Book review: Mary McHugh’s "Special Siblings"

Read more about Special Siblings at Amazon.In Special Siblings: Growing Up With Someone with a Disability, Mary McHugh doesn’t shy away from the troublesome aspects of sibling relationships — she addresses them. It is emotional and enlightening; I recommend this book to teen and adult siblings, as well as all professionals who support families of children with autism and other disabilities.

McHugh is a writer in her 70’s. She’s written dozens of books and hundreds of articles, but this book is her only one specifically written about disabilities.

McHugh’s younger brother, Jack, was born with cerebral palsy and mental retardation. She and Jack were adults when their mother died, and McHugh had to take on the responsibility of caring for Jack.

Ambivalent feelings toward Jack — anger, resentment, guilt, and disappointment — had all been repressed before then. By getting to know Jack better, McHugh soon realized the important role her brother played in shaping her character, her life, and her other relationships.

Far from being just a “poor me, wonderful me, look at my special life” memoir, Special Siblings includes relevant research and interviews with more than 100 other siblings and experts. McHugh addresses the things brothers and sisters of a sibling with autism or other disabilities need from their parents; how having a sibling with autism or another disability may affect the child’s or adult’s social and professional relationships.

In addition, McHugh’s book shows how career options for the sibling without a disability are affected, and how families can plan together for the future of the child with the disability.

And what I like best about this book — it’s honest.


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  1. Easter Seals and Autism » Blog Archive » Two brothers with autism: a 17-year-old tells all Says:

    […] while back I posted a review of Mary McHugh’s book Special Siblings: Growing Up With Someone with a Disability here on the Easter Seals and autism […]

  2. Easter Seals and Autism » Blog Archive » Special Siblings — author Mary McHugh needs to hear from you Says:

    […] I’m pleased to introduce my friend Mary McHugh as a guest blogger. Mary is the author of 17 books, including Special Siblings: Growing up with Someone with a Disability. […]

  3. Mary McHugh Says:

    I want to thank you and Beth Finke for the wonderful review of my book “Special Siblings.” Easter Seals is such a fine organization and to have my book mentioned to your readers, especially in connection with autism, which has become an epidemic in this country, makes me very glad I wrote the book. There are a lot of us siblings out there and I was trying to be a helpful friend to them when I wrote “Special Siblings.” Beth Finke made me feel that I have succeeded.

    Thank you again.
    Mary McHugh

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