When an Older Sibling Is Blind or Has Low Vision

Most parents recognize that each of their children is unique regarding personality, ability to take on responsibility, and capacity to learn new things. Each one needs to be treated as an individual, but sometimes, family members have expectations based on a child’s age or birth order in the family.

If your child who is blind or has low vision is older than one or more of your other children, it can present its own unique challenges for your family members, especially if your child has other disabilities in addition to their blindness or low vision.

All children develop at different rates. One of your children may walk before age 1, whereas another may not walk until 15 months. Some children with blindness or low vision vary in some areas of development. Therefore, their younger brothers or sisters may pass your child who has blind or low vision in certain aspects of growth. Your younger child may be more mature emotionally or may be able to take on responsibilities that their older sibling cannot.

How do you handle situations like this, especially if your child is blind or low vision and is upset that their younger siblings are doing things she wants to do?

Parenting Strategies That May Help

Discuss with Other Members of the Educational Team What Your Child Would Like to Be Able to Do

Many of the activities that your child would like to do themself or the skills that you would like them to learn will fall under one or more areas of the expanded core curriculum that is supposed to be taught to all children who are blind or low vision. If so, they may be appropriate goals for her Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Selecting goals for your child’s education that relate to life outside of school will motivate them to learn and strengthen the connection between what they learn at school and what they do at home and in the community.

Look for Parts of an Activity Your Child Can Do Independently

If your child cannot do something their siblings are doing, look for ways in which they can do parts of the activity independently.

Perhaps their siblings are shopping for a friend’s birthday gift without your assistance. When they want to choose a birthday gift for a friend, you might help them find the customer service desk at the store and then give them the freedom to solicit help from a store employee.

Look for Opportunities for Your Child to Excel

Try to find ways your child with blindness or low vision can do something that their brothers or sisters may not know how to do or are not yet old enough to do. This will help build their self-esteem.

The idea is not to encourage your child to gloat but to feel good about her accomplishments. When your child is feeling frustrated that their younger siblings are doing things they can’t, you can gently remind them of some things they have done that they haven’t.

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