By Cynthia M. Wallace
Sibling relationships are a critical component of all family interactions. Siblings typically have a unique bond because they share a home, are often playmates and build a lifetime of memories together. This relationship between siblings can often be impacted significantly by a disability.
Children who have a sibling with a disability may have unique sibling interactions or experience a range of emotions that may be difficult to process. These children may learn to love deeply and unconditionally and to accept others for their uniqueness. They may learn to be teachers and those who celebrate accomplishments regardless of the size. They may also inadvertently slip into a parenting role or experience feelings of fear, anger or resentment related to their siblings’ disability. They may not understand why their brother or sister may get a disproportionate amount of their parents’ attention or how to talk about what they are feeling. They may be embarrassed by their sibling’s behavior or feel somehow responsible.
It is important that children understand their siblings’ disability (at a developmentally appropriate level) and the service that he/she may receive inside and outside the home. It is also important for children to have safe space to ask questions and to share their concerns. This is where a group for siblings can be beneficial.
A sibling group provides an opportunity for conversation, art exploration and games all focused on building meaningful relationships between kids who have a common experience. Common concerns can be discussed and they can learn ways to problem solve situations that may only be experienced by siblings of a child with a disability.
Local school counselors have expressed the need for their students to participate in such a group. In answer to this community need, Anchorpoint is offering an eight-week support and educational group: Siblings of Children with a Disability (click here for a flyer with more details). This group will meet weekly starting on Saturdays for 90 minutes and will provide an opportunity for children to have fun (play games, create art), meet others who have siblings with a disability, learn about some of the services their siblings may receive and talk about the good, and sometimes, not so good, things related to having a sibling with special needs. If you feel your child would benefit from a group of this type, please contact Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry to register at 412-366-1300.
Cynthia M. Wallace is an intern at Anchorpoint completing a masters degree in counseling at Geneva College. She has extensive experience as an elementary school teacher and administrator. Cynthia has been married for almost thirty years and is the mother of four adult children.