Siblings of Special Needs Children - How Siblings Feel

What About Me?

When parents have to cope with the time and energy drain created by the situation of caring for their child with special needs, other children in the family are affected.

Time that used to be available for siblings is gone. Instead of playing ball or helping with homework, Dad may be poring over paperwork, trying to make sense of letters from medical departments. Mom spends her days doing therapy and is too tired and stressed to hear about another child's day and problems.


When a sister of a disabled child wants to shop for clothes, she may be told that money is needed by the parents for the medical needs of her special needs sister. A brother may shout until he receives an item that he says all his friends have, and secretly feel guilty for overtaxing his parents' budget, which is stretched to its limits, or beyond, in caring for the child in the family with special needs.

Acting Bad, Acting Good

A brother or sister may act out when they are jealous for attention. Their behavior can be a form of communication - by means of this drama, the boy or girl is saying, "What about me?"

At the other end of the spectrum, kids may act "too" good, attempting to lead quiet lives so that they can assure that their parents lives proceed smoothly. They are afraid of adding more hassle to an overburdened mother or father, because it could make their own lives even tougher. Kids also may fear disturbing an overwrought Mom or Dad, and possibly further damaging the disabled sibling with added stress. They can also act overly helpful in order to receive attention they are missing.

Healthy kids might wish they were sick too - to get attention, or because they feel guilty for being the normal ones.

A brother or sister of a child with special needs might resent being asked to assist with care, and wonder if eventually the full burden of care might fall on them. Even if they are happy to help out, and even if later on they will actually provide care for their disabled sibling, negative feelings are a normal part of the mix.

They may feel embarrassed by their disabled sister or brother's unusual appearance or behavior. Siblings may wish that a disabled sister or brother would just go away, or even die. This isn't evil; it is a typical psychological reaction to the child's stressful situation.

Learn some useful pointers abut helping siblings of disabled children.