How to talk to children about learning disabilities within the family : a sibling's perspective
Parents have asked clinicians whether they should tell their non-disabled children about their siblings learning disability, and if so how should they do it. Current clinical practice advocates the importance of open and honest communications with children across a range of sensitive topics yet there is little research to substantiate the benefits of this practice. There is even less research discussing how parents should approach these conversations with their children. This study aimed to provide an account of how parents could best to inform non-disabled children about their siblings' learning disability. In particular information about the specific factors involved in sharing this information was needed. The aim was to provide a model that could act as a frame of reference for both parents and professionals when considering disclosing to a child. Data was obtained from interviews with six adult participants all of whom had a sibling with a learning disability, and all of whom were parents themselves. The data was analysed using the Grounded Theory methodology, and a model of the factors involved in the disclosure process was developed. Analysis showed that unlike professional to parent disclosure, parent to child disclosure was not a discreet, easily identifiable event. Instead, it was more pervasive, long-term process that was entwined into the daily activities of family life. Whilst the parent facilitated the disclosure process the child was found to be an active participant who gained information through a range of different mediums. The findings of this study allow any fears about upsetting or overwhelming the child to be dispelled. Indeed, parents can be reassured that by directly addressing the issue of disability, including both the positive and negative aspects, the child can achieve an acceptance of the situation.