I have a severely disabled brother and some of these tips from the national agency Contact leaflet (see the list below) for parents, my mum and dad did naturally, but also importantly, they had a sense of humour. My childhood was full of laughter and love, as well as the challenging behaviour from “my lovely, lovely bruvver”.
Doing homework was always hard for me, things got lost, eaten, broken and worse. (I'll leave that to your imaginations). It took me longer to learn to be organised than my friends. But I survived and learnt that a difficult childhood is not a difficult life. I wish some of the sibling support available now had been around when I was a child as I didn't know anyone else who had a brother like mine. Mum and Dad encouraged me to leave home and lead my own life as soon as I was ready.
I have learnt that there are many advantages that having a disabled brother or sister gives children, skills that other children can take longer to learn, such as a sense of personal responsibility, a maturity and compassion.
The Local Offer website has a number of links to support services for siblings.
The Contact leaflet (PDF 650KB) is an appealing read and it includes the following top tips for parents who have children with and without disabilities:
- talk about disability and additional needs from an early age
- talk open and honestly to siblings about the child’s condition
- spend time each day with siblings, one to one
- acknowledge the negative feelings as well as the positive ones
- allow siblings to speak their mind even if it is difficult
- give them a choice about spending time with their brother or sister
- teach siblings fun activities they can do with their brother or sister
- limit the type and amount of care and support that siblings do
- give siblings permission to enjoy and live their own lives
- make sure that your sibling child’s school knows what is happening at home
- don’t be negative, siblings can gain and learn from their experiences
- talk to siblings in the teenage years about plans for the future
- don’t put pressure on and don’t have too high expectations of siblings
- celebrate siblings’ achievements
There are more than 14 service providers on the Local Offer that can support children who have a sibling with a disability, and that includes the Action for Children service and the Young Carers of Northamptonshire Carers currently commissioned by the Local Authority. There are national network organisations, as well as play and stay groups around the county.
The NHS film for siblings can be found in Local Offer articles and information library (the second tab) on the Local Offer search results.
You can search for support by typing 'siblings' on the Local Offer.