Thank you for your question.
This is actually a very common concern for parents. The sibling of a child receiving any type of therapy (physical therapy/occupational therapy/behavioral therapy..etc) will often get jealous of the attention their brother/sister is getting. In more extreme cases, where the child is getting a bunch of different therapies and the parents are giving this child a lot of extra attention due to his learning and/or behavioral difficulties–it is not uncommon for the sibling to begin acting out.
In these instances, there are a couple of things you can do to make your child feel better:
1. Carve out time during the week to make a special “play-date” with your daughter. A simple activity like going for ice cream…or out to lunch…or to the park…will give her the positive attention she is really craving before she begins engaging in behaviors that will warrant negative attention.
2. Ask your therapist if she will include your daughter in a therapy session. I actually do this in my practice all of the time. It affords me the opportunity to see how my client uses his speech/language skills around family and lets me see how he interacts socially. It also gives me an opportunity to model appropriate social language, i.e., requesting “Can I have the ball?”/turn taking “It’s my turn now!/commenting “Great job!” within the right context. Many times I have to set-up these contexts in my office, and although this works..it does have a tendency to feel contrived.
This also becomes a great time to discuss with the sibling (or model for the sibling) what the nature of her brother’s difficulties are and how she can help. In many cases, we see the sibling become a protective figure–she will frequently finish her brother’s sentences or actually talk for her brother. Although her intentions are great–the child receiving speech therapy typically needs to be talking to make progress and this type of “help” will inhibit gains. In these instances, we will ask the sibling to stay quiet and let her brother talk for himself.
3. If your daughter is old enough–or mature enough–sit her down and validate her feelings of jealousy. Children, just like adults, want others to understand why they are upset-they are just not as adept as getting their feelings across. We have to do this for them. You can say something like, “Sammy has a hard time with his speech and talking can be difficult for him. I know it is difficult for you to watch him have all of these fun visitors come to the house and play with him–but they are really coming here to help him“.
Again, thank you for your question Janice. You raise an excellent point and your intuitions were spot on. Often times, the child who isn’t receiving therapy gets over-looked–especially in the busy family, where both parents are working. Talking to your daughter about your son’s therapy and having her sit in on one of his sessions will giver her insight and help her to understand. Making time to spend with just her–will give her special attention too and ultimately make her feel better.