Welcome, brothers and sisters

Having a sibling with a disability has consequential impacts on the whole family, including brother and sisters.

In recognition of both the challenges posed for siblings and the valuable life lessons conferred upon them, MDSC has an exclusive workshop track geared specifically for youth siblings of people with Down syndrome each March at our Annual Conference. In our Brothers and Sisters Workshop Track, participants can hear how other brothers and sisters deal with the joys and challenges inherent in being a sibling. The conference sessions create a forum for sharing stories and learning the importance of advocacy.

According to the national Sibling Siblings2Support Project there are over six million people nationwide with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns. The vast majority of them have typically-developing siblings. At MDSC we recognize both the ordinariness of this kind of sibling relationship as well as the uniqueness of it.

We know that in many respects, people with Down syndrome and their brothers and sisters relate like any siblings- experiencing both positive and negative emotions toward their closest family members. However, given the unique nature of the relationship between people with Down syndrome and their siblings, we have found that brothers and sisters who get support through other siblings find it invaluable.

As the Sibling Support Project points out:

  • Brothers and sisters will likely be in the lives of family members with special needs longer than anyone else.
  • Throughout their lives, brothers and sisters face many of the same challenges that parents of children with special needs experience, including isolation, a need for information, guilt, concerns about the future, and caregiving demands.
  • Brothers and sisters also face issues that are uniquely theirs including resentment, peer issues, embarrassment, and pressure to achieve.
  • Despite the important and life-long roles they will play in the lives of their siblings with special needs, agencies often overlook brothers and sisters.

The Massachusetts Sibling Support Network (MSSN) is committed to supporting siblings of people with disabilities by creating welcoming communities for siblings across the lifespan; improving the range and availability of sibling support services; and providing education about sibling-related issues.

MSSN’s national partner, the Sibling Leadership Network, provides siblings of individuals with disabilities information, support and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters. Their main page has information on upcoming webinars and events for siblings, and they also have a Sibling Advocacy Toolkit for those interested in participating in the advocacy process.

For adults siblings, our partners at the National Down Syndrome Congress have developed an Adult Sibling Toolkit. Designed to jumpstart conversations with parents about becoming more involved in your brother or sister’s life, the toolkit includes sections on social, health, home, employment, legal/financial and government benefits as well as resources for further assistance.

At MDSC, we take special care to ensure that siblings are not overlooked. If you are a sibling of someone with Down syndrome, refer to the resources on this page and remember that you are not alone!