Children who have a brother or sister with special needs are in a unique position. A position most of their friends and teachers at school don’t understand. Most are wise beyond their years, compassionate, and more responsible than other kids their age. However, their needs vary from that of their special needs sibling—as well as that of other typically developing children.
The Time And Space To Be A Child
When the schedule of a special needs child takes up the majority of family time or is in constant flux, it leaves their brothers and sisters trying their hardest not to further rock the boat for their parents. This means they may make decisions parents never know about. For example, declining invitations with friends as to not burden their parents for a ride to and from. They often try to be perfect and suppressed their desire to play and behave their age. They may even pitch in a bit more than they want when it comes to caregiving for their sibling.
This makes it important for parents, friends, and family members to create more opportunities for kids to be kids. Friends and family members always want to know how they can help, so offer to take them to the movies, park, out on a play date, a friend’s birthday party, creative classes and sports—and be available to drive them to and from.
The Chance To Vent
Every household with typically developing children has at least one thing in common—brothers and sisters don’t always get along. This is just part of being a sibling. However, when brothers and sisters of special needs children vent they are often scolded and told to be more patient and understanding. This is challenging because they hear their friends vent about their brothers and sisters so why can’t they too? They can, and in fact, expressing their feelings and frustrations should be encouraged. Whether to their parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, or friends we should all take the time to listen to how challenging it is at times to have a sibling with special needs. Also, expand your social circle to include other families who have kids with special needs. That way they can make friends with other brothers and sisters just like them.
While there is a lot of love to be shared between special needs siblings we must not forget the sacrifice and challenges the entire family faces.