By Luma Jamjoum, Career Coach
for People with Disabilities & Founder of Bahja* Initiative
Most kids who have special needs, developmental and mental health concerns, have typically developing brothers and sisters. The siblings will be in the lives of family members with special needs longer than anyone and need our care and support too.
Throughout their lives, siblings share many of the concerns that parents of children with special needs experience, including isolation, a need for information, guilt and concerns about the future.
While good communication between parents and children is always important, it is especially important in families where there is a child who has special needs. By answering questions in an age appropriate way and being open and honest, you can help ease worries, clear up any confusion and have a healthy relationship between siblings, full of acceptance and love.
Kids love their siblings. They want to understand why there are some things that a sibling with a disability cannot do and how they can help. When typically developing kids ask about their siblings’ different abilities, you can just explain it using simple language and be honest about it. Your child might be sad or worried about his or her sibling’s health but playing together and enjoying each other’s company can help.
You can encourage your typically developing child to:
Read books to her or his sibling
Build blocks together
Do craft activities with finger-paint or clay
Attend support groups, like Bahja*, where they can mix with other kids who have sisters and brothers with special needs
You may even be surprised to find your typically developing child start to explain his sibling’s condition to his friends or family members. With time, feelings of embarrassment or guilt fade and are replaced with more feelings of love and acceptance towards their sibling with special needs.
Parents are just like mirrors; they can be role models for their kids in showing equal and unconditional love to all their children, regardless of abilities. Then you’ll have a family who’s proud of having an awesome individual who inspires others and creates change for the better for everyone in the family.
You can contact Jamjoum at [email protected]
*Bahja is a community of support for differently abled individuals seeking to reach their full potential and be productive members of society. It also provides opportunity for youth with disabilities and their parents to engage with their peers in a fun environment away from the pressures of structured therapy sessions. Turn to page 128 for contact information.