Stress Appraisal and Coping in Siblings of Children with Special Needs

Melanie Orfus, Nina Howe


Self-reports from siblings of children with special needs regarding their appraisal of family stress and coping are important additions to the disability literature. Twelve school-age siblings of children with special needs were interviewed about their daily hassles, uplifts, and coping strategies related to living in a family with a child with a disability. Parents also reported on family coping strategies. Children reported that the most frequent daily hassle was when their sibling with special needs cried, screamed, or yelled when he/she did not want to do something. The most frequent daily uplift was when their sibling gave hugs or kisses. Children reported feeling most stressed when embarrassed by their sibling with special needs in front of friends and happiest when playing with their sibling. Wishful thinking was a common child coping strategy during stressful times. Implications for working with families with special needs are discussed.

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