The hit song from the late 1960s describes feelings many
children whose siblings have disabilities can relate to: “The road
is long with many a winding turn, that leads us to who knows where,
who knows when. But I’m strong-strong enough to carry him. He ain’t
heavy-he’s my brother.”
While some children in families impacted by special needs
seem to cope and interact well, others may feel withdrawn, angry,
or misunderstood. Consider some of their real, unedited thoughts
about life with a sibling with special needs.
“Autism took my life away because after school the rest of the
day we had to deal with my brother.” (Boy, age 12)
“I kept asking my parents over and over why my sister isn’t
normal.” (Girl, age 5)
“My parents want me to see it from their point of view, but
sometimes I want someone to see it from my point of view and what
I’m going through.” (Boy, age 10)
“If someone makes fun of my brother, I want to protect him.
But I can’t so I usually just end up crying.” (Girl, age
“Every birthday I wish that my brother would be normal.”
(Girl, age 4)
But there’s good news: Your church can be the support and
encouragement these siblings need. Here’s how.
Communicate that your church supports siblings’ unique family
roles. Affirm kids when you see them putting their siblings first.
Encourage them when they’re struggling.
Sponsor programs such as respite care. Providing respite care for
kids with special needs can give siblings the opportunity for some
much needed one-on-one time with parents.
Support siblings of children with special needs through “sib”
workshops and family retreats. Include time where kids can express
joys, concerns, and how they handle tough situations. Disability
Advocate Debbie Lillo helps churches start programs for special
needs families. “Kids need help understanding their siblings’
disabilities and learning not to be embarrassed by them,” says
Lillo. “They also must have time to focus on their own needs
without feeling guilty.”
We have the chance to show Jesus as we carry these families like
he does. And they’re not heavy-they’re family!