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Supporting Siblings of Children with a Diagnosis/Disability

08/28/2017 12:18PM ● Published by Digital Media Director

By: Emma Ranum, MA and Aimee Deliramich, PhD, LifeScape

Moreover, research has established a link between sibling relationships and psychological adjustment. Being a sibling of a child with a developmental disability can affect children and the sibling relationship both negatively and positively. When children are unable to communicate effectively, have behavioral concerns, or are aggressive towards siblings, it’s difficult to build and maintain a positive sibling relationship. When siblings are unable to play cooperatively, talk to each other, or have positive interactions they often have higher levels of conflict in their relationships. This conflict can lead the siblings, especially the typically developing sibling, feeling sad, frustrated, or mad. Recent research has shown while having a sibling with a disability can add to stress, it doesn’t necessarily lead to damage. It can lead instead to creative problem solving and personal growth. Children who have disabled siblings can gain a greater appreciation of the value of different kinds of people and become more understanding of human differences.

It’s important for parents to be aware of how their children are interacting so they can intervene early to improve the quality of sibling relationships. Organized/supervised play time, family outings or sibling dates, educating children about their sibling’s disability and psychotherapy can all be helpful interventions.

In addition, resources such as Sibshops through South Dakota Parent Connection provide children with the opportunity and support to connect with other children in similar situations.

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