Siblings of Special Needs Children
October 18, 2012
Being a parent of both specials needs and typical children creates numerous challenges that parents of only typical children will never have to face. I think the most basic fear of parents is “Will my typical child suffer or will he or she turn out to be a normal, functioning adult?” Will my typical child be ok?
I firmly feel that all siblings are affected by having a special needs sibling. However, they are affected in both negative and positive ways. How our children turn out has a great deal with how we deal with having a special needs child and how we approach our own individual situations. In many ways, siblings of special needs children grow up to be more evolved, compassionate and higher functioning than they would without having a sibling with special needs.
Here are some challenges to be aware of in parenting both a typical and special needs child:
1) KEEP A BALANCE – Disabled children require and great deal of effort and attention. Spend special time with your typical child and let them know how important this time is.
2) SHARE YOUR FEELINGS – Typical children have a lot of feelings about their siblings. Validate their feelings and share some of your own.
3) GIVE INFORMATION – Explain the disability in terms your child will understand.
4) SUPERCHILD SYNDROME – Many parents subconsciously of consciously need for the typical child to be perfect to compensate for the deficits of the special needs child. Also, parents’ hands are so full, they can’t handle any other problems. Parents MUST be careful to have realistic expectations of the typical child.
5) SURVIVOR’S GUILT – Many times, the typical child will feel guilty about his or her own health and abilities. “Why was I spared the disability?” It’s healthy to acknowledge their feelings.
6) POSITIVE EFFECT ON SIBLING – Many positive things can result when there is a special needs child in the family. Typical children can learn compassion, sensitivity and the ability to look beyond the disability.
There are many other areas of which parents should be aware. Parents with a special needs child face many challenges. But both parents and siblings can gain many strengths and abilities.
Nancy Fish, LCSWMy clinical practice includes clients requiring treatment for depression, anxiety, anger management, chronic illness, chronic pain, special needs issues and grief. I work with individuals, couples, and families.