Siblings of Children with Disabilities

Siblings of Children with Disabilities

There are two types of parents with a child with disabilities.

One type worries and decides not to have a second child, considering the possibility of bearing another child with disabilities and devoting all energy towards nurturing that child. The other type has more children as siblings of a child with disabilities.

Parents with a child with disabilities can be easily burnt out financially and psychologically. Parents of a child with severe disabilities tend to focus more on the nature of disabilities with guilt, paying less attention to the siblings and imposing them to understand their sibling with disabilities.

Recently, there was a special drama on a family of two children; one was a child with disabilities and the other was non-disabled. The child with disabilities was 13 years old, the older sister of a 9-year-old girl without disabilities. The 9-year-old girl was jealous of her older sister because her parents were too forgiving of her older sister for waking up late in the morning and bringing meals to her bed. She was embarrassed of her sister and hated holding her hand in public. However, her mother always told the 9 year-old younger sibling to protect her 13-year-old sister from falling or any injuries and to do chores like bringing things for her sister.

In her mother’s presence, the 9-year-old girl was very kind to her sister by talking to her, holding her hands, and adjusting her sister's clothes. When her mother was not present/absent, the 9-year-old girl ignored and neglected and cursed at her sister. The 13-year-old girl with disabilities hated her double-faced sister and cried over her disability.

Siblings of special needs children cannot fully understand the necessity of siblings' assistance even if parents attempt to reason with them. From a young age, siblings are under a severe yoke of running errands on behalf of and ensuring the welfare of their sibling(s) with disabilities. Both a child with disabilities and his/her siblings deserve their own share and their parents' love.

At a young age, both of them need their parents' help. Typically, a child with disabilities needs some help for a longer period of time whereas the typically developing children need momentary and various kinds of needs. Therefore, it is better to help the typically developing sibling first and then provide continuous support for the child with disabilities. When the typically developing siblings' needs are quickly met, they tend to understand other sibling’s needs and voluntarily offer their help.

A parent of a child with disabilities once talked about the significance of family tie, and that it was destiny of being born to a family with a sibling with disabilities. But is it true? It is correct that siblings need to help each other with the love of sibling and family. However it is not fair to demand a whole lifetime from an individual of taking care of a sibling's welfare. Society and nation, not individuals and family, should take responsibility for the welfare of disabled citizens because it is their fundamental right as human beings to receive this kind of care. We need more information on non-disabled siblings and their needs.