How To Help Siblings Of A Child With Special Needs In Family

How To Help Siblings Of A Child With Special Needs In Family

A combination of societal and legislative changes have made the lives of children with special needs and their families more comfortable in comparison to the way things were throughout history. From educational to industrial institutions, the accommodations and sensitivity offered to children with special needs have created a less restrictive and more accessible environment. Families of such children have also gained attention and now have an array of services provided for their education and support. However, there is one member of the overall family system who has been neglected as part of the effort to attend the special needs issues: namely, the siblings of a child with special needs.

  • They may develop multiple emotional difficulties

  • Become overly responsible and independent

  • May feel neglected by parents

  • Experience mixed emotions

Here are some of the ways to handle these conditions.


It’s essential for parents to clearly explain what is going on to siblings and answer questions they may have. Some siblings may not fully understand what is happening with their brother or sister. They may feel guilty about it, that they somehow caused it. Or they may feel like they aren’t as important as their brother or sister because they don’t get as much attention. Parents need to listen to concerns the other children may have, and reassure them that you love them. Let them know, you hear you, you see.

1. Talk openly about the situation

Parents don’t have to use formal jargon like ADHD or autism or OCD. But they need to describe the behavior that kids might find concerning, and make it clear that it isn’t willful. One sibling might have difficulties with emotional dysregulation—getting emotional or melting down when things don’t go his way, but another might not be too good at basketball. So you can explain to the sibling of the special needs child that maybe your brother gives you a few extra shots in basketball, and he might need some slack because he has difficulty staying calm when you’re playing board games.


When you have a child with special needs who needs a great deal of support and encouragement, the other children may feel that their achievements are taken for granted, they not getting as much praise as the struggling child.

2. Spread the support around

So it’s important to ‘spread the sunshine around.’ If you’re, say, really trying to reinforce one sibling’s behavior, instead of ignoring another sibling’s bid for attention, look for something very soon afterward that’s positive about what that sibling is doing, and give him the same level of positive reinforcement.
All kids, especially those who have a brother or sister who takes a lot of attention, needs one-on-one time with parents. It can be challenging to fit in, but even small amounts of time, regularly, can help a child feel loved and valued. Parents have to remember to give every sibling attention. It may not be equal, but it has to be meaningful and consistent. 10 uninterrupted minutes with each child before he or she goes to sleep, reading or coloring or doing a puzzle together.
Parents who have a child with special needs worry that their other children aren’t getting a “normal” upbringing. They feel guilty and as a result, they may let them get away with bad behavior or have whatever they want.

3. Set aside time for each child

All kids, especially those who have a brother or sister who takes a lot of attention, needs one-on-one time with parents. It can be challenging to fit in, but even small amounts of time, regularly, can help a child feel loved and valued. Parents have to remember to give every sibling attention. It may not be equal, but it has to be meaningful and consistent. 10 uninterrupted minutes with each child before he or she goes to sleep, reading or coloring or doing a puzzle together.

4. Try to treat all children the same

Sometimes parents will be permissive with the other kids because they feel bad, but these children still need to learn to be responsible for their decisions and their negative behavior, and that can’t slide.”
Keep in mind that growing up with a special needs sibling teaches valuable skills and empathy. Sometimes children who have siblings with special needs have a level of compassion that makes them especially good friends, and they have a lot of friends because they are patient and positive, and understanding.

5. Look at the positive

Long said her kids are unusually empathetic to kids who are struggling with emotional or behavioral issues. The experience makes them much more tolerant and kind, and they are more sensitive to mental illness.

Beyond what is known as the pathogenic perspective, which highlights the difficulties associated with having a sibling with special needs, this difficult circumstance may also offer some opportunities for siblings. These siblings often develop certain positive characteristics such as self-control, cooperation, empathy, tolerance, altruism, maturity, and responsibility as a result of dealing with their family situation. They may develop loyalty and a protective attitude towards their sibling. In some cases, these siblings use someone’s attitude about special needs as a test for screening friends and mates. Their involvement with their sibling may even lead them to choose future occupations in the helping professions.