“Talking can be complicated. The exchange of words, body language, facial expressions, and worst of all- those awkward silences. But oddly enough, some of my best moments in life have been silent. Some of my best talks have been wordless. These happen a lot of times while I’m sitting next to my brother. I often just go into the room he’s currently occupying and sit there, enjoying his company. Buddy likes to be talked to, but he enjoys the quiet too. Which is good. I think we agree on this…and then all of a sudden, I’ll look over and he’ll be smiling mischievously at me. And then we’ll both burst out laughing. Those, my friends, are the best conversations.” ~Danica, 18, sibling of 13 year old with autism

Sibling relationships are likely to be some of the longest lasting relationships that we maintain. For a sibling of a child with special needs, this fact has a variety of unique implications, both positive and negative.

Siblings of children with special needs face many unique concerns. Some siblings experience guilt, embarrassment, shame and resentment. Some siblings struggle with the weight of increased responsibility and feel undue pressure to achieve. Many siblings feel isolated and lonely. Siblings of children with special needs are required to “grow up” more quickly than others and sometimes feel a sense of loss because of this.

On the positive side of things, siblings of children with special needs also experience unique opportunities. They most often grow up to be extremely tolerant, caring and compassionate. They make excellent advocates and sometimes passionately pursue careers working the the special needs population. They tend to have increased insight and perspective into others’ behaviors and are more capable of accepting others for who they are.

As a parent, the best thing that you can do for your typically developing child (or children) is to keep them informed. Siblings are in need of information just as much as parents are; however, they do not have the access to information that parents do. The importance of providing siblings with age-appropriate information cannot be stressed enough. It is also imperative that siblings are given the opportunity to meet others in similar situations and to have a safe environment in which to express their thoughts and feelings regarding this unique role that they’ve been placed in. Sibling groups are an excellent way to prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation and to help provide your child with the age-appropriate information that he/she needs.

For more information about the sibling group offered at Family Tree Therapies, please send an e-mail to jessica@familytreetherapies.com.

Do you have questions regarding your child’s development? Have you shared your concerns with your doctor and not sure of your next steps? We get it.
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