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?

16 thoughts on “Making Sacrifices – Siblings of Special Needs Children”

  1. We decided that a special needs school was what was best for Livvy. Her sisters were upset but it gave them freedom from worrying while that were at school. They got to be free from protecting or even caring for Livvy. Saying that though they made us promise that Livvy would attend school plays etc as there were never ashamed of her. They also attended all they could at Livvys school, fetes etc. we also had some inclusion with kids from main stream attending activities at special school.

    It is hard at times on our other children but they never complained ok maybe a little when we were in hospital for a long period of time.
    We made sure that the siblings got to do normal things, swimming, dance etc.

    Now after losing Livvy my girls wouldn’t change a moment of their lives with her and they tell me they miss her everyday and miss being there for her.

  2. Oh my goodness, what an awful lot you have to consider there. Great post. I’m afraid I can’t offer any advice, as I’m not in your position, bit it sounds like you’re doing a great job of considering all of your children’s needs.

  3. So interesting to read this. My little one is an only child and I battle with whether to try for another given his needs (and my age). So many decisions you have to make on a daily basis and it sounds like you are doing a great job. All I can say about changing schools is that my parents did a major relocate when i was seven (hundreds of miles). Whilst I was upset at the time at leaving all my friends, I did adjust eventually and actually the opportunities the move ended up giving me were great x

  4. Having a special needs child, our middle one, has definitely impacted our other children… I think it’s a balancing act to make sure that there are positive impacts as well as negative ones…

  5. I have had friends with special needs siblings–invariably they are protective and supportive of the special needs child-did they feel left out? Yes, on occasion. You can only do what you can do and you sound like you are doing it all very well.

  6. That’s super tough. I feel that I can relate, but only a little. I have two children that are 12 months apart (accidents happen to married people, too!) I always feel bad that my older child is having to sacrifice time with his parents and having to grow up quicker than I would wish for him. But, then I think about all the wonderful things that come with having a sibling so close in age. Your other children learn to love more deeply, how to be more patient and understanding, and how to thrive in difficult situations. What wonderful blessings for your children. It’s super hard to see things that way though. Keep on truckin’, it sounds like you are doing a great job raising your children.

  7. Difficult questions re schooling. Have you any parent carer or support groups in your area that you can talk it over with? Am really not sure what I would go for – although I may have a similar decision to make in the next few years. All I know is that it is MUCH more dificult than the kind of decisions those with only NT children have to make.
    The siblings issue has alsways been a bit one for us too – but it sounds as though you’re doing everything you can, and they do sound like wonderful siblings!

    • Thank you. He’s not been diagnosed as yet so bit difficult to know where to go. If it is Autism I didn’t think much of my local group. We have moved the children so that’s the first step sorted. Thank you for you time and comment.

    • Thank you – they have taken the move really well, and made lots of new friends. I am sure that sometimes having a sibling with special needs makes the siblings more special

  8. The siblings topic is one I am accutely aware of at the moment. Not just the time spent with each but the fact that Mia actually takes on role of mini carer more and more.

  9. Your children are all amazing. Do the middle two access any Young Carers projects? I work quite closely with ours, and they work with sibling carers as well as the more recognised children of a disabled parent. It’s a good opportunity for them to let off steam, to have their own special time, and to chat to other children in similar situations. It’s a great project & I know the young people who are involved really get a lot out of it, lots of opportunities & strong friendships.

    • Sorry for the late reply. No I did meet some people who said they did this at National Play Day and they said they would e-mail me but didn’t.

      Thank you for your lovely comment.

      • I’ll have a nosey at work, we have projects all across the UK, if we’ve got anything local I’ll let you know. Your local authority’s Family Information Service should be able to give you info as well, but they can be a bit vague.


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