What if you aren’t the one with cerebral palsy, or that person’s parent or caregiver? What if you’re the brother or sister instead? In the multifacted equation of life with a special needs person, you may wonder where you fit in.
There are benefits to having a sibling with a disability, including developing patience, a sense of humor, and an appreciation for the genuine beauty present in other people, whether they are “normal” or not. But that is not to downplay the difficult aspects of being the brother or sister in this position. There’s the frustration you feel when you think your parents are ignoring you to do things for your sibling, the guilt of getting irritated when your sibling isn’t responsible for the situation, the anger and jealousy that you don’t have a typical sibling bond and never will.
The emotional component to your relationship with your sibling will likely always be complicated and confusing, but that doesn’t mean you should feel overwhelmed and hopeless about it. There are resources out there to help you cope with the bad times and celebrate the good. Some of them are geared toward you as the sibling and some toward your parents so they can help you out; either way, they are all helpful.
Siblingsupport.org—The Sibling Support Project is dedicated to helping the siblings of people with disabilities by connecting them with a community of others in the same position. Their website has information on Sibshops, a recreational program for young siblings of children with disabilities; links to various listervs and groups for siblings of all ages; and information about the various publications connected with the Sibling Support Project. As their page states, “The Sibling Support Project is the only national effort dedicated to the interests of over six million brothers and sisters of people with special health, mental health, and developmental needs.” If you want to reach out, this is a wonderful place to go.
Med.umich.edu—If you’re looking for a clear list of the many positives and negatives to growing up as the sibling of a special needs child, you’ll find it here. There is also a list of how to tell if professional intervention and therapy is necessary for either sibling, and a list of suggestions of places to go for parenting and other kinds of support.
Aboutourkids.org—This article also has several lists of the good and bad aspects of having a disabled sibling, but in addition it has a list of what kids can understand about disabilities and how to deal with them broken down by age. It also has suggestions for ways that parents can handle some of the specific difficulties they’re likely to encounter.
Thepioneerwoman.com—If you’re in the mood to read some lovely, funny stories about the bond between a sibling with and a sibling without a disability, check out well-known cook and blogger Ree Drummond’s Mike stories. She writes nice vignettes of her past and current experiences as the younger sister of a disabled brother with a big personality, always focusing on who Mike is and not his disability.