Sibling Concerns

– from ‘The Hindu, December 1, 2003’

PARENTS OF special children experience concerns and issues that are uniquely theirs. So do their brothers and sisters, who’ll most likely be involved in the life of the special child, much longer than anyone else (including the parents). And there is a growing awareness that for the sake of everyone – siblings, parents, providers and especially the individual with special needs – siblings and their concerns must not be ignored.

Mythily Chari, founder director, Institute of Remedial Intervention Services (IRIS), says, “Siblings of special children are often not considered valuable human resource by service providers or primary carers, though they’ve the longest association with special people. Along with sharing the joys and burdens of growing up with a brother or sister with special needs, they also may have to perform for the `non performing’ sibling. And very rarely do parents sit and discuss the sibling’s special need in a comprehensive manner.”

Says Vyjayanthi Manivelu, whose 11-year-old, a special child with Asperger’s Syndrome, has an older sibling, “It is natural for a parent of a special child to feel stressed out, and unconsciously neglect the sibling, who can feel unloved and resentful. Forums where sibling interactions are possible can make a positive difference to the whole family.”

Sulatha Ajit, director, Special Education, Sankalp, Anna Nagar, says, “Most siblings face problems of parental pressure and the need `to fulfil solely parental ambitions.’ Added to this is the fear of ostracism by peer groups. When relevant issues are not addressed comprehensively, a sibling may exhibit behavioural problems.”

To coincide with the World Disability Week (December 1-7), IRIS and Sankalp are jointly organising the Sahaja Workshop on December 6. The interactive workshop will address the needs of siblings/cousins of special people.

Targeted at children between 8 and 13+years, the workshop is not meant to train or provide therapy or counsel, but is an opportunity to learn more about concerns and share experiences. For registration, contact 22310968 or Sankalp Learning Centre, ph: 26182588.