Making Sacrifices – Siblings of Special Needs Children

With Parenting comes Sacrifices

They start with Sacrificing things for Yourself

Then comes Sacrificing things that you Want for Your Children

But what about when One Child HAS to Sacrifice things for Another

I think when there’s a child with special needs in the family this may happen more. I have been thinking about the sacrifices that my other sons make, and the sacrifices that other siblings of special needs children make. I guess in all honesty I am blessed because this post could run much deeper, and there are people, who need to say ask one child for a kidney for their other child, etc.

The PLACES they may visit may be more limited, or they may have to leave sooner than expected. Or there may be a strict routine to follow in order to go out. When they are out their siblings may act in ways that draw attention to them, and they may be embarrassed. Maybe it’s FINANCIALLY because the sibling NEEDS certain things. Maybe it’s the NOISE they make – as their sibling may have a sensory issue and it scares them. Or maybe it’s SLEEP or QUIET because their sibling is noisy, or finds it difficult to sleep.

Siblings of a child with special needs may have to allow the child with special needs more TIME with their parent. This may be just to help them to get dressed, to help with toileting, making sure they are safe, or it may be time in hospital. It is important to try to keep a balance. Or they may need to give up their time to help their parents with their special needs sibling. I know not ideal but my 9 year old helps watch my youngest whilst I cook the dinner (in the next room, with the door open, watching television or playing toys, just making sure he doesn’t “fly” off the back of the sofa and such like). I have tried keeping him in the kitchen (entertaining him with his sand table, drawing etc) with me but it does not work. If anyone has any ideas on how I can better manage this I would love to hear as I don’t believe it is fair on my 9 year old (who is very happy to help).

The sibling may be a target for aggression or be frustrated over their special needs sibling’s development. They may be embarrassed about them, concerned for them, or annoyed that they are unable to communicate effectively with them. It is important to let the siblings know WHY the sacrifices are made, and to try to compensate for them. Always allowing them to talk about how they are feeling – even if it is to tell you about their negative feelings towards their special needs sibling: Don’t try to correct these feelings, listening to them is the most important part. This is of course dependent on whether you have spoken to the child who has the special needs about their needs.

Respite time is also important for the siblings of special needs children; they need a safe space for time alone. We have a stairgate across the bedroom for our middle two, so that they have a place where they can go, and it’s also a place to keep their treasured possessions safe. They need special time on their own with their parents, as well as time all together to develop as a family: This may also be to help the special needs child develop turn taking, sharing and self-esteem.

Currently, we are in the Statementing Process where we had to Name a School for our son to attend. The one we feel is best for his needs is 10 miles away, and this obviously impacts on our two middle children. They always expected for their brother to join them at their own school – but this again could really impact on them – in terms of education and socialising. Their school also does not feel that they could support our youngest son’s needs. My other children worry about their brother, and especially now they will not be in the same school to look after him.

We try to ensure that the siblings do not feel like they have to be the parent though, but they do like to feel like they could help their brother. It is important that siblings do not take on too much responsibility for their special needs sibling, and that they are only asked to do what is within their capabilities. For example they should not be expected to babysit unless they are emotionally comfortable with the situation. Then any signs of sacrifice are best rewarded with affection.

If our youngest son is able to attend the school of choice it will mean that it will not be possible for me to take all my three young children to school, as they will be too far away to get to school on time.

As a mother how do you decide who gets that time? That special memory? And this isn’t the same as me working, because the children will know that I decided which child to be with, rather than I had to be at work.

Then there’s the possibility that they will have to change school, leaving behind their friends. This would be closer, the older one more independent, and mean I may be better supported. The older one is in an important year and the younger one has known the children he is with for three and a half years and really does not want to move.

Or do we not send our youngest to school?