Siblings’ experiences in the special needs community are often not addressed, especially in the professional realm. Parenting Impossible guest, Jessica Leving Siegel, shares her story of growing up with a brother with autism to shed light on the challenges that she faced and that many special needs siblings face every day.

For Jessica, the biggest issue was her hesitancy to express her emotions about her brother to her parents out of fear that she would add to their stress. In her mind, she was not allowed to feel frustrated or upset. She remembers thinking, “That’s not an emotion I can have.” 

Beyond restraining and denying her own emotions, she also felt left out. Her parents focused so much of their time on her brother that they always assumed she was doing fine. Having lived this firsthand, one of her biggest pieces of advice for parents is to check in on ALL of your kids to see how they are doing, even the ones who seem to have it together, and give them the space to express their feelings beyond their immediate responses. 

Jessica’s experiences have led her to write the book, “Billy’s Sister: Life when your sibling has a disability.”  The positive feedback that she received for this work encouraged her to start her podcast, “The Special Siblings Podcast” and create a nonprofit organization, The Center for Siblings of People with Disabilities, to support and empower other siblings like her. 

These experiences taught Jessica the power of the phrase, “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.” 

You can find more of her resources for special needs siblings here to help as you care for yourself and your loved one, and as you plan for the future. 

Annette Hines has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law, and Estate Planning for more than 20 years. Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice and podcasts as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep, personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to help others within the special needs community.