ask your other child to complete similar tasks, or show her brother what to do (i.e., follow the leader).
  • Prepare your other child by having an activity to complete alongside you (e.g., a picture for the therapist is usually a winner).
  • At the end of the session, make a plan with the therapist/consultant to include everyone in a fun activity.

Remember everybody has needs

  • Although one child may require more help throughout the day, emphasize and celebrate the successes of independence and teamwork.
  • Set aside time to help your other child further develop their own skills – with a sport, with their homework, or having them help make dinner.
  • Spend time with your other child without distraction (when possible). Ask a grandparent or friend to help you manage your time. Have days dedicated for you and your other child.

Explain the disability or delay early – and as a matter of fact

  • Children are curious and naturally empathetic. Questions will change as they get older. Ask them how they are feeling and whether they are feeling left out.
  • Have open conversations with your children to assure they understand the needs of their sibling. Teach your children the appropriate language to use when talking about the disability.
  • Siblings often advocate for their sister/brother that has a disability as they get older.

Get support from your community

  • Look for support groups in the community or online for other families in similar situations.
  • Check out Sibling Support Project, an international organization dedicated to supporting siblings of all ages.
  • If you are working with an agency, ask them if they provide support to the families and siblings of children who have special needs – talk to your therapist/consultant or service provider.
  • Stepping Stones  – meet other parents who have a child with a disability
  • Parent support and online connections through Exceptional Families of Halton (FB page) – this is a closed page (for privacy), but you can friend request!
  • Autism Halton has sibling support groups
  • Halton Down Syndrome Association provides networking opportunities for families
  • The Hospital for Sick Children’s supports families when a child has medical needs through their Child Life Program.

If you feel that your family is having trouble coping or adjusting to life with a child who has special needs, there are community supports available to you – contact us at Halton Region or the Reach Out Centre for Kids to speak to someone about referral.

For more tips and hints about life with a child who has special needs, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Call  HaltonParents by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Check out Holly’s bio here

This entry was posted in Babies, Parenting, School-aged Children, Services, Special Needs, Teens, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What about the siblings of a child with special needs?

  1. Gianina Perez says:

    Hello Parents and Family Members! 🙂
    We are excited to tell you about some new autism sibling research going on right now at Fordham University. We are looking for sibling pairs (one neurotypical, one with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis) ages of 5-18 in the tri-state area to participate. Family involvement includes
    one visit to the home, wherein the children will be observed playing for twenty minutes. This is an excellent opportunity for siblings to play together in their home, and will help contribute to an area of research that is relatively scarce. We hope this research will lead to the development of new therapies that will benefit children with autism and their family members. If you are interested, please contact
    Amanda Aaron, M.A., at aaaron2@fordham.edu or by phone, (201)
    774-7002.

    We hope this research will lead to the development of new therapies that will benefit children with autism and their family members!

    Thank you:)

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