Psychological and emotional impact of the disabilities In the bond between brothers

Martina Gramiccia, Stefania Morsanuto


In special pedagogy and in psychology, the term <siblings> indicates the relationship between a subject with a disability and a neurotypical one (Dondi, 2018). This connotation of the term has taken hold today in Italy thanks to the initiative of the Siblings Committee, as Federico Girelli, President of this Committee explains, in the presentation for the book "SIBLINGS: Being brothers of children with disabilities" by Alessia Farinella (2015). In English, the term <siblings> is gender-neutral and apt to simply indicate the bond between siblings, without the pathological component of which it has taken the connotation. The Committee first used this term as "brother of a person with a disability".

Disability invades the whole family. In the first part of this article, a strong focus on the experience of the disabled person will be provided, and, then, all the possibilities of intervention and rehabilitation will also be taken into account and examined. Moreover, attention will be focused on the parents and on their reworking of the event. The comparison with the impact that the disability has in the relationship between the two siblings is increasingly rare. Growing up with a disabled brother is an experience that shapes the personality of the siblings and that can have innumerable repercussions and risk indices for the health of the normal brother. In light of the dynamics that exist between the two, it is good to notice since early childhood possible signs of stress in the latter. The fraternity in which a member has a disability is not always directly related to a discomfort, but it is still right to consider the possibility of impact in the relationship.

Among those attitudes that can highlight a discomfort in the siblings, Strohm highlights (2006): acts, or those emotional responses that are not processed by thought, in other words, we refer to the free expression of what can be felt without any filter, which is a very common process in smaller children, but it can be transformed into an signal of alarm when these acts become repeated over time; they can be recognized when reactions not in line with the emotional load of the lived experience are faced, and, consequently, children who tend to have exaggerated and apparently-out-of-place reactions can be thus obtained. Behaviour problems can be isolation, anxiety, somatization, (for example, frequent stomach ache), perfectionism, which is thus the tendency of children, especially male, who totally commit their energies to whatever they do, with the aim of redeeming their brother's limits, trying to compensate for what the disability entails.

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