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Brothers and Sisters

Brothers & Sisters

Welcome, brothers and sisters!

As Massachusetts’ largest advocacy group for people with Down syndrome, it goes without saying that we understand the challenges inherent in living with Down syndrome. We also understand that having a sibling with a disability has consequential impacts on the whole family, including brother and sisters.

In recognition of both the challenges posed for siblings and the valuable life lessons conferred upon them, the MDSC has a number of resources available:

  • At our Annual Conference every March, the MDSC offers a workshop track geared specifically for siblings of people with Down syndrome. In our Brothers and Sisters Workshop Track, participants can hear how other brothers and sisters deal with the joys and challenges inherent in being a sibling. The conference sessions create a forum for sharing stories and learning the importance of advocacy. 
  • On our Sibling Spotlight page, you will find heartfelt stories written by siblings about the difficulties and blessings of living with a brother or sister with Down syndrome. New stories are posted periodically.


According to the national Sibling Siblings2Support Project there are over six million people nationwide with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns. The vast majority of them have typically-developing siblings. At the MDSC we recognize both the ordinariness of this kind of sibling relationship as well as the uniqueness of it.

We know that in many respects, people with Down syndrome and their brothers and sisters relate like any siblings- experiencing both positive and negative emotions toward their closest family members. However, given the unique nature of the relationship between people with Down syndrome and their siblings, we have found that brothers and sisters who get support through other siblings find it invaluable.

As the Sibling Support Project points out:

  • Brothers and sisters will likely be in the lives of family members with special needs longer than anyone else.
  • Throughout their lives, brothers and sisters face many of the same challenges that parents of children with special needs experience, including isolation, a need for information, guilt, concerns about the future, and caregiving demands.
  • Brothers and sisters also face issues that are uniquely theirs including resentment, peer issues, embarrassment, and pressure to achieve.
  • Despite the important and life-long roles they will play in the lives of their siblings with special needs, agencies often overlook brothers and sisters.

Sibshops in Massachusetts – Sibshops offers events for siblings to meet other siblings, have fun, laugh, talk about the good and not-so-good parts of having a sib with special needs, play games, and learn something about the services their brothers and sisters receive.

The Massachusetts Sibling Support Network (MSSN) is committed to supporting siblings of people with disabilities by creating welcoming communities for siblings across the lifespan; improving the range and availability of sibling support services; and providing education about sibling-related issues.

MSSN's national partner, the Sibling Leadership Network, provides siblings of individuals with disabilities information, support and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters. Their main page has information on upcoming webinars and events for siblings, and they also have a Sibling Advocacy Toolkit for those interested in participating in the advocacy process.

For adults siblings, our partners at the National Down Syndrome Congress have developed an Adult Sibling Toolkit. Designed to jumpstart conversations with parents about becoming more involved in your brother or sister's life, the toolkit includes sections on social, health, home, employment, legal/financial and goverment benefits as well as resources for further assistance.

At the MDSC, we take special care to ensure that siblings are not overlooked. If you are a sibling of someone with Down syndrome, refer to the resources on this page and remember that you are not alone!

This video was created by Danielle Waldron of Taunton, about her younger sister, Emily, who has Down syndrome. As Danielle wrote to us, "I think it offers a unique perspective from teenage sisters. Emily is considered low functioning and struggles at times; I think this video might provide support for other families with children like Emily." 

Sibling Spotlight: Meet my sister Jacqueline

Sibling Spotlight

Meet the Annual Conference Sibling Program Coordinator