Raising a child when a sibling has a disability

Social media may have its flaws, however since i created this blog i am more aware of families and their struggle raising children where disability has to be accounted for.

Raising children is challenging enough. The difficulty level raises when you have to attempt to explain to your child that their sibling has a cognitive, physical medical disability or chronic and life threatening illness. 

Siblings of children with disabilities are forced to become more mature, its sometimes difficult to explain that their brother or sister has additional needs or special requirements that have to be taken into account ahead of their own needs.

No two children are the same this difference is amplified when a sibling has multiple learning difficulties. This is currently something I am experiencing, Of course with us Sofiya is only 18 months old yet I find myself countless times a day explaining why Olivia can not hold & interact with the toy she has kindly thrown at her, waiting for a reaction. When she wants to sing songs or play “row row your boat” which can sometimes result in Olivia crying, not from anything other than surprise as why her arms and legs have suddenly started moving quite quickly. When Olivia becomes unsettled out of the blue, sofiya comes running to reassure her. Recently she has been trying to pick Olivia up and loves holding her like you would a baby.

I try my best to include Olivia but the reality is she doesn’t have as much energy as a toddler, shortly after eating she’s sleepy and as much as she loves playing she definitely prefers cuddle time. Olivia has her own terms and routines. 

Sisters
An article on cerebral palsy family network lists 5 ways on how to help a sibling understand your child’s cerebral palsy. I’m not sure who wrote the article but something they included has stuck with me since i came across it, i think i was 6 months pregnant at the time.

 

Children who grow up with a special needs sibling are often under more stress. They may feel guilty for being the “healthy” sibling and try to overcompensate by setting higher expectations for themselves. They worry about taking care of their special needs sibling when they get older. Some children don’t understand what the condition is and worry that they might catch it too. They may even feel jealous or resentful because they are not receiving mom and dad’s full attention at a time when they need it most.

 

There is also some great news!

According to the New York Langone Medical Center, growing up with a sibling with special needs has its benefits. These children tend to develop skills like problem-solving, flexibility, teamwork, and compassion. All of which are very important in the real-world.

Having a child with additional needs can be incredibly stressful on the whole family. Siblings can feel a whole bunch of emotions and feel short changed,  but in the end its important to teach them that the love for their sibling will prevail above anything, but it also depends on how you the parent handle it and how well explained the situation is.

Leckey chair

Sofiya coming to see what Olivia is doing in this funny looking chair

Holding hands

Since she was a baby Sofiya has always tried to play with Olivia

Funny

Simply seeing if she has a flavour

 

We’ve always incorporated Sofiya in Olivia’s daily routine, explaining (whether she understands or not) what we’re doing & getting her to help. I’m sure because of this they have a special bond that’s incredible to see.

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  • These photos are sweet. My son has autism and my daughter is neurotypical. I don’t think she’s stressed because of it though. She always says she loves having a brother with autism and thinks her brother is hilarious, because he’s quite blunt about things.

    • Thank you. When I initially read the piece I had linked too i was worried what it would be like for both girls. Shouldn’t have worried their relationship is fantastic. Children are great and adapt I’m sure she is a fantastic sister as he is brother

  • Divya Budhraja

    I see this often with the families I work with. It is so discouraging for the kids to see their siblings do things with ease. I empathize with them so much.

  • Your kids are so adorable! I love what you’re doing, creating awareness and making parents in the same situation feel that they’re not alone. I really admire you.

  • Sheri Kaye Hoff

    This is a wonderful resource for people who are going through this. I also think it raises awareness for people who are not experiencing this situation. Your kids are so precious. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Ola Broom

    I have both family members and friends who are siblings of a special needs person. Everything that you’ve stated about the guilt of the non affected child is true. I’m so glad to see a post about their story.

  • T-Nicole Johnson

    Olivia and Soyfia are so beautiful. The girls are going to grow to have such a special bound. I was watching something on ESPN showing a football player with a brother with a disability. (I can’t remember which one) The way he adored his brother and looked forward to him coming to his games was the sweetest thing ever. He shared his childhood growing up with a sibling with a disability and how he didn’t see his brother as being any different from him.

  • Dorothy H

    Its great you found the bright side. I am glad that the siblings can gain more problem solving skills and more!

  • Deimarys Colon

    I have a 17yo and a 4yo with autism. Jose is so good and understanding with his little brother. He wants to know everything that’s going on with him, even like to take part on his aba therapies.

  • You’re girls are developing a unique and strong bond. Continue doing what you’re doing Mama! Thanks for sharing your girls and your story.

  • Marcy Marz

    Your strength is unmatched! They will have an extraordinary bond!

  • Debra Schroeder

    This is really great insight. I hadn’t realized how hard it would be for younger sibling to understand that their older sibling has a disability.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience. Sheds a lot of light on what parents with a child who has disability must go through. I love that you make an effort to create a bond between them.

    ~Crissy
    http://www.whimsicalfawn.com

  • David E

    This would have to be terribly difficult. I had a good friend whose brother was autistic and I knew how difficult it was for them.

  • Prayers for your family .Both your children are blessed for having such a compassionate mommy. I think with this journey your sofiya will grow up stronger

  • Becca Wilson

    My sister has hydrocephalus and so growing up with her was definitely tough on my family. We always made time to do things together though and to push her to have fun!

  • Nichole Freeman

    They are both beautiful. And this is a touching and trying inspiring story. I love how you were able to list the skill set that are a great benefit to have.

  • Your children are adorable. I can’t imagine the stress. I think it’s great you are sharing your story.

  • Valerie CottageMakingMommy

    Your kids are so cute. I am sending lots of hugs. You are incredible and doing a great job.