I was interested in Diane Hofkin's report (TES, March 31) "Siblings of disabled often feel isolated". I recently undertook a study with families where there was a child with special needs and certainly some of them experienced bullying and teasing.
I found that, after the parents, the siblings of the disabled child were the main relatives providing help, care and education. Only when the siblings were themselves too young or disabled were they not fulfilling the role of carer. They also provided considerable support for the parents. The "within family" support systems were most impressive.
Disability does not always come singly and I found situations in which an older disabled sibling was also providing help and support for the other disabled childchildren and family.
However Tom White of NCH Action for Children is absolutely right when he refers to "the lack of support services provided by government, health and local authorities which recognise the needs of all the family". The majority of the families I studied had to battle to obtain basic services. With the reduction in respite care and other services justice for siblings becomes critical. The NCH Action for Children deserves our support.
Cornwall Education Centre