'Lockdown walks with my autistic brother have shown how different things are for us' MirrorNextGen
When you have a sibling with special needs then things become a bit more complicated, as Naina Bhardwaj has discovered spending more time with her brother during the coronavirus crisis.
Although a minority have been spitting at strangers, hiking up product prices and selling bogus PPE, the rest have been clapping for our carers, displaying rainbows of support and appreciating frontline workers.Yet those who never seem to get much of a say are us special needs siblings.
During lockdown, my brother with autism and I have been going on daily walks as part of our state mandated exercise regime and it’s made me realise just how different things can be for us.For most people, going out for a walk is simply that - you get up and you head out.
However, when you have a sibling with special needs then things become a bit more complicated.You often have to avoid main roads so that the constant sound of vehicles doesn’t become overbearing; mentally map out routes with seating areas for potential breaks and/or minor ailments; and scowl at people blasting music out of their cars until they have the common decency to turn it down.
However if you have a sibling with special needs during a public health emergency then things become even more complicated.You often have to act as a human shield to prevent the unnecessary pushing of the button at the traffic lights; try and anticipate dog fouling levels; and glare at people who don’t give you two metres of social distancing despite being on a near empty street.
So regardless of your unconditional love for your brother or sister, spending time with them can be tiring but now with the added weight of trying to protect them from an infectious virus, it can be exhausting.Clare Kassa, CEO of Sibs, a charity which provides support for the siblings of disabled people said:
“For many siblings life is already challenging living with a disabled brother or sister. Work, hobbies and family support all provide an important and much needed break for siblings to develop their own identity and have their own needs met.“Lockdown means parents of disabled children are facing increased difficulties in managing their care needs, now often without external support. There is an increased pressure on siblings to take on carer roles and to provide emotional support to parents who are really up against it.”
Daily Mirror's Next Generation Special Edition Therefore it’s important that we look after our own mental health and wellbeing as well that of our siblings’.Sibs is offering extra information and guidance on their website for the estimated 1.7 million adults in the UK who grew up with a disabled brother or sister.
The charity also has a dedicated website for the 5% of children under 16 who have a disabled sibling which features a safe and moderated chat forum where they can talk to others in their situation. Read more: Daily Mirror »
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