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Book Review: Brothers and Sisters - A Special Part of Exceptional Families

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Book Review: Brothers and Sisters - A Special Part of Exceptional Families
Cover image courtesy of Brookes Publishing Co.

The Bottom Line

By Peggy A. Gallagher, Thomas H. Powell and Cheryl A. Rhodes; 367 pages. From the book cover: "Brimming with inspiring personal stories, facts and wisdom from the literature, and practical advice, this book will help professionals and families understand and celebrate the special bond between siblings."

There's no doubt that the needs of siblings of children with disabilities are many and undervalued, and a book that will help parents nurture and honor every one of their children is something we desperately require. This book isn't it, but it's a start, and one that offers food for thought.

About the Guide Rating

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  • Gives lengthy treatment to a bond too often neglected
  • Offers advice on including siblings in life of the family and special brother or sister
  • Provides extensive guidance on setting up a program to help siblings
  • Reads smoothly for a scholarly text
  • Reviews research on special-needs siblings in short, accessible form


  • The research reviews are short, but there are a LOT of them
  • Book is likely intended for professionals, not parents
  • While there is practical advice for parents, it makes up a small portion of a big book


  • Chapter 1: Listening to Siblings
    Chapter 2: What We Know About Sibling Relationships
  • Chapter 3: What We Know About Special Brothers and Sisters in the Family System
  • Chapter 4: Concerns and Needs of Siblings Living with Brothers and Sisters with Disabilities
  • Chapter 5: Providing Information to Children with Siblings with Disabilities
  • Chapter 6: Providing Support to Siblings with Brothers and Sisters with Disabilities
  • Chapter 7: Social Interaction Between Brothers, Sisters, and Others: How Relationships Are Formed and Maintained
  • Chapter 8: Siblings as Teachers
  • Chapter 9: Siblings at School: Going Beyond Academics to Support Siblings' Unique Needs
  • Chapter 10: Siblings as Adults: Building Secure Futures
    Chapter 11: Capstone Strategies for Parents and Siblings
  • Appendix A: Related Literature and Media
    Appendix B: Information and Services for Siblings and Parents

Guide Review - Book Review: Brothers and Sisters - A Special Part of Exceptional Families

I was excited when I got my copy of Brothers and Sisters. Sibling rivalry and resentment and teasing and misunderstandings are the order of the day in my house, with two teenagers, each with his or her own special needs, uncomfortably co-existing. I was looking forward to reading a celebration of the sibling bond, and advice on how to nurture and strengthen it. Some ways to make each child feel valued, too, would be helpful -- and some day to day tips on how to keep the peace wouldn't hurt, either.

And there is information like that between these covers, enough to keep me reading, but it's surrounded by so much scholarly research and information for counselors and care providers that I start to understand how my daughter feels when I go on and on about some concept that's important to her but just slightly over her head. If you have all the reading time in the world, the studies on how sibling relationships form and develop among "normal" siblings and among siblings in special-needs families is actually fairly interesting, in an academic way. But if you're desperate for help right now, you may find yourself losing patience.

From a parent's point of view, the book is perhaps most valuable for the extensive information on what adult siblings will need to do, legally and financially, to help care for a grown special-needs sibling; the "Thirty Strategies for Parents" and "Twenty Strategies for Siblings" that come near the end of the book; and the extensive list of books, organizations and internet sites that provide information and support for siblings. The rest will mostly be helpful if you're planning to seek or organize support groups or school programs for children like yours. Might be a good book to pick up, take what you need, and pass on to school personnel or other support services who can take it the rest of the way.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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