I’m a special-needs sibling. My sister Syble, who has Down syndrome, is just fourteen months older than I am. Growing up in her shadow had challenges and blessings.

I’m also a special-needs mom. My younger son James was diagnosed with autism in 2010. Because of what I went through, I’m able to relate to my older son David and help him navigate growing up as a special-needs sibling.

Based on my experiences and what I’ve observed with David and other families, I believe there are three stages of development special-needs siblings experience. As parents, we need to be patient and understanding as our kids move through each phase.


When the typical kids in our families are young, they are noticing the differences between their siblings and themselves. I remember asking my parents questions about why Syble looked different, wasn’t able to do what I could do, and why it was harder for her to pronounce words. I also knew she went to therapies I didn’t go to and she was in a special-education class (which at the time meant she went to a different school than I did).

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