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Siblings of Children with Special Needs

Posted Nov 19 2008 10:05am
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. It has been a very busy fall for many reasons. It seems like we have been dealing with one virus after another going through our house. Over the next few weeks, I hope to talk about some practical topics that we parents of special needs children face. Although Emma is our third child we often tell people that in some ways we feel like first time parents with her. Raising a child with special needs, especially with significant medical needs is a whole other world to learn about. As Emma is only just coming up to her first birthday, we are by no means experts in this area but have definitely learned a lot over the last year. So, I hope to bring up some issues that are unique to raising a child with special needs and perhaps share a few things that we have learned along the way.

One question that is often asked of us is "how are your other two children handling having a sibling with special needs". For us, our situation is a little unique because we set out specifically looking to adopt a baby with Down syndrome. So we had plenty of time to educate and prepare our other two children for what that would mean. Of course, you can only prepare yourselves so much and won't really know what it will be like until you are in the midst of it.

I believe our having adopted Emma was one of the best things we could have ever done for our other two children. Over this last year we have seen a lot of growth in their characters. Having a sibling with special needs has helped them become more sensitive, compassionate as well as less self-centered. Of course, it has not been easy all the time for them over the last year. They have had to sacrifice a lot and have had to share a big part of our time and energy, especially when Emma has been in the hospital. But, what this has taught them far out ways any difficulties they may have faced. This has helped them to see what is truly important in life and to be more accepting of those who are different. Through this we have tried to teach them that life is not about themselves, life is short and precious and we need to put others before ourselves. They have also seen how our faith and prayer have played an integral part in keeping our family strong through difficult times, like when Emma was awaiting open heart surgery.

In thinking about this issue, I came across a really good article in Today's Parent (click here to read article) that seems to give a really good balanced perspective as well as some practical tips in helping your other children. One thing we have really learned in our situation and heard from other parents as well, is a big part of your children's attitude towards having a sibling with special needs comes from your own attitude. If your attitude is very positive, your children will follow suit. When your children's attitude is very positive their friends will also follow suit. So, perhaps the first place to start in helping your children embrace the role of being a sibling to a child with special needs is to make sure that you have a healthy, positive perspective. Hope you will find this article helpful.
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