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Ahren Hoffman
BY Ahren Hoffman

5 Ways to Make Quality Time for the Special Needs Sibling

Providing your child with one-on-one undivided attention can be the most beneficial and valuable element to his development. However, when your child is the sibling of a brother or sister with special needs, that time becomes even more influential to their social and emotional needs.

Positive praise is a powerful tool to help kids develop, but showing your child he truly matters by spending individual time with him is exemplified by the adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” Finding time to focus individually with each of your children is critical to creating connections, building memories and fostering their sense of worth and confidence.

Here are five fun suggestions on how to spend quality time with your kids:

1. One-On-One Time

One-on-one time is best if it is scheduled! Determine if it is feasible to do it once per week, once per month or once every other month with your child. Make it known and follow through. One-on-one time should be free of distractions for both parties- no TV, video games, cell phones, etc. Eliminating outside distractions helps one-on-one time be the most successful!

One-On-One Time Ideas:

  • Go for a walk or bike ride in the park.
  • Paint nails or go get a manicure.
  • Go get ice cream or a treat.
  • Plan a quick weekend/overnight getaway together.

Ongoing One-On-One Time Ideas

  • Sign up for a class together! Start a project together!
  • Start a garden together.
  • Go to a parent/child fitness class.

2. Integrate Together Time

Kids love to help (sometimes too much!) so ask your children individually to help you make dinner, grocery shop, pack lunches the night before school, fold laundry, bake a treat for work or school, etc. This “integrated time” will help you teach your child to build competencies and to work collaboratively.

  • Be cautious with this activity if your child is already overly helpful. Many children that have a brother or sister with special needs are more mature than their age. Gear activities to be age appropriate.
  • Cooking in the kitchen is a great opportunity to increase involvement with you! Create theme nights for dinner like pasta night, taco night or pizza night. When there are recurring themes for dinner, he’ll remember the routine from the last time. While he is helping get out the ingredients for food prep, he may be more willing to share about what’s happening at school or how his day went.

3. Phantom Time

Let your child know you are there with special notes in his lunch box, on his night stand or under his pillow. Even though you can’t spend tons of one on one time with him or let him assist with daily routines and household duties every day, this lets him know you are thinking of them all of the time. Don’t forget to verbally tell him how great he is too!

4. 5-Minute Check In

The “5-Minute Check In” is an efficient way to fit in meaningful moments. Set aside cell phones and smart devices and check in with your child for 5 minutes. No distractions!

5-Minute Check In Ideas:

  • Cuddle up on the couch together.
  • Create a secret handshake.
  • Create a nightly ritual for getting ready for bed.

5. Break Time

If all else fails and you can’t designate one on one time as often as you would like, try to incorporate “family breaks” for the entire family to do something together for 15 minutes. Set an alarm that goes off every week or every day based on what is feasible for your family. For just 15 minutes when the alarm goes off, the family must drop what they are doing and come to a designated place in the house. This is an opportune time to talk about the days events or current happenings. Or maybe this is a good time for no talking, just a 15 minute dance party! Get some energy out, laugh and enjoy togetherness through dance.

Spending time with your children as a family provides them with opportunities to learn and to be heard. Most of all, it provides you and your children time to connect. It’s these connections that make your children feel loved and appreciated. Make time for quality time! The benefits of spending that one-on-one time with them or letting them assist with household chores and routines makes them feel appreciated, connected and encourages social and emotional development.

Ahren Hoffman

Written on March 11, 2014 by:

Ahren Hoffman IS the manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek, is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit for a complete listing of toys. You can also find them onFacebook