Parents of children with disabilities tend to focus a lot on that child and have a hard time finding time for their other children. Speaking as a sibling of an adult with disabilities, I understand first-hand how it feels to be one of those "other" children.
I often felt embarrassed to talk to my mother and father about feeling neglected. I thought that I would look selfish because my sister was the one who needed the attention, not me. Now that I am an adult, I realize that my feelings were valid and I should have said something to them.
I know that I am not the only sibling who has felt this. So sibling workshops—in which siblings get the chance to meet and talk about their feelings—are incredible.
Sibling workshops are set up as a recreational activity between the child with a disability and their sibling(s). A trained facilitator leads activities for the children that encourage participation and collaboration. The best ages for children to participate are between 7 and 14 years old. Parents are not allowed to be present in the session, which allows the children to express themselves freely and without reservations.
The activities are fun, and they create an opportunity to discuss what things are they good at and what things they can’t do so well. This emphasizes that regardless of the disability, all of us are good at some things and not good at others.
Many times, the children think that they are the only child that has a brother or a sister with a disability. It is very therapeutic for them to realize that there are other children just like them. And not only that, they also realize that they have the same feelings. Sometimes they feel sad about their brother or sister, and other times they are happy. The activities should allow them to explore their emotions and help them realize that they are not alone in this journey.
I highly recommend that all siblings participate in opportunities like these if they are available near you. If not, ask the school district or a disability organization to start one. There are many books that explain the process of how to start one.
More information is available in the Siblings section of this website.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.