Special Siblings of Children with Special Needs

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
11/14/16  12:00 PM PST
Siblings of Children With Special Needs

Siblings of children with special needs may have issues with resentment, guilt and anxiety. They are however, likely to grow up learning how to be more patient, kind and accepting of others. This story helps underline how important sibling relationships are in families with special needs.

Siblings of Children With Special Needs

When we started our family, my husband and I had spent very little time around people with disabilities. Then our second child, Alex, was born with Down syndrome, and we wondered how it would affect our first, typical child. We were concerned that all of the extra time we had to spend feeding him and doing therapies would rob our first child, Hannah, of the love and attention she deserved.

Early on, Hannah started proving us wrong. She enjoyed helping us with Alex, and didn’t mind sharing the lap with her new little brother. She was too young to understand what Down syndrome was, so we bought some cute books to help her start to understand. She never seemed bothered by it, he was just her little brother.

Hannah is 17 now, and Alex is 14, and we have since added Ben, who also has Down syndrome, plus a slew of medical problems. I know it hasn’t been easy for Hannah to so often have to take the back seat to all of her brothers’ needs, but I also know now, that easy isn’t always best anyway.

Hannah’s generation has a reputation for entitlement – whether that’s true or not, there is nothing about Hannah that is entitled. She knows what it’s like to put others’ needs first, not just once in awhile, but for months and years on end. As such, she has an ability to see others as equally important, and doesn’t mind taking the backseat when needed in any scenario.

Hannah also sees right past any differences in people. Whether it’s just that someone dresses a particular way or marches to the beat of their own drum, or has developmental or physical impairments, Hannah is totally unfazed, appreciating the best each person has to offer.

Most importantly, Hannah is kind and empathetic in almost every scenario. She is unfazed by meltdowns, and is compassionate toward anyone, anywhere who is struggling. She’s the first to offer a listening ear when people need one.

I’d be remiss to suggest that the needs of her brothers haven’t taken a toll. Hannah has struggled with anxiety during her siblings’ prolonged illnesses and hospitalizations, and has been frustrated many times by holidays and birthdays in which Ben was sick or in the hospital. It hasn’t been an easy life, and there’s a cost to the beautiful character she has developed. Yet, if I was talking to a parent with younger children in a similar situation, I would encourage them that with effort and attention (we make sure to spend special days with Hannah in which we enjoy time with just her), there is reason to celebrate our children who have siblings with special needs and the wonderful gifts they develop as a result.

Resources for siblings of children with special needs:

Sibling Support Project

Siblings of Kids with Special Needs

20 Perks Of Having A Sibling With Special Needs

For more helpful links and resources for families with special needs, click here.

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