How to Help Special Needs Children Adjust to New Siblings
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Preparing your older child for the changes will smooth the transition.

“You’re going to have a new brother or sister,” you tell your special needs child. She isn’t enthusiastic, and might show signs of confusion and discomfort. Preparing any child for a new sibling is challenging, but many special needs children don’t adapt well to changes. Depending on your child’s needs, you might want to prepare early so there are few major changes immediately prior to the advent of the new baby. Consider enlisting help from family and friends to ensure the older child receives sufficient care and attention to ease the transition as your family grows.


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    Tell your older child about the new baby early in the pregnancy so she has time to adapt to the idea before the new baby arrives. You might address specific fears by saying, “Our family is so special that we want to share our love with another child. That doesn’t mean we don’t love and want you or that you aren’t special and awesome. I know you can be the best big sister and help your new brother or sister grow up big and strong just like you. We’re going to need your help to care for a little baby who can’t do any of the things you can do. This little one will be lucky to have you!”
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    Make any major changes in your special needs child’s life early in the pregnancy so the changes can spread out over time rather than clump together in a way that overwhelms your preschooler. Move your preschooler to a new bed or new room before you begin working on sleeping arrangements for the baby. Let her pick out new furnishings for her room and get her settled. Then you can talk to her about where the baby will sleep and help her pick out supplies and furnishings to accommodate the new baby. Start potty training and any other milestone changes during the pregnancy when you will have time to work with your child and she won’t feel she must change for the baby.
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    Enroll your child in sibling preparation classes to help her prepare for the future. Take her to prenatal visits and let her watch the baby on the sonogram or listen to the baby’s heart beat. Talk about how babies act and how much help they need. Explain how much help you will need right after the baby comes and how you might not be able to pick her up for a while. Expose her to small babies by visiting friends with new babies or by role-playing with a doll. Help her understand how to respond to the baby with gentle touches.
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    Read books together about new babies, such as “The New Baby” by Fred Rogers, “My Baby Brother Has Ten Tiny Toes” by Laura Leuck or “Will There be a Lap for Me?” by Dorothy Corey. Listen to your child’s feelings and concerns about the new baby and answer them honestly. Let her know that her needs are still important. Spend special time together and encourage her to spend one-on-one time with her Dad, grandparents and others who love and care for her. Help her understand there is time and love for everyone.
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    Introduce her to the new baby as early as possible. If she is interested, investigate how to have her at the birth or in the room as soon after as possible. Assign a trusted family member or friend to care for her needs if she becomes upset or uncomfortable. Include her in snuggle time with the baby and in getting diapers and wipes when you need them or other tasks she can do that celebrate her abilities as the big sister.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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