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Excerpts from I Have Needs Too!

 I Have Needs Too!


Supporting the child

whose sibling has special needs



Elizabeth A. Batson


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Having a brother or sister with special needs changes a child’s experience of growing up.

At the sibling workshops sponsored by Parents Helping Parents, children age 8 to 12 get a chance to talk about their experiences.

“It’s hard to go out with my brother because we never know when he might throw a temper tantrum.”

“I like to play with my brother. We rough-house together. But when I have a friend come over, he won’t leave me alone.”

“Sometimes the kids at school make fun of my sister. It is really embarrassing.”

These are special children – the brothers and sisters who will be the life-long family for their sibling with special needs. They face unique challenges and they want and need their parents’ support and understanding. Meanwhile, parents struggle to meet the needs of these children while coping with the extra demands of raising a child with special needs.

This book offers insight into the lives of these brothers and sisters, as well as advice on how to help them. The topics are based on the common themes that emerge in the sibling workshops: embarrassment, the wish for understanding, the sense of responsibility, the importance of fairness, the need for protection, and the love and joy that they share with their brother or sister.   

Chapter 1: Embarrassment

What it is like: (Quotes and drawings from the kids to help you understand their feelings.)

If we go to a movie, my brother wants to spend the whole time running up and down the aisle.

When we are at the grocery store, if my mother says, “No” then my brother will throw a huge tantrum and everyone will be staring at him.

Sometimes my sister will start flapping her arms. People think it is weird.

[When my brother acts up in public,] they are also looking at me because they think I might have the same thing as my brother.  Even though I don’t. Sometimes I feel so much embarrassment that I pretend that I’m not there.

I like to be able to talk to my parents and have them listen to my feelings. It seems strange but sometimes it helps.

I wish we could disappear when my friends say, "Why is your brother jumping like that"

How parents can help: (Practical advice on how to help.)

Show that you understand by summarizing the essence of what they are trying to tell you. (“You feel embarrassed when people see your sister acting like that.”) Sometimes just listening and validating can be enough.

Once your child feels understood, she will be more open to hearing whatever else you want to say.

Give them in fantasy what they can’t have in reality. Do they need a wall of invisibility? A mute button for their sibling? Be as silly and ridiculous as you can. This is about connecting with feelings, not taking action......

sample discussion guide:

Copyright © 2011 Elizabeth A. Batson. All Rights Reserved