Siblings of Special Needs Children

Thoughts of fairness between my two children haunts my mind frequently.  Do I spend more time with my son with aspergers because he needs it?  Is there enough of my time and attention left for my daughter?  Does she notice any differences in how I treat them?  I hope I treat them according to their needs and that they will understand that.  So far, they have interacted as typical siblings do.  They can play very nicely together for hours and argue about every little thing the next minute.  I think having a sibling in the long run will be beneficial to both of them.  For my son with aspergers, his sister is a safe person to interact with, be comfortable with and practice his social skills with.  For my daughter, she will learn to be sensitive to others’ needs, but with that comes other emotions that may not be as nice, such as anger, jealousy, embarrassment, etc.  A discussion of the life of a sibling of a special needs was on npr recently, reminding me that there are lots of things to keep in mind.  One advantage for my daughter at this stage is that my son cannot stand her fussing, since he is sensitive to the noise, so he will often try to persuade me to “give in” to her or be less harsh on her when I am angry.  Hopefully when they are older, there will be discussions about how we interact as a family and the emotions that go along with it.

For all of the emotions a sibling of a special needs child has, there are just as many emotions coming from the parent side.  For me the one that stands out is guilt.  The guilt of feeling more involved due to iep meetings and general communication with the school for one child and just sending the other off knowing all will be fine.  The guilt of not having enough time to go around.  The guilt of feeling very protective of the special needs child and not as coddling with the other knowing they have the skills to protect themselves against others.  The guilt of expecting more of one child than the other.  I wonder what the emotions of my special needs child will be.  Will he recognize he is different and feel ashamed?  Will he feel like a burden and feel guilty about that?  My son is very high functioning at this point, so it is really hard to predict what struggles he may have in the future.  So far I anticipate he will be able to have a “normal” life, as normal as normal can be anyway…  In the meantime, I do the best I can to love and support each child according to their needs and not feel guilty about it, but if/when a time comes, when issues arise, I hope we are able to discuss them and not let them build and destroy relationships or ignore them as many people do.

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One Response to Siblings of Special Needs Children

  1. Ann Kilter says:

    I have two children with high functioning autism, and one who was diagnosed early in life, but doesn’t have full blown autism, just a little bit. She has sometimes gotten upset over the thought that she might have to take care of her older siblings as they age. That might happen and it might not. Her brother is now moved out, and has a job. Her older sister still lives at home, but will start her first competitive employment on Monday.

    One thing that I did when my kids were in their teens was take turns taking them out to breakfast, lunch, or dinner alone with Mom. It was like pulling teeth sometimes to get my oldest daughter to talk, because sometimes she got drowned out by her more verbal siblings. So it was good to have that alone time, for her to practice conversation. My son is very verbose, and would talk my ear off, sometimes very loudly. So we worked on lowering his volume in public places. My youngest just needed to talk. Giving attention to each child was very helpful as they progressed through their teens.

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