Siblings of special needs children

Often, I am asked the following questions:

“What about my other child or children?”

“How can I make sure their needs are being met when my special needs child is so dependent on me?”

“How do I respond when my neurotypical child feels things are unfair because their sibling gets their way more often than them?”

There is not an easy answer to these questions.

There are many times when a neurotypical child sacrifices their happiness or immediate gratification because of their sibling with special needs. Their life is shaped around their siblings needs, and many times they are told “no” because of their sibling. As a parent, this is a balancing act.

It is important to set aside quality time (even a half hour would work) for your neurotypical child/children. It would be helpful to schedule this time in your calendar once a week, so your child/children can look forward to it. This will decrease their feelings of resentment. Perhaps go for a walk, grab some ice cream, take a bike ride, or go see a movie to name a few suggestions. The activity could be inside the home as long as they have your undivided attention.

Parents often hear from their neurotypical children, “That’s not fair!” Fairness is based on your child’s needs. It is not uniform across the board. It is important to recognize that some children require more attention than others. The priority is meeting all of your children’s emotional needs.

Out of necessity, neurotypical children tend to become more independent at a much faster pace than their peers. Independence comes in the form of frustration tolerance and being more self sufficient. They tend to grow up to be compassionate adults, and therein lies the silver lining.

-Michelle Alexander, LCSW-R