It Isn't Fair! Siblings of Children with Disabilities

By Stanley D. Klein; Maxwell J. Schleifer | Go to book overview

The Sibling Situation

Betty Pendler

I want to respond to Mrs. J. Bowes, Chicago, Illinois, who, in your Oct/Nov/Dec issue, asked about how other parents handle the sibling situation. I won't even use the word "problem," because I firmly believe if the parents do not consider it a problem, then it will never be one. By that I wish to say that there is no question in my mind that the parents set the stage for the way the siblings, the neighbors and the community will view the child.

I am the mother of a girl with Down syndrome. Early in my soul searching development, I decided that I would act "as if" she were normal (without losing sight of reality) and consciously treat her as a child first, who happened to be retarded. However, I very openly talked about her retardation, even to her younger brother as early as age three. So please, Mrs. Bowes, do not think that your nine and five-year-olds are too young to understand. They may not get the conceptual meaning of mentally retarded, but you must not be afraid to use the term openly and freely to anyone, with the view that having a mentally retarded sibling is just another fact of life that the family constellation has to live with without making it an earth shaking experience.

As early as age four, my son Paul asked about why his sister Lisa talked funny. I explained, without knowing how much of it he was absorbing, that just as some people are born with one leg and can't walk or others can't hear

-79-

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It Isn't Fair! Siblings of Children with Disabilities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • PART I Siblings Begin to Talk Together 1
  • Brother to Sister, Sister to Brother 3
  • Forgotten Children 33
  • PART II Parents and Professionals 41
  • For the Love of Wess 45
  • A Sibling Born Without Disabilities: A Special Kind of Challenge 51
  • When the Youngest Becomes the Oldest 55
  • Brothers With a Difference 61
  • Darwin and Caleb 65
  • Christina Loves Katherine 71
  • Is That Your Brother? Our Family's Response 75
  • The Sibling Situation 79
  • But Not Enough to Tell the Truth: Developmental Needs of Siblings 83
  • PART III Siblings 87
  • The Other Children 91
  • Life With My Sister: Guilty No More 97
  • My Brother Warren 103
  • My Special Brother 107
  • Reflections of a College Freshman: Away from Home for the First Time 109
  • Courage in Adversity: My Brother Dick 111
  • Dear Mom 115
  • PART IV Case Studies 121
  • When I Grow Up, I'm Never Coming Back! 133
  • Jerry Got Lost in the Shuffle 139
  • We Go Our Separate Way, Together but Alone 147
  • I'm Not Going to Be John's Baby Sitter Forever 155
  • PART V Young Siblings 163
  • Conclusion 171
  • Resources 173
  • Index 175
  • About the Editors 177
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