The siblings of a special needs child have special needs of their own. The single mom struggles to give time to all of her kids, but extra time is often devoted to her child with special needs, whether the need stems from physical or mental health or educational needs. In addition to the normal rivalry among the children of the family, the kids may feel guilt that they get angry at the extra time devoted to the special needs child or their own lack of patience in dealing with the situation.
It’s important for everyone in the family to recognize that siblings of kids with special needs have opportunities that many other kids don’t have. Because of their special family environment, they learn at an early age how to feel empathy and are able to accept differences in children. They develop kindness and patience as they develop their relationships within the family.
The Sibling Support Project recognizes that families who have a child with special developmental, health or mental health concerns have special, life long concerns. Their mission is to support the siblings of kids with special needs. With more than 300 Sib-shops around the world, they work to provide support programs for young siblings, adult siblings, the extended family and caregiver of children with special needs.
Based in Seattle, WA, the Sibling Support Project has trained service providers in every state. You can check their website at http://www.siblingsupport.org/ to see if they have a location near you. They will also provide information on how to initiate a Sib-shop in your community as a resource center and support group of other families of kids with special needs.
In a nation with over six million children and adults with special developmental, health or mental health concerns, it’s important for siblings to know that their feelings are not unique. The brothers and sisters of over 6,000,000 people share their feelings of confusion, concern, resentment and even fear. The also can share the experience of advocating the right to have their own lives.