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Advice for siblings of children with autism

Advice for siblings of children with autism

Living with a sibling is not always easy, especially when you are supposed to learn to share everything in your early years, including your parents’ free time. Having a sibling that has autism, however, can be particularly challenging.

To handle this situation effectively, you need to have exceptional emotional intelligence and provide constant support to your sibling. It often means putting their needs ahead of yours, setting your emotions aside, and investing much of your free time.

For many, especially younger children, having a sibling with autism can be demanding, and struggling with it is normal. Dealing with autism is a science of its own, and no one can be perfect at it.

Nonetheless, vocalizing your struggles and concerns and being patient and supportive can make a significant difference in your sibling’s life. Remember, you and your family are their number one source of encouragement and assistance to help them succeed. Keep on reading for our advice on how to support your sibling with autism.

Learn more about autism

Getting to know more about the condition is the first part of understanding how to provide emotional and social support to your sibling.

Understanding the diagnosis

Look up all the available information about autism, its presumable causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Currently, autism is a significant area of research interest, and there are more and more studies on it each year.

Understanding these can help you provide your sibling with the most recent innovations and methods regarding therapy, as well as social and emotional support.

Understanding their struggles

Learning more about why they act the way they do can help you better understand your sibling with autism. Understand that their communication, social interactions, and the way they process sensory information is different.

Be empathetic towards their feelings and picture yourself walking in their shoes. Also, try to understand why they might be getting more attention from your parents and avoid blaming them. Children with autism often have special needs and require more attention, but that doesn’t mean you’re not loved.

Every child with autism is different

Each child with autism is unique, and the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can vary significantly regarding their ability to socialize, learn, and interact.

Nonetheless, reading about others’ success stories can help you identify what helped them and how you can implement their strategies with your sibling.

Explaining their situation to others

Some of your friends or family members might be confused about how your sibling communicates and interacts. Don’t be embarrassed by your sibling, and learn to explain their situation in an accessible way to integrate them into your social circle.

How you can make a difference

Your sibling with autism is lucky to have you. You and your parents are the people that can enable them to lead an active, socially and emotionally fulfilled lifestyle. Establishing a circle of support around your sibling in the face of your parents, peers, and professional counselors can make an immense difference.

Be their best friend

The relationship with your sibling can be complex and challenging at times. How they interact could sometimes make you feel upset, frustrated, or misunderstood. The inevitability of handling such situations is that you must learn not to be angry and accept them in the way they are.

Their behavior could seem peculiar at times, or sometimes it might feel challenging to capture their attention. Nonetheless, try to spend as much time as you can together and invent games and activities that you both feel comfortable and happy with when playing. Strengthen your bonds and be their number one source of energy and support.

Identify their strengths and nurture them

Many children with autism have talents and can excel in certain areas in comparison to their neurotypical peers. Many schools might not be able to identify and support these abilities the way they should. On the other hand, public autism support classrooms could also neglect their skills and talents. Your sibling will often spend most of their time with other children with autism, where the focus is primarily on building social skills.

It might take time, but make an effort to identify their strengths and nurture them. It could be art, dancing, calculus, swimming, or horse riding. 

Create a homeschool-friendly environment

Regardless of whether your sibling goes to regular school, homeschooling can be a terrific option to help them improve. You can use various learning tools to help them acquire new abilities from a young age, such as counting, drawing, and reading.

Introduce your sibling to other children with autism

Autism is more common than you might think. Statistics show that roughly 1 in every 54 children have ASD. Nowadays, with social media, it’s easy to find communities and organizations dedicated to supporting each other, sharing knowledge, and providing social outlets for their children.

Meeting and interacting with others in similar situations will facilitate your sibling’s social and emotional growth.

Be proud of your brother or sister

Sometimes, you might find yourself embarrassed by how your sibling acts or communicates in front of others. With time, you will learn to accept them the way they are and speak openly about autism to your friends. If they are true to you, they too will provide support and understanding.

Appreciate, love, and be proud of your brother or sister in the way they are, without feeling the need to justify their behavior in front of those that might not understand.

Set Your Emotions Aside

It can often be challenging to put someone else’s needs ahead of yours. It requires exceptional emotional intelligence and altruism which could be difficult, especially if you’re still young. Nonetheless, always remind yourself that your sacrifices serve a bigger purpose. No one chose things to be this way, but you and your family are your sibling’s key to success, even though they might not realize it yet.

Managing your emotions

Many siblings of children with autism admit to feeling pressured to be the perfect, quiet child that doesn’t cause trouble. Some might feel that expectations towards them are too high and as if they’re forbidden to fail. Nonetheless, we are all human, and it’s normal to feel frustration, anger, or even jealousy towards your sibling sometimes. With them receiving all the attention, you can sometimes feel ignored or unwanted.

Always remind yourself of the bigger picture, and don’t be afraid to vocalize your concerns. Having open conversations with your family is your number one weapon for dealing with emotions.

Nurture your relationship

Spending more quality time with your sibling might help you better handle emotions, such as anger and frustration. Each hour spent together will get them a few steps closer to emotional, social, and behavioral growth.

Dedicate time to your sibling, make it a commitment, a tradition to spend time together, interact and get closer. Find activities that both of you appreciate and find rewarding. It could be as simple as passing a ball or solving jigsaw puzzles. Create quality memories and nurture your relationship.

Nonetheless, every child with ASD is different, and sometimes forming a bond can be challenging. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and needs to your parents as well and consider seeking professional counseling. You are not alone!


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