Siblings: Finding the Balance

By Sheldon Horowitz, MD

The Forgotten Child, by Anne Ford with John-Richard Thompson, addresses the sibling challenges that can arise in families with a child with LD. The following is an excerpt from a chapter in the book written by the renowned learning disabilities expert, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz.  

When looking at the amount of time that is devoted to a child with LD, a sibling can wonder, “Why does mommy love him more?” or “Why is he getting all the attention? Maybe if I stop doing well in school, I’ll get some of that attention too.”

Part of the challenge for parents and for families is to figure out who needs what by way of attention and real time on tasks. And the issue of fairness in terms of parental attention sometimes seems to favor the child with learning disabilities. But that’s not always true. The child with LD may feel he is getting the short end of the stick when it comes to parental attention; for instance it may be that the child with LD has to give up going to Boy Scout meetings or taking tennis lessons because he has to spend so much time on schoolwork. Sure, that child is getting extra attention, but I’m sure he doesn’t see it that way—it’s much more fun to have a tennis lesson than focus on school work.

It’s all a matter of balance, which isn’t always easy, and the balance needs to be a good fit for each child. There should not be a consuming over-importance placed on the needs of one child versus another.

The Daily Check-In

We sometimes hear from older siblings that they feel they are left to fend for themselves. To avoid this feeling of detachment, a parent should initiate a conversation that sounds like this: “I know I’m spending a lot of time with your brother on schoolwork. It’s really hard for him and it’s really hard for me. But let’s you and I check in every day so I know how you are doing.”

Have that conversation. Let that sibling without LD know that he has your attention too. If it needs to be calendared differently or if another person has to come in to help, fine. But make it happen. Just remember that the amount and quality of time and feedback that a non-disabled learner needs will be very different from what the child with disabilities needs.

That daily check-in with the non-disabled children will solve so many problems.

Excerpted from the book, The Forgotten Child: ‘If She is Special, What Am I’?, by Anne Ford with John-Richard Thompson; Capri Island Publications, 2015. 

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