This thesis project is an introspective review of the author’s childhood and family life, as one of her siblings is on the severe end of the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The siblings of a special needs child are impacted in many different ways, emotionally and behaviorally, and the sibling experience is directly influenced by the dynamics of this relationship. Additionally, family composition has the largest impact on the experiences of the typically developing child, and the roles generally found within a family may be altered by the presence of a special needs child. To determine the validity of this statement, a literature review supplemented by research will be presented in this dissertation.
The purpose of this thesis was to determine the effects of growing up with a special needs child, questioning if there were a set number of outcomes that each typically developing sibling would manifest, and determining if family composition was impactful on these as well.
To frame the literature review, the author establishes that she has an older sibling who rejects the idea that having a special needs sibling had any effect on her life or personality, which is a juxtaposition to the outlook of the author herself. By analyzing research and composing a list of effects on typically developed siblings; such as, increased responsibility; having to grow up quickly; taking on caregiving roles for older siblings; a survey was created to be sent to participants who were either parents or siblings of a special needs person. By including both parents and siblings, two perspectives could be compared--that of the sibling experiencing the change, and the parent who watches it happen. After distribution of the surveys, there were six (6) valid responses.
The findings ranged from a multitude of similarities among older siblings and then parents, but the literature had no information on siblings younger than the special needs child. It was connected that children with an adopted younger special needs sibling have a more difficult adjustment than do biological siblings. Additionally, older siblings feel nearly unanimously that they had to grow up quicker to take on some caregiver roles.