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John Bair
John Bair
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Supporting the Siblings of Kids with Special Needs

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At Milestone Consulting, our team has helped hundreds of families, many of whom have both a child with special needs and a typically-developing child. We know that while parents plan tirelessly and work every day to provide their special needs child with the best quality of life, they also deal with the challenges their typically-developing kid faces. Unfortunately, because children cannot always express exactly how they’re feeling, sometimes their physical and emotional needs aren’t immediately clear.

support for special needs siblings

Using filmmaker Rachel Feichter’s documentary “Not-Typical” as a springboard for discussion, a Washington Post article discussed the challenges that siblings of kids with special needs tend to face as they grow up. The eight challenges the article notes are as follows:

  1. The feeling that they need to be perfect to balance their parents’ struggle to meet their sibling’s needs
  2. The inability to express their feelings about the challenges related to their sibling
  3. Having a different idea of family, home, and quality time
  4. The feeling that their problems are minimized in comparison to their sibling’s problems
  5. The feeling of isolation, self-consciousness, and/or uncertainty talking to friends about their sibling
  6. Dealing with intolerance early and often
  7. The feeling that they are asked too much to help care for their sibling
  8. The feeling that they must grow up quickly because of the sum of their experiences

How can parents of children with special health or developmental needs ensure their typically-developing kids are also having their emotional needs met? The Child Mind Institute suggests parents do the following:

  • Clearly explain what is happening to the sibling with special needs, address the typically-developing child’s concerns, and answer any questions they may have.
  • Look for opportunities to recognize his or her achievements and give them the same level of positive reinforcement.
  • Set aside one-on-one time with each child.
  • Avoid letting the typically-developing child get away with bad behavior.

Finally, the Institute reminds parents to think positively. Numerous organizations have recognized that siblings of children with special needs have an opportunity to develop additional good qualities from a young age. Kyla Boyse, R.N. of the University of Michigan Medical School notes that these kids may have more of a chance to develop patience, kindness, supportiveness, and compassion. They are also more apt to accept individuals’ differences and express empathy and dependability for others.

Resources

The Sibling Support Project “…is the first national program dedicated to the life-long and ever-changing concerns of millions of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns.” The organization publishes books, hosts online groups and forums for teen and adult siblings, and has conducted presentations across the country and internationally.

Friendship Circle has compiled a list of ten helpful books for those who have a sibling with special needs.

Through their newsletter, The Arc reports the latest resources, events, and policy developments for siblings of people with special needs.

The Sibling Leadership Network provides “… siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families.”

 
 

About John Bair

If you have questions about planning for your children’s futures, John Bair can help. He is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. John helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.

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