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The Forgotten Siblings of Special Needs Children

You’d think this is a no brainer. Nevertheless, when there is a special needs child you do everything financially and emotionally to help your child. But what happens when you have other children?

I listened to a speech not long ago at a local toastmaster. A young twelve-year-old boy arrived with a family friend and took the invite to try an impromptu speech. He spoke about his brother who had autism and that even though he too had dreams to join some sport or participate in a community club that cost money, he was not allowed. Not because his parents didn’t love him, but because they couldn’t afford the extra cost. And what he said had me sit up a little straighter, “My brother comes first, we must sacrifice for him so he can get the help he needs.”

When you have a special needs child, a child with autism, the cost for therapy alone is astronomical. It’s also imperative your child does therapy. However, ask yourself this, is it better to sacrifice any hope that special needs child has at his or her own independence because you can’t afford it? Your other children have dreams to participate in some activity that costs money, why do you have to choose?

Many parents are faced with this decision. And without early intervention and the right credible therapy special needs children face a bleak outcome. Adulthood in a group home, an institution or being cared for by their aging parents or sibling.

The average person is not a millionaire. Far from it. And the high numbers of special needs children means parents will spend everything they have to help their child. This is where siblings can be left out and feeling they are the sacrifice. They ask Mom and Dad if they can join hockey, football, a recreation program, or music lessons, but are told “no” because we can’t afford it. The sibling grows resentful because they have to go without. How do you balance both so your special needs child gets the help they need and the other siblings are able to participate in activities they choose?

Think about it because the answer’s not as easy as you may think. It requires creativity and community support.

1. Therapy for the special needs child should include the whole family. Make it fun. Steer away from one on one therapy, where your other children are excluded or have to be quiet in the house when therapy is going on. Many special needs children do not want to be separated from their siblings. There are creative options that benefit everyone–creative options that work.

2. Many parents have sold their homes, everything of value. Increase lines of credits, credit cards, which yes brings on a whole new set of problems. “But it’s only money,” as one parent said. “And your children are more important than that luxury car or house. Things are just things.” Yes these are quotes from I know, parents that have done this.

One of things I firmly believe and advocate for is every community should offer activities, sports, community clubs for free to the siblings of special needs children, as well as to the special needs child, especially where the family is financially burdened. And it should be done in a way the family and children are not labelled or ostracized as charity cases.

In one community when a parent swallowed their pride and asked for some assistance for community activities from the local community charity that offered this funding they were given free passes to the local swimming pool. But the swimming pool was required to keep the pass card, this was the policy. So when the parent arrived with the children and asked for the punch card The Lady behind the desk announced loud enough for the entire line of patrons waiting to pay, “oh yours in the one provided by that charity for those who can’t afford to pay. It’s a different color, no wonder I couldn’t find it?” Now how do you think that parent and siblings felt? I’m pretty sure they never went back.