Siblings’ Understanding of Learning Disability: A Longitudinal Study



Background  There is very little research on how and when siblings understand that they have a brother or sister with a learning disability. Research regarding young children’s understanding of intelligence, suggests that they may not develop a clear understanding of ability until about 7 years of age.

Method  Through interviewing parents and then siblings, this study followed a group of young siblings for 12 years, from when they were pre-verbal, until they were aged 12–14 years.

Results  Siblings developed an early understanding of learning disability and had clear ideas about the future for them and for their brothers and sisters.

Conclusion  Through their personal experiences, siblings are able to develop early understanding of the abstract concept of learning disability, are able to distinguish between disability and illness, and are able to think about the long-term implications of learning disability both for themselves and for their brothers and sisters.