Sometimes, getting advice from those who have first-hand knowledge of an issue is the best advice there is. A couple of weeks ago, Christine Matus, Esq. of The Matus Law Group invited a special group of experts to take part in a roundtable discussion on special needs siblings. The experts? A group of kids who have special needs siblings themselves. To make an appointment with a special needs trust attorney please call (732) 281 – 0060.
Firsthand Advice From Our Panel of Experts
Ms. Matus sat down via Zoom video call with these young people whom she has come to know in her life as a special needs lawyer and mother. She wanted to get firsthand advice from special needs siblings on how to help others with a brother or sister with unique needs.
What makes your sibling unique?
When Christine asked what made their sibling unique, each of them talked affectionately and without much indication that their sibling was very different from them or even different than any other sibling. In fact, the things that made their sibling most unique had very little to do with their special needs but who they were as a person.
Emma: “My sister has Down syndrome and she loves to play video games. She beats me all the time! She’s very good at that!”
Matthew V.: “My brother has autism. He doesn’t say things a lot but he’s very determined to get what he wants. Also, he didn’t know how to swim at first but he really wanted to get in the water so he taught himself.”
Michele: “My brother has ADHD and is very energetic. He loves playing video games. We sometimes play together but most of the time he likes to play by himself.”
What do you have in common?
When Ms. Matus asked the kids what they had in common with their special needs siblings, their answers indicated that their sibling had a lot of the same interests.
Matthew B.: “My brother and I like to play basketball and video games together a LOT. We have a basketball hoop in our backyard and we can shoot that ball all day!”
Matthew V.: “Most of us like to do our own separate things but music is one of the things that we all share as a family. My brother likes to sing music over and over again. Sometimes I think Alexa will break!”
Michele: “We both play basketball. So sometimes we’ll go outside and shoot some hoops. And sometimes we’ll play video games together.”
Emma: “I just got my sister into anime. We’re kind of opposites in our personalities — she’s more energetic than me and I’m more mellow — but we still do a lot together.”
Is there any advice that you can give to somebody with a brother or sister with special needs if they are feeling frustrated?
The sibling of a special needs child may often have conflicting feelings of frustration with their sibling and yet feel a responsibility toward them. When Ms. Matus asked them for special advice that they could share, our panel reflected a loyalty, compassion, and patience that seemed well beyond their years.
Matthew B.: “If somebody is staring at my brother, I will just go up and talk to them. Just keep a smile on your face.”
Matthew V.: – “You know how when some people say bad things, my mom says you just have to educate the people and make them understand why they are behaving that way. I usually just say to them that he is having a harder time than us.”
Michele: “If the staring is really bothering you, then you need to tell them to stop and that your brother or sister is just like you and me. You just have to remember it doesn’t matter what other people think about your sibling as long as you love them. That’s all that matters.”
Emma: “Usually what I do if I’m at a distance away from my sister, I will go over and hug her so that they know that I’m around. But if they keep doing it, I will go talk to them and inform them about her special needs.”
Any last things you want to say to anyone in your shoes?
Having a special needs sibling has its challenges but also its opportunities. Kids who grow up with a special needs family member will get to develop important life skills such as patience, kindness, compassion, acceptance and empathy for others who may be coping with challenges as well as a good dose of unconditional love.
Emma: “What I would tell them if they just found out that their sibling has special needs is it may take time but you will definitely get used to them and just treat them like a regular sibling and just have fun with them.”
Matthew B.: “You just have to encourage good things.”
In fact, the most important advice may have been the simplest from Matthew V.
“You’ve got to love them. They’re human like everybody else.”
Watch the entire discussion below: