What about Me? Growing Up with a Developmentally Disabled Sibling

What about Me? Growing Up with a Developmentally Disabled Sibling

What about Me? Growing Up with a Developmentally Disabled Sibling

What about Me? Growing Up with a Developmentally Disabled Sibling

Synopsis

How do families cope with the stressful aspects of raising a developmentally disabled child? There are over a million mentally impaired children in the United States, and another million children suffering from physical disorders or sensory handicaps. In What About Me?: Growing Up with a Developmentally Disabled Sibling, Dr. Siegel, a highly regarded developmental psychologist, and Dr. Silverstein, a respected pediatrician, compassionately address the issue of living with a neurologically impaired sibling. They offer an incisive guide to the psyche of siblings who must assume difficult tasks and burdens, and approach their subject from a variety of perspectives, including a poignant first-person account by Dr. Silverstein, himself the older brother of an autistic sibling; a fascinating view from Dr. Siegel based on clinical interviews with over 1000 families of different ethnic and social and educational backgrounds and their approaches to handicaps; a compelling review of research on family factors and adjustments of the nonimpaired siblings; an analysis of family coping and defenses patterned on the Adult Children of Alcoholics model; and a helpful chapter for adult siblings on the legal aspects of becoming one's "brother's keeper." The authors also describe an interesting and clinically useful series of prototypical "roles" adopted by siblings in coping with a disabled brother or sister: the Parentified Child, the Withdrawn Child, the Acting-Out Child, and the Superachieving Child. To depict the psychological dynamics within the family, this book features vignettes of everyday situations that have presented problems caused by the inevitable adjustments and conflicts of living with a developmentally disabled child. There is also a helpful appendix of exercises for individuals, discussion groups, and parents of disabled children that explore the experiences of trying to cope with a handicapped child.

Excerpt

Those unfamiliar with the topic may wonder why someone is publishing a book about the impact a developmentally delayed child can have on family life in general and on that child's brothers or sisters in particular. Even the briefest reflection underscores the inevitability of such effects as one considers the special needs of such children both in the home and outside it. Is it not then reasonable to assume that research about and resources for siblings of children with autism, mental retardation, and other severe developmental disorders abound? Reasonable, perhaps; but incorrect.

Not so many years ago, the fate of children with severe delays of any kind was quite different than it is today. in the United States, as recently as the 1950s, such children were institutionalized almost as soon as they were identified and spent their lives hidden away from society. Usually, the resulting hole within the family, if acknowledged at all, was referred to obliquely, with a sense of shame and guilt. Siblings were apt to have only the vaguest notion about what happened to such a brother or sister.

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