As we realized our family was being shaped by disability we recognized we were ill equipped to help all our children flourish. Neither M nor I had been raised with a sibling with special needs. We had zero emotional tools to share with our kids.
I began reading a lot of children's literature. Inter-library loan became my best friend. I zoomed down numerous bunny trails as my choices garnered more suggested reading lists. I read reviews, I read descriptions, I read and read. I read trash and I read gold. From all of this reading I made a list of books to recommend to others. Though the hunt for good literature can be thrilling, it is also time consuming. Most families impacted by disability don't have the luxury of extra time.
On the off-chance a parent reading this does have a few moments of solitude, I recommend that you read the books, too. The books geared toward later childhood and adolescence provided an interesting insight into parenting. By reading between the lines I was able to see what behaviors and attitudes from the parents further antagonized their children. There is wisdom in learning from others' mistakes, even if the others are fictional.
I'm posting my list below of recommended reading for siblings. They provide children with validation and the vocabulary to express their hearts. I have read most of the books. There are a few that, because of the diagnoses depicted, I did not read. Those that I did not read myself came with strong, positive reviews. So I'm hoping those people weren't ding-dongs. It could ruin my reputation for being a connoisseur of children's literature.
Addendum: I recommend every child read books that feature other children with special needs. Siblings are not the only ones changed by disability. Each one of us can be, and should be, if we allow ourselves the opportunity. Certainly if your child has a cousin or classmate or neighbor with a disability, they need context and vocabulary and information. But even if they can not identify a single person with special needs in their lives, they need to be prepared for when they do.
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin. For ages 10-14. A story about a twelve year old boy with autism. Provides perspective on living with autism.
Barry's Sister by Lois Metzger. For ages 9-12. A story about a girl who has a brother with cerebral palsy.
Ben, King of the River by David Gifaldi, Layne Johnson (Illustrator). For ages 6-10. A story about a boy with a younger brother who is developmentally disabled.
Joey and Sam by Illana Katz and Edward Ritvo (Authors), Franz Borowitz (Illustrator). For ages 6-10. A story about a boy with a younger brother who has autism.
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete (Author), Ryan Elizabeth Peete(Author), Shane Evans (Illustrator). For ages 7-10. A story in which Callie talks about how much she loves her twin brother, Charlie, who has autism.
My Brother is Very Special by Amie May (Author) and Laurie A. Faust (Illustrator). For ages 4-8. A story about a girl with a younger brother who has a speech delay.
My Brother, Matthew by Mary Thompson. For ages 4-8. A story about a boy born with a brain injury.
My Brother's Keeper by Michelle Beachy. For ages 5-10. A young boy describes living with his younger brother who has multiple disabilities.
A Real Christmas This Year by Karen Williams. For ages 9-12. A story of a girl’s brother, who suffers from multiple physical and emotional disabilities, and his impact on their family.
Rules by Cynthia Lord. For ages 8-12. A story of a 12 year old girl who has a brother with autism.
Sara’s Secret by Suzanne Wanous. For ages 4-8. Sara's secret is her brother Justin, who was born with cerebral palsy and is intellectually disabled.
The Sibling Slam Book: What It's Really Like To Have A Brother Or Sister With Special Needs by Don Meyer (Editor), David Gallagher (Foreword). For ages 12 and up. A collection of 50+ questions answered by teen siblings of people with special needs.
Tru Confessions by Janet Tashjian. For ages 9-12. A story about a 12-year-old girl who grapples with her two ambitions to cure her developmentally delayed twin brother and to host her own TV show. She tells her story through a journal.
Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up With a Brother or Sister With Special Needs by Donald J. Meyer (Editor), Cary Pillo (Illustrator). For ages 6-12. A collection of essays from siblings of children with special needs.
Way to Go, Alex! by Robin Pulver. For ages 4-10. A story about a girl with an intellectually disabled older brother who participates in Special Olympics.
We'll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, Pam Devito (Illustrator). For ages 4-8. A book about a girl who has a little brother with Down syndrome.
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