The task of meeting the needs of your entire family is demanding enough without mixed needs to consider; how do we manage different needs within a family effectively?

In this post, we’ll be sharing some valuable insight from families whose children have mixed needs, as well as signposting you to our own resources in order to empower and inform you if you’re a SEND parent who is trying to meet varying needs within your family unit. How do we do it? Well, there’s no ‘black and white’ answer here – it’s that old chestnut of ‘every family works differently’ again. But, there are consistent things we can all do to support our families with diverse needs, and siblings of neurodivergent children. We will be discussing these during our upcoming webinar – read on for more information.


Supporting Siblings of Neurodivergent Children

It is worth pointing out here that quite often, siblings of neurodivergent children are also neurodivergent themselves- those with more subtle presentations often get missed due to the higher support needs of their sibling taking precedence. So by ‘supporting siblings of neurodivergent children’, we are broadly referring to a range of siblings, both neurotypical and neurodivergent. Siblings of children with SEND can sometimes struggle with;

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We spoke to some SEND families to gain some additional insight on supporting siblings who have different needs – whether you have a mixture of neurodivergent and neurotypical children, or as is often the case, all of your children are neurodivergent but have starkly contrasting types of need.

One anonymous contributor has four neurodivergent children with very different needs to each other. She shared with us;

One piece of advice; pick your battles. It’s ok to let things slide sometimes. For example, one of my children is quite insistent on wearing gloves when walking to school – in July! Is it a ‘done thing’? Nope. But does it hurt him? Nope. And does it make him happy and also more co-operative? Yes!

However, sometimes you don’t just let them do what they want – sometimes you (safely) let them realise that maybe they’re making the wrong choice. For example, when it was 8 degrees out, the same child insisted he didn’t need to wear a coat to school because it was really sunny outside. Would not budge on his decision, and was adamant that he was right. I said, ‘OK then, go and stand outside for a minute and let me know what you think…’ and he changed his mind within 10 minutes!

I think that my eldest found it hard sometimes having a younger sibling with higher support needs – however, she’s not the type to throw a tantrum or make a big deal, and we had the support and help of my grandmother at the time too. My youngest two are very different – one gets jealous very easily over what appears to be nothing, whereas the other gets jealous sometimes but usually over a competitive element – if she has a tiny bit more juice in her cup than his! It can be hard to deal with same struggles that stem from very different sources within a family.”

Our Founder Chrissa Wadlow contributed her own insight:

“I did better when I accepted what was in front of me and that the social pressures were not helping our family dynamics. We now do life our way, and with confidence. We don’t bow to any social media ‘perfect family’ pressures… I’m too long in the tooth to believe those lives are real anyway! I’m the parent my children need me to be, and sometimes that has to change a lot depending on their individual needs and emotional regulation.

I also ensure there are no topics off limits. It keeps our home the safe haven my children need to explore anything that they’re unsure of, and gives them the confidence they need out in the big world.”

Finally, a number of families in our communities recommended Caudwell Children to us. This charity has changed the lives of so many families of children with various support needs – from autism sensory kits, to wheelchairs, buggies and specialised car seats, Caudwell Children offer support in funding these things for families who may otherwise struggle to afford them; particularly those with other children whose needs also need to be met.

Managing Different Needs within the Family

If you’ve found that this topic resonates with you and it’s something you’d like more support with, our SEND Advocates, Gabby Gregory and Nicole Wright will be leading our interactive webinar on Managing Different Needs with the Family. Using their expertise they will explore neurodiversity and sibling relationships, and the impact they can have on day-to-day family life. 

In this webinar we will cover:

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