Written by: Dolores Alvarez, BCBA
Autism like other disabilities and disorders can take a toll on all members of the family. It’s important as a parent to know these helpful tips that can make things either easier or more manageable for siblings of Autism. If you are a sibling of Autism, these tips can help you work through the difficulties you may be experiencing on your day to day or that may arise when having a sibling on the spectrum.
- What is Autism?
Learn about Autism and get to know your sibling’s diagnosis, deficits and strengths are to help understand what your sibling is dealing with.
For younger siblings, family members can help them grasp these concepts in language and terms they can understand. For example explaining a difficult situation: “Your brother has a hard time when we sing Happy Birthday, so we are going to just play quiet music for him to blow out the candles because that is what he likes.”)
- Open Communication
Be open and get comfortable with talking about Autism. By following tip #1, you will have a better understanding of Autism and get comfortable with explaining it to others. Autism is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is okay to feel uncomfortable or sad about your sibling having Autism.
For younger siblings, family members can provide support with this concept in terms and language that is easier for them to understand (ex. “Your sister needs extra help with learning how to use her words when she wants something.”)
- Time With Mom and Dad
It’s okay to ask for your parents’ undivided attention. Sometimes, parents may not realize that although family time is awesome, there are times children want to hang out with their parents alone.
For younger siblings, family members may want to initiate this idea and see if their children are interested.
- Activities With Your Sibling
Find activities you can do with your sibling. By following tip #1, you can have an understanding of your sibling’s strengths and what activities would be great to do with them. Whether it’s puzzles, swimming, painting, etc., you can find great ideas to do at home or locations your sibling can tolerate by searching online to get some ideas. This will help you make you make a connection with your sibling and vice versa.
For younger siblings, family members can facilitate these activities and play between siblings.
*Note: It is a good idea not to set certain expectations of how the activity is going to pan out in case it gets overwhelming or the activity was just not enjoyable for either sibling. Don’t give up, try new activities and find what fits best for your family.
- Having Support
There are support groups and resources for siblings of Autism. It is a great idea to speak to other siblings and see what has worked for them. Maybe even make plans for play dates/hang outs with someone that also has a sibling with Autism. This could be a great way for the siblings with Autism and their siblings to all make connections with each other.
If support groups are not your preference, you can always reach out and communicate your feelings with family members. Sometimes people may be surprised to discover their parent or other siblings feel the same way and can work together to come up with strategies to use when overwhelmed or dealing with other emotions.