As a member of the family, siblings of individuals with disabilities experience many of the same joys and challenges as their parents. Because of their role as a sibling, many of these children have unique gifts and skills to share. However, siblings need intentional care and support just like their brothers and sisters with special needs.
Here are some of the qualities siblings have to offer:
Maturity: Siblings of individuals with disabilities often mature faster than their peers. They learn to handle alternate forms of communication and less-than-appropriate behaviors with grace from a young age. Because of this early maturity, you can usually trust them with information and situations typically reserved for older children or adults.
Independence: Individuals with disabilities often require more attention from their parents and other adults than their typically-developing peers, so siblings are used to doing things on their own. This doesn’t mean they don’t need love and support from those around them, but they know how to get by without much direction from adults.
Advocacy: Siblings make great advocates of disability as well as other worthy causes. They grow up advocating for their siblings with disabilities as well as encouraging them to advocate for themselves. If someone is being treated poorly, you can expect a sibling to stand up and step in.
A Different Sense of “Normal”: For siblings of individuals with disabilities, their lives are normal. They don’t know a world without wheelchairs or sensory diets or communication devices. When they see a person with a disability, they just see another person. We can gain a lot of insight through the way a sibling views the world.
While there are many joys of siblinghood, having a sibling with a disability also comes with unique challenges and needs.
Check back on Monday for some of the things you can do to support the siblings in your life…
Amanda Potthast is a speech pathology major at Calvin College. She is currently interning with the Reflectors Special Needs Ministry of Faith Church in Dyer, IN. She is passionate about sibs ministry, sharing her perspective and experience of having an amazing brother, Spencer, who has autism.