When I first found out about my child’s special needs, I needed advice. A friend of a friend’s mother called me. I didn’t know this woman and she didn’t even live in my same state. Yet she took the time to reach out and share with me some great wisdom. One thing she shared was that if the time came that I had other children, they would grow to be the most caring people. She said her special needs child had taught her other children how to be kind and aware of others.
Whenever a special needs child comes to a family, there is a wonderful opportunity to grow with love. As I have had additional children I have seen this truth unfold. My other children are very kind and aware of others. They have had the gift of serving their sister, which I believe has opened their eyes to an awareness of others. With that being said, with a special needs child, it often can feel like you are always thinking and doing for the child that needs the most help.
The question is, how can you support a child that has a sibling with special needs so they can receive the love and attention they need as well? It is possible to find balance. Here are three ways to support a child that has a special needs sibling:
1. Give the child responsibilities and praise them
Help your child think of ideas or ways they can serve their sibling to help them connect. Whenever I took my daughter to her P.T. appointments, her little sister–starting at 18 months old–was in charge of holding her walking sticks. To my surprise, one day my little one had not only held her sister’s sticks, but also had dragged them down the long walkway with her until she reached the door. She waited patiently to open the door for her sister. Oh how I praised her and it became something she always did. Giving a child a responsibility and praising them for their service to their siblings goes a long way.
2. Discuss and answer their questions
There has been a time when my children have become more aware of their sister’s special needs. They get questions from friends and others they meet about their sister. We talk openly about how they feel and how to best share about their sister’s needs. They have learned that we all have disabilities. We are all learning and growing in our own ways. They have learned that disabilities can also be great strengths. Because people often notice their sister with special needs, they have seen her kind example of how to respond with a warm hello to others. Through discussion they have learned some valuable life lessons. In our home we often ask, “What does your sister teach us when we fall down in life? They reply, “You get back up.” There can be some wonderful conversations with a child about their sibling with special needs.
3. Take time to focus on just the one
We all love those one-on-one moments with a child. Take time to connect and bond with your child. Focus on their interests that they might enjoy. Oftentimes my kids just want mommy time to themselves and they don’t care what the activity is. Sometimes I have checked a child out of school just to go to lunch together so they can feel special. What about a date night with you and your child? Just give them the gift of your love and attention one-on-one.
How can you support a child that has a sibling with special needs? It is possible to find balance.
These are all wonderful ways that you can incorporate support to a child with a special needs sibling. Just start with one that works well for you and your child to help them grow with a loving awareness of themselves, their sibling with special needs, and others.
Ardice K. Lorscheider was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Lake Oswego, Oregon. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University, where she graduated with degrees in Social Work and Family Science.
Ardice fell in love and married a sweet Utah boy. The Lorscheiders spent 20 years dealing with infertility to have their beautiful family. She is totally smitten by her three amazing girls. She has served as a youth president in her church and as a school parent organization president.
Ardice is a business partner with her husband and together they serve the oral health needs of northern Utah County. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Uplift Families. Her greatest service has been serving her eldest daughter who has special needs. Every day she is reminded of what matters most. Ardice is charmed by architecture, reading at the beach, and tea parties in the garden.