Parenting Siblings of Children with Disabilities

Strategies for Helping Siblings

What can parents do for siblings of children with disabilities?
Because the needs of typical siblings often get lost in the process of raising a child with disabilities, parents need to give the typical child special one-on-one attention. It doesn't have to be expensive -- a Saturday morning breakfast out at a deli or fast-food restaurant with one parent while another parent or family member stays home to watch the other siblings. A walk through the mall and an ice cream, or even time together at the playground can satisfy a child's need to feel special and be the focus of a parent's attention.

Typical kids also need to have their own toys and their own space. Not everyone can have their own room but they can have their own place within a room -- a locked box, or locker with a key, somewhere they can call their own.

Don't hold your typical children within the limitations of the child with special needs. You can find activities like a sports team, Cub scouts, or social activities where the typical children can feel good about their accomplishments and express their individuality.

Typical siblings can also benefit from support groups. It gives them a chance to vent, to talk freely without feeling they are disloyal, or that their parents won't approve of what they say. Hearing the experiences of other children can make them feel less alone and isolated.

What can childcare workers or preschool teachers do to help the typical siblings?
These children need to be recognized as individuals with their own skills, abilities, and needs. Childcare providers and teachers can create a place where children aren't expected to be mini-mommies or mini-daddies, but can just be kids.

Self-esteem can be a problem for these children when they see their siblings being rewarded and applauded for achievements that are routinely achieved in the typical child. Typical siblings can use a lot of reassurance and affirmation of their self-worth. Sincere appreciation and compliments for their abilities help them feel good about themselves and their accomplishments.

Originally published on, October 2006.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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