Opportunities for Sibs
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Opportunities Available to Brothers and Sisters

By Derenda Timmons Schubert, Ph.D.

Siblings are presented with Opportunities for personal growth and character development. Research has shown that siblings possess maturity, self-concept, social competence, insight, tolerance, pride and loyalty. These Opportunities are also discussed in a book by Donald Meyer and Patricia Vadasy called Living with a Brother of Sister with Special Needs: A Book for Sibs. Following is an examination of the Opportunities for Brothers and Sisters.

Maturity - Siblings often possess a level of maturity greater than their same age peers.
Since my sister was born, our family
has had to work together like a team.
I like feeling part of the team.
(Heather, age 14)

Self-concept and Social Competence- Research has indicated that siblings' self-concept is similar to their same age peers. Research about social competence (getting along with others in our world) indicated that siblings often display more prosocial behavior than same age peers.
When I go with my mom to see my brother's doctor,
I always ask the doctor questions about autism.
(Brian, age 11)

Insight - Siblings are given opportunities to understand the "human condition." They are presented with situations which cause them to consider the plight of others and the gifts, abilities, and advantages most people take for granted. Whenever, I speak to sibings I am constantly amazed at their wisdom and insight.
Even though my sister can't talk, I know she is
thinking. She shows us with her eyes. People can
talk and think in lots of different ways.
They don't need to use their mouth.
(Mary, age 10)

Tolerance - Siblings have been found to be more tolerant of differences between people. They can be more appreciative of the differences between people because they may have witnessed prejudice toward their brother or sister.
People with disabilities should be treated
just like anyone else. They are people, too!
(Molly, age 9)

Pride - Siblings comment about the pride they have about their brother or sister. They will brag about the accomplishments of their brother or sister. They also discuss their pride in how the family has faced the challenges.
My brother told us his favorite color today!
It's one of his first words!! Now we know!
(Katrina, age 10)

Loyalty - Siblings can exhibit an incredible amount of loyalty toward their brother or sister. While the children may argue and fight as typical siblings at home, beyond their home, siblings may experience situations in which they feel the need to defend their brother or sister. Siblings can also exhibit loyalty to their family.
I get mad when the kids make fun of my sister.
I can make fun of her, but they can't.
They hurt her feelings, I just tease her.
I always tell them to leave her alone.