As a SENCo, I spend much of my time ensuring the school is providing for the children with the greatest needs. Sometimes these needs also impact on life at home and parents often raise concerns about the effect on brothers and sisters, where one child takes up so much attention within the family.
Research suggests there are positives and negatives to having a sibling with SEND. For example, these siblings tend to have higher levels of emotional maturity and can be more tolerant and caring than their peers, often choosing to work in careers that involve working directly with special needs. It is also suggests that this can strengthen family bonds for a lifetime. For younger siblings, they may never have known anything different and just accept the situation as the norm, while older siblings learn to accept it as so.
However, it has also been reported that siblings are more likely to be impacted by behavioural and emotional changes that may affect relationships within the family and consequently may be more prone to anxiety and depression. Some may also feel the lack of support where parents are focused on the needs of one child in particular or they may take on the role of a young carer themselves. They may be particularly vulnerable during teenage years as pressure on school and social life increases.
The role of siblings is an under researched area which is not catered for within special educational needs policy and guidance. Charities supporting them however include Sibs and youngSibs (for 7 to 17 years olds) which provides tips and information and a moderated chat forum.
SCOPE also offers parents advice for supporting siblings which include: spending some individual time with that child, ensuring that they are able to continue with their normal routines and activities and letting them choose whether they help out.
Picture books can also be useful. Through the Eyes of Me, written by Jon Roberts is narrated by a 4-year old girl with autism who talks about the things she likes and dislikes and is a useful tool for helping to explain autism to a young child.