Siblings of children with special health care needs are special too. As a sibling, I understand the excitement and the challenges of being the sibling of someone with a disability. The bond that siblings share is unique.
Siblings usually teach you things that no one else teaches you. They can be a strong influence in your life. This is especially true if one child has a disability. Siblings can engage that child in activities and games that can help them in their development. Your child with a disability will likely play a board game or soccer with their brother or sister rather than with his mother.
As adults, siblings can have a strong bond, if they built it when they were children. Parents should not assume that the day they are gone, the siblings will be responsible for their brother or sister. This should be a choice that the sibling makes. It should never be forced upon them.
A research study done a few years ago found that siblings of children with special health care needs often feel isolated, scared, and ashamed of their sibling. It is so important that siblings get the attention and information they need to help them understand their feelings and learn how to deal with them in a positive way.
Many areas offer sibling workshops, sometimes called “Sibshop” as developed by the Sibling Support Project. They offer a chance for siblings to meet, talk, and discuss common issues that they face due to their unique situation. Many siblings have voiced that prior to joining in sibling workshops, they did not know of anyone else that had a sibling with disabilities. They also expressed feeling a sense of comfort and relief in knowing that there are other children in their situation.
I would encourage families to look for sibling workshops near them and have their child without disabilities participate. Please remember that as parents, it is important that we do not focus all of our efforts and attention on the child with special health care needs. All of our children are special and unique, and they deserve the same amount of attention if at all possible.
You can read more about siblings at Siblings of Children with Disabilities on this website.
Living with a child who has mental health issues can come with a lot of unknowns just like having a child with physical health issues. But society can treat both children very differently.
I have two boys. One is 10 and the other is 8. Both of my kids have disability labels. One has a physical disability and the other has emotional and behavioral issues. One disability you can see, the other you don’t – but it is there.