Date of Award

Winter 1-25-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Hass

Second Advisor

Brandon Gamble

Third Advisor

Rachel Lambert

Fourth Advisor

Kimberly White-Smith


The research on siblings of individuals with disabilities has rarely addressed the perceived benefits of having a sibling with a disability. The existing research on the experience of siblings of persons with disabilities is also limited to European American families (Sage & Jegatheesan, 2010). With families from different cultures, I sought to capture the experiences of brothers and sisters who have siblings with disabilities. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the relationships of siblings with disabilities and typical developing siblings, and present a holistic picture from the perspective of the typical developing siblings. These gaps in the literature will be addressed by interviewing siblings about their experiences of coping with adversity, the perceived benefits of having a sibling with a disability, and how the perceptions of the person with a disability by professionals, parents, and other family members has impacted their experiences. Participants were recruited from a pool of persons already known to the researcher and through a “snowball” approach (Hays & Singh, 2012), resulting in a heterogeneous group of eight participants. Interpretive phenomenology was the theoretical lens used for this study, as the purpose of it is to interpret and understands one’s described experiences. A semi-structured interview protocol was used to interview each of the participants three times. Themes emerged in the areas of the challenges of having a sibling with a disability, coping with those challenges, and perceived benefits of having a sibling with a disability. Lastly, messages for families, educators, professionals and future researchers are shared.