If you’re the sibling of someone with autism, you might feel like you’re on a roller coaster of emotions. You may feel scared, confused, and even left out at times. But you are not alone. Here are some ways to help you understand and support your sibling with autism.
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How autism affects siblings
If you have a brother or sister with autism, you may feel like your parents pay more attention to them than they do to you. You might think it’s not fair that they get more help and understanding. And you might feel left out when your family talks about autism and how to deal with it.
It’s natural for brothers and sisters of People With Autism to feel these things. But there are ways to get the support you need. Here are some things you can do:
· Talk to your parents about how you’re feeling. They might not know unless you tell them.
· Find someone to talk to who understands what it’s like to have a brother or sister with autism. This could be another family member, a friend, or a counselor at school.
· Join a support group for brothers and sisters of people with autism This can be a good place to share your feelings and meet other kids who understand what you’re going through.
· Get involved in your brother or sister’s treatment and education plan. This will help you feel like you’re part of the team working to help them.
· Help your brother or sister learn social skills by including them in activities with your friends.
How you can help
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be a tough diagnosis for the whole family to deal with. Siblings may feel left out, confused, or even scared. Here are some things you can do to help your other children understand and cope with a brother or sister with ASD.
1. Talk about ASD openly with your other children.
Explain what ASD is and how it affects your child’s behavior. This will help them understand why their sibling acts differently and may make them more tolerant of challenges.
2. Encourage your other children to be supportive.
Encourage them to include their brother or sister in activities, play nice, and be accepting of differences. Help them see that their sibling is just like them, despite any challenges they may face.
3. Help your other children cope with difficult behaviors.
ASD can sometimes cause meltdowns or tantrums in affected children. Help your other children understand that this isn’t personal and give them coping strategies, like walking away or ignoring the behavior if possible.
4. Give each child individual attention.
Make sure you spend time one-on-one with each of your children, so they don’t feel like they’re competing for your attention. This is especially important if you have a child with ASD who may require more time and energy than typical children do.
Tips for parents
If you have a child with autism, you’re not alone: one in 68 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with an Autism spectrum disorder according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you have more than one child, it’s likely that at least one of them is unaffected by autism. While raising a child with autism can be a rewarding experience, it can also be challenging, especially for siblings who may feel left out or even resentful at times. Here are some tips from experts on how to support your other children while raising a child with autism.
Encourage siblings to express their feelings
It’s important to encourage siblings of children with autism to express their feelings, both positive and negative. “Siblings often feel guilty if they have negative feelings toward their brother or sister with autism, so it’s important for them to know that it’s okay to feel angry, sad or jealous sometimes,” said psychologist Jennifer Latson in an interview with Parenting magazine. “Helping them find words for their feelings can make a big difference.”
Make time for each child
With the extra time and energy required to care for a child with autism, it’s easy for parents to unintentionally focus more on the child with special needs. But it’s important to make time for each of your children individually so they don’t feel left out or neglected. “Plan special outings or activities that your other children can enjoy without their sibling with autism,” suggests Autism Speaks an organization dedicated to supporting people with autism and their families. “This quality time will help your unaffected child feel loved and supported – and give you a chance to focus solely on him or her.”
Educate siblings about autism
If your other children are old enough, take some time to explain what autism is and how it affects their brother or sister – but keep it age-appropriate. “Even very young children can benefit from simple explanations of why their sibling acts differently or may need more help than they do,” writes Autism Speaks. Older siblings can also be involved in educating classmates about their sibling with autism if they choose to do so – something that can help increase awareness and acceptance of differences in others
How to support your child
If your child has a brother or sister with autism, they may have mixed feelings about it. They may feel both protective and resentful towards their sibling. It’s important to talk to your child about their feelings and let them know that it’s okay to have all kinds of feelings, including ambivalent ones.
There are ways you can support your child in their relationship with their sibling with autism. One way is to provide opportunities for them to interact in ways that are comfortable for both of them. For example, you might set up a special time each week when they can play together without interruption.
Another way to support your child is to help them understand autism. You can do this by reading books about autism together or watching films and documentaries about it. It’s also helpful to talk openly about autism with your extended family and friends, so they can better understand and support your child too.
Dealing with difficult behaviors
Dealing with difficult behaviors is one of the biggest challenges parents face when raising a child with autism. While it’s important to understand that these behaviors are often a result of the autism itself, they can still be difficult to deal with on a daily basis. Here are some tips for dealing with difficult behaviors in your child with autism:
1. First, try to understand the behavior and its triggers. This will help you be better prepared to deal with it when it happens.
2. Next, develop a plan for dealing with the behavior when it does occur. This may include redirecting your child’s attention, providing them with an outlet for their excess energy, or providing positive reinforcement when they do display positive behavior.
3. Finally, be consistent in your approach to dealing with the behavior. If you find that a certain approach is not working, don’t hesitate to try something different. The most important thing is that you remain patient and understanding throughout the process.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be tough not just on the individual with the diagnosis, but also on their siblings. Just as parents often find themselves at a loss when their child with ASD has a meltdown, siblings may feel scared, frustrated and helpless. Here are some things you can do to support your other children when their brother or sister is having a tough time.
Encourage honest expression of feelings.
Your child might feel like they need to bottle up their feelings in order to avoid upsetting their sibling with ASD. Assure them that it’s okay to express anger, sadness and other emotions, and encourage them to talk to you or another trusted adult about what they’re going through.
Validate their experiences.
It’s normal for siblings of children with ASD to feel jealous, left out and unimportant at times. Show them that you understand and respect their feelings by listening without judging or offering unsolicited advice.
Teach them how to communicate effectively.
Siblings can learn how to better communicate with their brother or sister with ASD by studying how they interact with others. Encourage your child to look fortopic nonverbal cues, such as body language and tone of voice, that will help them understand what the other person is trying to say. You can also role-play different scenarios with them so they can practice what they’ve learned in a safe and supportive environment.
Help them find an outlet for their feelings. Physical activity can be a great way for kids to blow off steam and relieve stress. If your child isn’t into sports, there are plenty of other outlet activities they might enjoy, such as arts and crafts, playing music or writing in a journal.
Make time for one-on-one bonding. Spending quality time together can help siblings feel closer to each other and foster a sense of understanding and compassion. Even if it’s just reading a book together or taking a walk around the block, carving out some alone time will let your child know that they are important to you and that you value their relationship
Helping your child cope
Having a brother or sister with autism can be a big adjustment for any child. While it’s important to focus on supporting your child with autism, it’s also crucial to help your other children cope in a healthy way.
Here are some tips for helping your child cope with having a sibling with autism:
-Encourage your child to express their feelings openly. It’s perfectly normal for them to feel jealous, frustrated, or left out at times.
-Talk about autism with your child in an age-appropriate way. Help them to understand that their sibling’s condition is not their fault and that there is nothing they can do to change it.
-Make sure your child feels included and involved as much as possible. Help them to understand what their sibling with autism is going through and how they can best support them.
-Encourage positive behavior by providing praise and reinforcement when they interact successfully with their sibling.
-Seek professional help if you’re concerned about your child’s coping skills or mental health. A therapist can provide guidance and support for both you and your child.
It is important to encourage communication between siblings, especially if one has autism. There are a few ways to do this:
-Encourage eye contact and use facial expressions when talking to each other.
-Make sure both siblings have a way to communicate, whether it is through sign language, a picture exchange system, or spoken words.
-Model communication for them by speaking clearly and patiently.
-Encourage siblings to spend time together doing activities they both enjoy.
Building social skills
Siblings of children with autism can feel isolated, left out, and even resentful. It’s important to helpbuild their social skills so they can connect with friends and cope with their feelings.
Here are some ways to help your child build social skills:
-Encourage your child to join clubs or activities that interest them. This will help them meet other kids who share their interests.
-Talk to your child about their feelings. Help them label their emotions and understand that it’s OK to feel sad, angry, or frustrated sometimes.
-Teach your child how to start and carry on a conversation. This can be tricky for kids with autism, butpractice makes perfect!
-Encourage your child to be patient and understanding with their sibling. They may not always get along perfectly, but remind them that they’re family and they love each other no matter what.
As a sibling of someone with autism, you might feel like you have to take on a lot of responsibility. But it’s important to encourage your brother or sister with autism to be as independent as possible. This will help them build confidence and skills and feel good about themselves.
Here are some ways you can help your sibling with autism become more independent:
-Help them learn daily living skills such as brushing their teeth, getting dressed, and making their bed.
-Encourage them to try new things and be persistent when they face challenges.
-Praise their accomplishments, no matter how small.
-Be a good role model by doing things for yourself, such as making your own breakfast or cleaning up your room.
-Help them practice social skills by inviting friends over or taking turns during conversations.
-Make sure they have opportunities to do things they enjoy, such as playing sports or joining a club.
Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.