Why are siblings of people with disabilities important?

There are so many reasons that siblings of people with disabilities matter. A few of the most important include:

  • Siblings often have the longest-lasting relationships of their lives with each other.
  • The peer nature of the relationship makes siblings uniquely positioned to support their brothers and sisters with disabilities to lead self-determined lives. This support can include areas such as employment, voting, transportation, relationships and sexuality, healthcare, housing supports, and more.
  • Siblings often become the next generation of caregivers when parents are unable to provide care.

What are the needs of siblings of people with disabilities?

Please click here to learn more about the varied, changing, and complex needs of siblings.

I am a sibling of a person with disabilities. How can I connect with other siblings?

Meeting other siblings of people with disabilities can be powerful. Often siblings do not even understand why it is helpful to connect with other siblings until they experience it for themselves. There is something indescribable about meeting other people who really "get it" in a way that is difficult for parents or friends to deeply understand.

Meeting other siblings can help people realize they are not alone. Siblings can also get information from each other about things they did not even realize they needed to know. Peer support provided from other siblings can help people navigate family dynamics and learn insights for their current and future role with their brothers and sisters with disabilities.

Here are some sites and resources that offer free registrations and will keep you updated and connected on important issues.



SiblingResources is an exciting collaboration between Yang-Tan Institute of Cornell University, The Sibling Leadership Network, and SibsNY. Through a grant from NYSDDPC, we are building the community for adult siblings of individuals with disabilities in NY. Please visit this website to learn more and register to stay connected to important information.



The Sibling Leadership Network (SLN) is a national nonprofit organization that provides siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support, and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families.



SibsNY is a volunteer organization dedicated to providing the siblings of individuals with intellectual, developmental and learning disabilities with information and support. SibsNY is the NY state chapter of the national SLN.



The Sibling Support Project is a national effort dedicated to the life-long concerns of brothers and sisters of people who have special health, developmental, or mental health concerns.

Connect with Siblings Online

There are a number of online, interactive closed communities for siblings at different ages to connect with each other for information and peers support. Hosed by the Sibling Support Project, these groups serve as front-line resources for sibs, by sibs. Siblings can look on Facebook to request to be added to a group.

I am a provider. What can I do to increase sibling involvement?

Include, connect with, and welcome siblings

  • When you meet with a parent, ask about siblings and inquire about whether they would like to be involved.
  • Ask the person with the disability how s/he want his/her sibling(s) to be involved.
  • If the person with the disability would like his/her sibling to be included in activities or events, caregiving providers can help facilitate a phone call or email to make this invitation.
  • Include siblings in service planning and family future planning meetings.
  • Gather contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) for siblings and make sure that this information is updated regularly.
  • Reach out to siblings to directly communicate with siblings. Even simple efforts at introductory relationship building between the staff and the sibling will build a foundation for future conversation. Try to make at least one outreach a year, such as giving the sibling a call to touch base.
  • Siblings sometimes feel that they are only contacted in a crisis or when something negative has occurred. Be in contact with siblings with positive news as well.

Share information and resources with siblings

  • Promote and share sibling-specific resources - including SiblingResources.org, Sibling Leadership Network, SibsNY, and Sibnet on Facebook. (More information about these resources will be provided in the next section)
  • Respect siblings' choices on their level of involvement, even if siblings choose not to be involved at all.
  • Be a source of knowledge and support if/when siblings are ready.

Encourage siblings to become a part of your organization

  • Invite them to serve on planning committees, Boards of Directors, and advisory councils. And think of other ways to engage siblings that may be a bit less of a commitment for them. For example, asking siblings to have a role at an event (i.e., helping with the event set up), participating in a Spring Cleaning Day at the organization, or participating in fundraising events. These may be one-time events that get siblings involved and could potentially build to greater commitments over time.

Facilitate social connections between siblings and other family members

  • Host a time and space for siblings of people with disabilities from your organization to get together for informal conversation. Perhaps an evening dessert gathering or a Saturday morning coffee meetup, where siblings can get to know each other. You could do this once a year or even better, offer it as a monthly opportunity! Many siblings have waited their entire lives to have meaningful conversations with other siblings, so conversation will probably happen very naturally but you could plan a few icebreaker questions like "What is your favorite memory with your sibling?" or "What have you learned from your sibling and what has he/she learned from you?" If you want to try a more educational approach, you could invite guest speakers to speak to siblings.
  • Connect with SibsNY to find out about regional events for siblings from your organization to attend.
  • Encourage siblings and all family members to get together for social and educational occasions like barbeques, speakers, and recreational activities. Even just adding the word "siblings" to your invitations can more specifically and intentionally let siblings know that they are invited and welcomed to events.

Thank you for your interest in siblings.

For more information, please visit our interactive course that will help you learn more about the importance of siblings of people with disabilities. In this course, you will find written resources, video presentations, audio clips, and a reflective question journal that you may choose to download and print. SiblingResources offers two distinct self-paced courses to choose from. One was written for siblings of adults with disabilities and the other was written for providers. You can choose the course that best suits your needs. GO TO SIBLING COURSES