chapter  7
The Brothers and Sisters of Mentally Retarded Children: Ann Gath
Pages 8

How the other members of the family will react to the presence of a mentally retarded child depends, in part, on the timing of the realization that a child has a severe degree of mental retardation. In some conditions, notably Down Syndrome, the facial stigmata and other physical anomalies alert the parents to the probability of a life-long handicap shortly after the child is born. Some of the older children in the family will see for themselves that the child has a distinct appearance. To quote one 16-year-old girl, whose mother had just had a baby by a second marriage, "It's all gone wrong. Mummy has just had one of those mongols." Some siblings, unable to appreciate that the newborn baby does look different from others, are still able to appreciate that all is not well and that their parents are distressed rather than expressing the long anticipated joy at the birth. Children who were very young themselves at this critical time or who were born subsequently may only gradually come to appreciate the difference between their own growing up process and the slow progress of the retarded sibling. By the time the extent of the handicap is appreciated, the relationship between the children has been established without the influence of damaging and often inaccurate prejudice.