Altruism, tolerance, orientation towards
humanitarian interests, protective sibling relationships, cognitive
advancement, increased social skills and roles, social competence,
satisfaction through involvement. Information is now coming from fathers
and siblings in these families whereas in the past only mothers’
responses were sought.
Possible negative outcomes:
Behavioural problems (older social attitudes showed
that there was less tolerance to a family as a whole if one child had a
disorder, but recent studies show that differences in behavioural
problems seem to be reducing).
Some studies found that self esteem is better and
that children who have grown up with a disabled sibling have more
experience and hence more confidence in tackling day to day problems.
Not all studies support this finding.
Common problems in all families:
Competing needs within a family change.
Brothers and sisters may adopt some of the traits of
the child with the disability. Everyone should be informed and
understand the full impact of the disability, particularly that it is
not contagious or they will not ‘take turns’.
Can become a problem especially in teenage years –
sharing of feelings is important. Parents can show frustration with some
of the behaviours of the disabled child, and yet show that the child is
still loved in spite of this.
Responsibility – feeling that something one said
or did caused the child’s problem.
Why not me?
Normal sibling conflict:
Unnecessarily sparing the child.
Within and without the family; some social
opportunities are restricted or limited and some unfair responsibilities
may fall on the other siblings.
Social relationships for siblings:
Parents are often concerned that the normal siblings
will be stigmatised because of the child with the disability. Evidence
shows that this is not a problem. In fact, some siblings use their
disabled brother or sister as a measuring stick towards others. If you
don’t accept him / her then you are not a friend of mine.
Improving sibling relationships:
Let children see that a certain behaviour can
frustrate parents too, but they can love the child in spite of this.
MOST FAMILIES ARE VERY SUCCESSFUL IN COPING WITH A
CHILD WITH A DISORDER, BUT THE HOW HAS NOT YET BEEN DEFINED.
Which issues will be important as we all get older:
Parents often assume communication as taken place,
but if the children were too young at the time, they may not have
properly understood. Hereditary factors will have to be clear, as
in-laws and more children are planned.
Recommended reading: "A Difference in the
Family" by Helen Featherston.
"A handicap inevitably changes the experience
of each child in the family, but exceptional families offer normal
children unusual opportunities as well as unusual problems." H.