How would you explain to your child that his or her younger sibling is a special needs child?

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Renee - posted on 05/27/2010

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My Nigel 13 has osteogenesis imprefecta(brittle bones),CP,severe ADHD,bipolar and intermittent explosive disorder.Mya is 21/2.It's amazing the bond they have had since before birth.He talked to her while i was pregnant daily.He broke his femur 2 weeks before my csection.When He screamed in pain I swear she was trying to kick her way out.When he calmed back down so would she like ok why is my brother screaming like that.She's been very protective of him since she was barely 1.i know when she's old enough to sit and discuss his disabilities it won't be hard.She has never acted out or shown jealousy towards extra time he needs from us.She's right there trying to help already.Please don't let him call me and i not respond quick enough for her.She gets in his hospital bed and plays he's her big toy.She won't do anything without including him.
I agree it teaches them compassion and patience.I have a disability too.We're involved in disability rights protesting(adapt.org) .she was 23 months on her first protest. so Disability is natural too her.
one thing i know is when I'm too old to handle Nigel's care she will make sure he has the best services possible.And state folks will think oh no here comes his sister what does she want.
remember explain disability is natural and always be honest and factual.

Mary - posted on 05/27/2010

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This comes up regularly in our house. I have a 'typical' 7 year old daughter, a nearly 5yr old with Down syndrome and a 2 yeard old with cerebral palsy and leukodystrophy. My daughter has known since she was 2 (when her brother was born), that he is different to other children and learns things a bit slower. In the last year she has asked many more questions as to why and how, and she now understands about chromosomes and that David has an extra chromosome. My niece has a chromosome missing, and my daughter now understands that that makes things difficult for her too. With my youngest we explained that he didn't get oxygen before birth and that lead to his cerebral palsy. The leukodystrophy she understands because it is genetic. My daughter is very bright, so it is easy for her, but I think the key is to take the conversation to their level, and to never close the door on talking about it as their understanding increases over the years, but they need to have the right facts.

Ann Marie - posted on 05/06/2010

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With three children on the ASD spectrum, we had to answer these questions a lot. I have three tips:

1. Speak frankly. This is a fact of life and should not be sugar coated.
2. After stating it on the younger child's level, explain the "specialness" in layman's terms (not child terms). This will challenge your smaller one to learn more vocabulary and expand the horizons of understanding.
3. Enlist the help of the younger child. I am not talking about babysitting, but I am talking about helping the older sibling accomplish tasks, play games and interact with other children. This type of bonding lightning cannot break...even once teen years arrive. It will also foster a protective nature in the younger child to help the older child in difficult situations.

Hoping my experience with ten children helps,
Ann Marie

Chantelle - posted on 05/05/2010

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My 3 yr old has high functioning autisim and i have a 14 and 9 yr old girls to help the girls understand i sat them down and explained it to them as easy as i could and i've bought afew books for siblings written so they can understand a little easier. And it helped them to understand abit more. I have also found a place that is for siblings with a special needs bro/sis and they go away and let them be kids and do things i cant do with them at the moment. It helps them becos they can talk to other kids that goes through the same things as they do.

Rosa - posted on 05/05/2010

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Hi Eracelia, its a hard task. My youngest was diagnosed with down syndrome at birth, my oldest was 7 at the time. To be honest with you they dont understand it until they start getting older and notice that their sibling is not catching up as they are suppose to and thats when the questions start. My oldest is 13 now and she still doesn't understand certain things but she does read alot about down syndrome and how it affect the household and she is doing better in how she gets along with her younger sister. Undestanding comes with time, have patience.

Amanda - posted on 05/05/2010

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good question, im going through the same thing with my 7yr daughter special need and 5yrs old who was just diagnoses as adhd impulsive behavior. Ive always tried my best at explaining things to my son about his sister being different, at 5 he's just starting to understand that his sister is different and i think that having him in school has opened up a new world to him, its taken him 3 yrs to realize that she's not the same as everyother child, but now that he acknoledges this he's become more helpful with his sister, and trying to help me get them out more often, he helps alot with his big sister, which has been a blessing in disguise, but we still have a long way to go with him to explain everything to him.

Teresa - posted on 05/03/2010

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My 5 year old is often asking my 3 year old (with spastic paraparisis) to race. He points out that he's winning and his younger brother is loosing, and can be quite boastful/dominating. (I have 50 points and brother only has 35!) We've had several conversations like this:

"You are 2 and 1/2 years older, and there are some things that brother just can't do, like run. Life is not fair, and God does not give everyone the same gifts and skills. Jorge at school can read better than you, and you can run faster than your little brother, and your brother is a happier person than baby Sammy. It's important to help your brother and sometimes "let" him win, just because he is so little."

The compassion hasn't kicked in yet, but I'm hoping it does soon! Best wishes!

Eracelia - posted on 05/03/2010

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Wow that was amazing, I understand and I no she does she has questions and I always make sure I answer them at her level so..Thank you so much

Eracelia - posted on 05/03/2010

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Awesome, I will try that shes only 4 and he's 2 but shes askes about hem and what things our and what are the doctors are doing to her baby brother so Thank you

Tracy - posted on 05/03/2010

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i have a 10yr old old son with langer-giedion syndrome which is really rare and he is the only one in new zealand with in,he has an 11yr old brother who has grown up with a natural understanding that sometimes his brother cant do things with him and goes to hospital quite alot. I told him about his brothers condition when i thought he was old enough to kind of understand and he understood better than i thought he would... I think we underestimate our kids alot because our natural desire is to protect them.Please dont worry,it has actualy made my older son more understanding of people who have disabilities and he cares more about what other people think and go through if they have been born a bit different..He is wise beyond his years and shows compassion that is very mature... You will know when the time is right.....Let your child go with you if you have hospital appointments or have a look on the internet,but the bottom line is tell them as much as you think they can deal with...all kids are special just some need a little more help than others,and dont forgot to spend a little extra time with both of your children,dont let there worlds revolve around special needs and good luck....

Iridescent - posted on 05/02/2010

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Just tell them that they have a hard time ____ like they do, so they need a little more help. As they get older, or you learn more about whatever is wrong or what potential is, you can explain more. And sometimes you just have to admit that you don't know everything, but tell them that you intend to work with the sibling as much as they need to help them, but you'll always also make time for them as well.

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