Some recommended books on parenting siblings with special needs children

It Isn’t Fair!

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Parenting is always a vital and challenging task. Even more vital and challenging is the task of parenting a child with a disability. When there is more than one child in the family, all parents want to share their time, energy, and love with all their children–and all siblings sometimes wonder if they are being treated fairly. When one child in a family has a disability, all this becomes more complex. Parents and sisters and brothers often feel that for them, “It isn’t fair.” Selected and compiled from two decades of The Exceptional Parent magazine, It Isn’t Fair! reveals first-hand the myriad feelings of “normal” brothers and sisters at all stages as they grapple with caretaking, frustration, powerlessness, jealousy, guilt, and worry about their “special” siblings. Breaking the “wall of silence” that deference has imposed on their experiences, here are the siblings of the child with autism, the child injured at birth, the child institutionalized after many years at home. Parents offer their own experiences and perspectives on their children, and they illustrate the importance of sharing information within the family. The editors also include professional commentary.

Brothers & Sisters: A Special Part of Exceptional Families

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There is something unique, something special, about growing up in a family in which a brother or sister has a disability. The new edition of this important text examines these unique relationships and discusses research on and strategies for working with siblings of people with disabilities. The reader-friendly volume appeals both to faculty at teaching and research institutions and to family members and practitioners who work with people with disabilities. Included in the new edition are updates to critical issues such as multicultural considerations, financial planning, and information on genetics and heredity. In addition, the book provides an extended focus on family members beyond parents, including grandparents and other extended family members who interact with siblings in their relationships within a family.

When Madness Comes Home: Help and Hope for the Children, Siblings, and Partners of Mentally Ill

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When Madness Comes Home is a beautifully written, meticulously researched, well-organized book that is inflected by the author’s special empathy as the sister of someone with schizophrenia. Its subtitle, Help and Hope for the Children, Siblings, and Partners of the Mentally Ill, is an accurate description of what a reader will find in its pages. She introduces herself with a painful passage about committing her sister for treatment, and then begins at the beginning: “Telling someone that there’s mental illness in your family, and watching the reaction, is not for the fainthearted.”

Secunda has interviewed scores of sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and spouses of people afflicted with schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder, debilitating depression, and other serious afflictions. She allows them to speak for themselves, while gently guiding the reader toward insights, coping strategies, knowledge, and compassion.

Tactfully avoiding criticism of parents or medical professionals, Secunda nonetheless makes it clear that her concerns lie elsewhere. Her only misstep is billing hers as the first “major” book to address “these other victims,” when Julie Tallard Johnson, founder of the Sibling and Adult Children’s Network of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, wrote the groundbreaking book, Hidden Victims: An Eight-Stage Healing Process for Families and Friends of the Mentally Ill, more than 10 years before. Secunda’s own extensive bibliography and her many useful quotes amply recognize those who have examined this territory before her. Her book is wonderful, but we can be thankful that it is only one of a growing number written for those whose lives are often shattered but whose pain is still largely ignored.

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