Information for 


This page has been designed to assist school personnel to understand the issues for siblings and how they can be supported in a school setting.

General information on siblings: 

Siblings at school:

Special needs in the family may not necessarily affect a sibling’s participation at school. For some, school can in fact provide respite from stresses at home. However for many siblings, school can be an additional source of stress. Issues for siblings can include:
  • Difficulty finishing homework or homework being spoilt
  • Tiredness or poor concentration
  • Social difficulties
  • Teasing or bullying by other students
  • Worry about their brother or sister with disability
  • Extra responsibility for their brother or sister
These issues might be the product of other stresses or concerns but if a child has a brother or sister with disability, then consideration can and should be given to the support needs of a sibling.

The concerns might show up at school in the following ways:
• Excessive ‘acting up’ behaviour, attention seeking
• Overly concerned with being the ‘good child’ or people pleaser
• Isolation from peers
• Ongoing physical complaints such as stomach or head-aches

Of course, school staff may not know that a student has a brother or sister with special needs for the following reasons:
• The child with disability goes to another school
• Data collection by the school might not include details of other children in the family
• A sibling might choose not to reveal their family circumstance as they feel embarrassed and might be fearful of ‘disability by association’. They might also feel guilty about ‘complaining’.

Even when staff members are aware that a child is a sibling to a child with disability, the sibling may not show or express their concerns. They might receive a lot of ‘kudos’ from home and from others for being a ‘good’ sibling. Their identity might be largely framed by the idea that their needs are not as important as those of other people. It can be difficult to ask for help. The fact that a child does not show concerns does not mean that they are not in need of support.
In the right hand column are a range of documents that may help parents and schools to work together to ensure that all children in the family are able to access the best school experience possible. Included is an article about siblings that appeared in the WA Primary Principals' Association newsletter some time ago.