Supporting siblings who have a brother or sister with special educational needs or a disability

If you have a child with special educational needs or a disability (SEND) you may find it puts added stress on other family members because you are having to provide more care and support to your child with SEND. 

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Balancing your children’s needs 

Finding the right balance in looking after your other children and caring for your child with a disability has it challenges for various reasons.  Your other children may feel that their sibling with SEND receives more attention and that they do not get treated in the same way. You may have higher expectations of your other children and rely on their help and support.  Your children may experience other children at school being unkind to them because of their siblings needs or they may be worried that their sibling with SEND will be bullied. This can make them feel angry, sad, jealous, frustrated or confused. Some parent carers report they feel guilty as so much time is given to their caring responsibilities. These are very natural responses.  

As a parent /carer you could help your children by:  

  • making sure that your other children have a good understanding of their brother or sisters’ differences and why they need extra support  

  • explaining how and why special educational needs might occur  

  • making time to listen to them, letting them communicate in whatever way makes them feel most comfortable  

  • trying to make time to do something together, without their siblings if possible 

  • helping them to think about their own future as siblings may be worried there is an expectation they will be the main carer when they are older     

  • finding out about local and national support for them, such as groups and helplines  

Sibs is national charity that supports and provides information about siblings. Their website has details of how you can support your child and information about support for bullying.  

The positives of having a sibling with SEND   

Having a sibling with SEND can help to make your other children more tolerant and accepting of others.  

Although providing care for their sibling can be hard, it can give them a purpose, identity and improve their self-esteem.  

The responsibility they take and skills they develop are all attributes that can help them to progress in life. They should be admired by employers and young adult carers can focus of these transferable skills when looking for a job.  

Support for siblings  

Many siblings who have a brother or sister with SEND will help out at home more often than what would be expected of someone of a similar age. Children who regularly do a caring role are known as ‘young carers’ and support is available to make sure they also get time for themselves. 

The Carers Support Centre in Bristol and South Gloucestershire provide a service called Young carers. More details are also available to read on Young Carers on the council website.    

Sibs is a national charity which provides information to help siblings and their Parents and Carers. They have also developed a website for younger siblings called Young Sibs where siblings can chat with others and speak to an advisor.  

Activities that families can do together  

A challenge that parents often face if you have a child with SEND is finding things to do that all your children can enjoy, at the same time. Below are some local groups who provide that opportunity for families to do things together. You can also search the directory further for other things to do.  

Further Information  

Contact a charity for families with disabled children have produced a guide on Information for Siblings 

Children’s Hospice South West – Sibling Support 

Rethink Mental Illness – Siblings Network 

Scope -  Balancing care and support for siblings