Helping Brothers and Sisters

Helping Brothers and Sisters

Roberta DePompei, Ph.D., Ron Savage, Ed.D. and Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Helping brothers and sisters when a sibling has a TBI is important. The needs of siblings for information and emotional support are often overlooked during the crisis of a childís brain injury. This tip card has practical suggestions for families, therapists and educators on preparing brothers and sisters for hospital visits, understanding their emotional reactions and needs for information, and thinking about the future.

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Full Description

Helping brothers and sisters of a child with a TBI understand what has happened is the first step for family adjustment. Visits to a hospitalized sibling with a brain injury can be upsetting for brothers and sisters. Age affects a childís understanding of what has happened. This tip card helps parents address emotional reactions before and after visits by brothers and sisters. When a sibling comes home after hospital or rehabilitation care, brothers and sisters may not understand the physical, behavioral, and cognitive changes caused by the brain injury. It provides suggestions for helping siblings understand these changes and also how to deal with questions and expectations of friends and peers.

Item HBS
Pages 6

2008, second edition


Roberta DePompei, Ph.D.

Dr. DePompei is Department Chairman, Professor and Clinical Supervisor at the Speech and Hearing Center at the University of Akron in Ohio.

An advocate of the needs of youths with brain injuries and their families, she is on numerous national task forces and committees. Widely published and a national and international presenter, Dr. DePompei specializes in the impact of brain injury upon speech, language and communication. She is especially interested in developing transitional opportunities for youth as they progress through school and prepare for adulthood.

Ron Savage, Ed.D.

Dr. Savage is Vice President at the North American Brain Injury Society. His private practice specializes in evaluating the impact of brain injury on behavior and learning in children and adolescents. His international recognition as author and presenter is based on practical experience as a rehabilitation clinician, educator and school administrator.

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Ms Lash uses her social work experience and research in pediatric rehabilitation to develop sensitive and practical guides for families, educators, and professionals. Her specialty is helping families cope with the emotional impact of brain injury and developing strategies for negotiating the complex service system. A Founding Partner and President of Lash and Associates Publishing/Training, she focuses on developing user friendly publications for families, educators, and clinicians.


This tip card helps families, therapists and educators...

  • prepare for hospital visits
  • understand reactions and needs
  • think about the future

Emotional Reactions Understanding Hospital or Rehabilitation Care

  • Tips for giving information to siblings
  • Tips for preparing siblings to visit
  • Tips for helping siblings feel included

Coming Home

Helping Friends

  • Tips for explaining a brain injury to friends
  • Tips for showing friends how to help
  • Tips for showing siblings and friends how to communicate

The Future

  • Tips for talking about the future with siblings

Checklist for Helping Siblings



Sample excerpt. Preview only Ė please do not copy.

Emotional Reactions

A brain injury affects everyone in the family, including brothers and sisters. Siblings often feel abandoned or forgotten as parents spend long hours at the hospital. As they are shuttled to school, stay with friends or relatives, and overhear conversations, things just donít make much sense.

Common questions are, Will my brother live? What does it mean to have a brain injury? Will he be different now? How long will it take for him to get better? The unspoken question is, What about me?

Understanding Hospital or Rehabilitation Care

Tips for preparing siblings to visit...

  • Let them choose when to visit and for how long
  • Tell them itís okay to feel nervous or scared
  • Describe how their injured brother or sister looks and behaves beforehand
  • Describe equipment such as monitors, ventilators, IV lines, and catheters.

Tips for helping siblings feel included....

  • Introduce them to people caring for your child
  • Show them what to do or how to help with care or therapy
  • Draw pictures for hospital rooms
  • Make cassette tapes
  • Send cards, pictures or letters
  • Start a diary or journal.