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A Review of: “SIBLING SUPPORT: THE OTHER CHILD A Panel Discussion About the Dynamics of The Special Needs Family”

A Review of: “SIBLING SUPPORT: THE OTHER CHILD A Panel Discussion About the Dynamics of The Special Needs Family”

A wonderful evening was had by all who attended the Siblings panel at the Shames JCC on the Hudson on June 15th! The lively participation of all our audience members was elemental to the success of the discussion!

We first heard from our two Sibling panelists, Paulina Paras & Nicholas Lombardi, who shared their experiences growing up with a sibling with special needs, followed by professional advice from Stefani Cohen, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (available through a generous grant of the UJA Federation of NY).  The candid anecdotes from the two sibling panelists were relatable to audience members, including the parents and siblings of children with special needs, and the individuals with special needs, themselves.

After the panel, the parents and siblings shared how this discussion helped open their eyes to the value of COMMUNICATION.  Both sibling panelists vouched for participation in a Siblings Group of sorts and explained how it played a big role in shaping their thoughts and attitudes towards special needs in a positive way.  They are both now pursuing studies and careers involving special needs, and have very healthy relationships with their siblings with special needs.

Below are some tidbits of wisdom gleaned from the discussion for both parents and siblings of special needs individuals:

For Parents:

  • The attitude that a parent exudes towards the disability in the family is a model for how the rest of the family will react towards the disability
  • Encourage conversation, open up outlets for communication, and validate feelings
    • Sometimes there is no time to delve into a full conversation, so the phrase “Thank you for sharing,” keeps future dialogue open
  • Not all questions need to have answers; it’s okay to not know!
  • There is no handbook for how to raise a family with a child with special needs; you must do what is best for you and your family, without comparing to other families with neuro-typical or special needs children
  • Everyone has “special needs”
    • Take time for self-care
    • Be conscious of your neuro-typical child’s needs (thoughts and emotions)

For Siblings:

  • Develop an “elevator speech”; Find the language to discuss the disability
    • Know your level of comfort in discussing
    • Make others aware of your comfort level
    • Gauge others’ interest in learning more
  • Develop a response mechanism towards those who are misinformed or perhaps disrespectful towards disabilities
    • Pick a response that is authentic to your personality
      • Examples:
        • Explain the disability
        • Discuss your feelings on the subject / how someone’s words or actions made you feel
        • Have a “one-liner” prepared
      • As children, you have the power to teach your generation about disabilities from a personal standpoint
      • Defending a sibling isn’t always easy, so it is important to be prepared
    • There are other siblings who are having the same thoughts and feelings as you!
      • Sometimes on a different scale, due to a range of disabilities
      • Sometimes at different stages in life, due to birth order, age, and circumstances
      • Finding these siblings to discuss with can be relieving and supportive

We are thankful for the input of all who participated and for the collaboration of the Shames JCC on the Hudson.  This was an event worth repeating.  For information on our talks and workshop presentations, please visit our events and presentations page