Growing Up Together
Sibling relationships can be complex, but they can also be meaningful and close. Siblings with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their non-disabled siblings get in arguments, enjoy the holidays together, go on family vacations, and often develop uniquely deep and lasting bonds over time.
Growing up, you may have become more independent and transitioned into adulthood with little support from your parents. However, your brother or sister with I/DD’s path to adulthood is likely different. Your sibling may need support throughout his or her life.
Begin the Conversation
Siblings typically have the longest relationship of their lives with each other. Siblings often become the primary caregiver or supporter when parents can no longer play that role. However, some siblings do not want to or are not able to play that role. It is important that families have honest conversations about what is involved in supporting the family member with I/DD and what role(s) other family members are able and willing to play, as well as what role the person with I/DD wants them to play.
Sometimes a person with I/DD will live with a sibling. In other situations, the non-disabled sibling may play other support roles while the person with I/DD lives as independently as possible. This can include helping the brother or sister with I/DD manage supports for daily living, health care and financial matters, and provide social and community connections.
Helping siblings plan for the future
To prepare for a role supporting your sibling, you may need to learn more about your sibling. You should understand the history of services your sibling has received, your sibling’s support needs, and all family members’ wishes for the future. This information will help you become a better advocate, and it can also provide some peace of mind as decisions are made in the future.
If parents or other caregivers are reluctant to discuss the future, siblings or other family members may be the ones who start the process of creating a future plan for the family.