In the coming months we will recognize World Down Syndrome Day (March 21) and Autism Awareness Month (April). We focused this newsletter around supporting siblings of those with special needs. We know these siblings have a lot to offer!
What advice would you give someone who has a brother or sister with special needs?
“Patience is key. You may find yourself frustrated with your sibling…but sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, relax, and evaluate how you feel and why you feel that way…you’ll come to terms with the differences you have to make in your life to ensure a better life for your sibling. A little bit of selflessness and understanding is necessary to have a healthy relationship with a special needs sibling.” – brother, age 17
“Be patient. Don’t push [your brother’s] buttons (which is very easy to do!).” – sister, age 10
“Be nice to them and try to understand them as much as possible.” – brother, age 12
What do you like best about having a brother or sister with special needs?
“This different situation I was in forced me to become more responsible and caring. Helping my parents take care of him made me less self-centered as a person. I became much more patient and understanding with other people, which I’ve found to help me in my life…learning to care about other people more helps develop more emotional maturity.” – brother, age 17
“We get to learn about (their diagnosis/condition) and tell people about it.” – brother, age 12
“My older brother has trouble with reading sometimes. He asks me for help understanding situations in a book he is reading that I have already read like Harry Potter. That makes me feel wise.” – sister, age 10
What is the hardest thing about having a brother or sister with special needs?
“It took me a long time to deal with the fact that I wasn’t priority number one at all times growing up…it made me frustrated when my parents were too busy to spend time with me. Once I grew up a little bit, I had found my frustration was gone. The only time I’m ever sour is when I have to stay home from going out to watch him, but I understand that he needs me to be there. Once I came to terms with the changes I needed to make, nothing about my brother really bothers me anymore. We still go out to lunch, go on vacation, and hang out around the house like any normal pair of brothers would. I just have a little more responsibility on my end.” – brother, age 17
“At home things run on my brother’s schedule” – brother, age 12
“The hardest thing is [my brother] is hard to understand and he thinks differently”. – brother, age 8
“If our parents aren’t here, the hardest part is taking care of him.” – brother, age 12
“It is annoying that we always have to run off to his appointments.” – sister, age 10
Feeling like they need to be perfect
Having a different idea of family and home
Feeling as though their problems are minimized
Dealing with intolerance early and often
Feeling like they are asked to help too much
Feeling like they must grow up quickly
We identified that there are also positive effects for siblings of those with special needs. They are often described to have these wonderful traits…
Acceptance of differences
Insight into coping with challenges
To combat these struggles, we offer a few suggestions:
Encourage each child as an individual
Regularly promote quality time with each child and between siblings
Help your child understands their sibling’s diagnosis
Help your child connect with other peers who also have siblings with special needs
Look into the Sibling Support Project for more resources : https://www.siblingsupport.org/
Behavioral Directions, LLC in Sterling, Virginia is a firm of leading behavior analysts and psychological professionals with extensive experience serving individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Problem Behaviors and related Developmental Disabilities.