Siblings of children with special needs
Most of us grow up with at least one brother or sister and most young people help in their families as they are growing up. However many young people have to provide help because a brother or sister has an illness or disability. This can range from helping with chores or helping to care directly for their sibling by spending time sitting with them or helping with their daily routines. These people are described as young carers and it is increasingly realized that they need recognition and support like any other carer.
Everybody's family circumstances are different but the Carers National Association describes a young carer as "anyone under the age of 18 whose life is in some way restricted because of the need to take responsibility for the care of a person who is ill or has a disability." These restrictions may include, among many others, having their schooling affected, not being able to do day to day activities and being deprived of opportunities to see their friends.
A more recent innovation in supporting young carers is the setting up of Sibling Support Groups. These groups give siblings the opportunity to get together with other young people who have similar family circumstances, such as a brother or sister with a learning disability or special need. The groups can provide support, advice, information and a chance to share experiences and realize they are not alone with a disabled brother or sister and also to take part in various activities. These groups are usually run locally and a good starting point to find any groups in your area is Social Services.
You can visit the Young Carers Initiative website run by the Children's Society, where there is a Young Carers Project search tool and a vast library of information and support.
Sibling and Young Carer Support Organisations
Barnardo's runs projects to support young carers and their families in a variety of ways. They provide opportunities for young carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities, spend time with other young carers and share experiences.
They do a great free resource pack for siblings of children with a genetic disorder that can be downloaded or requested by post. "Genetics? What's it got to do with me?"
(020) 7704 3141
SIBS is a UK charity for people who grow up with a disabled brother or sister. They support siblings who are growing up with or who have grown up with a brother or sister with any disability, long term chronic illness, or life limiting condition. An excellent site with all sorts of information.
A website for young carers including siblings with excellent support and information sections such as "How I feel" and "Who can help me?" with interactive videos
The KIDS charity provide Sibling and Young Carers Projects to provide support for children and young people who have a brother or sister who is disabled.
A not for profit organisation part of the Dimensions charity, providing camping and short breaks in school holidays for children with disabled siblings.
An online support network for siblings of children with cancer.
A website selling books and resources written especially for siblings of children with special needs and disabilities.
Information about Young Carers and projects. They help vulnerable & disadvantaged young people, including children in care. We give a voice to disabled children and provide relief for young carers.
International Sibling Organisations
make contact with Siblings all over the world
verumsaman.is - Iceland
parent2parent.org.nz - New Zealand
siblingsaustralia.org.au - Australia