A child with disability and their family will come into contact with a range of organisations and individuals. These might include hospitals, disability organisations and schools. Individuals can include doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, speech pathologists, psychologists, and all such professionals can play an enormous role in helping a family manage the challenges they face. Families who believe they can influence their future and make choices are more likely to be stronger and cope better. One factor that families identify as being important is the attitude and support they receive from professionals.
For workers to be able to support siblings there needs to be an emphasis within organisations and governments on:
- family centred care
- a whole family approach
There also needs to be more understanding amongst workers of the issues facing siblings. A recent Siblings Australia survey indicated that many parents and siblings thought that disability and health agencies (including individual psychologists and other therapists), schools and GPs could improve their understanding of sibling concerns.
Support for siblings is important for two main reasons:
- they are at risk themselves for a range of mental and physical health problems
- they will likely have the longest relationship of any with the person with disability and can contribute much to their well-being over a lifetime
All professionals that come into contact with families which include a child or adult with disability need to be ‘sib aware’.