Many parents find it difficult to balance the demands of supporting a child with Autism and at the same time giving equal attention to their other children.
This is not something to blame yourself for – it is really easy to get totally wrapped up in finding the supports required for your child with Autism, who may in your eyes be the most vulnerable or the most in need of your support at the given time.
It is important however to realise the challenges that come with living with a brother or sister who has Autism. The household probably probably revolves around the needs, behaviour and challenges of your child with Autism and this may be different to their peers.
It is important that siblings are given an understanding of the condition, praised for their support and given some of your time.
Here are some useful points to keep in mind:
Help your son or daughter to understand Autism: Explaining to your son or daughter what Autism is and how it affects your family life in a suitable way for their age can help explain why you do things a little different in your family compared to their friends. There are many books available online that can help you to explain this to your child in a sensitive manner.
They may need support too: It is understandable that a child or young person might feel jealous of a sibling which, as they understand it, takes up all your attention and can dominate the life of the house. Equally they might find the behaviour of the sibling embarrassing or feel different to other children because their sibling is so different, for example they might not feel comfortable having friends around.
Another point to remember is that they do love their sibling and may well worry about them or feel obliged to grow up or act more mature or independent so they can support/protect you and their child with Autism.
These are all issues that are important and that you make sure they know they can talk to you about. If these issues do seem to be impacting on them profoundly there are also professional support services options. Additionally many support groups organise summer camps and events for siblings to give them the opportunity to understand Autism a little better and meet others who have a sibling with Autism.
Encourage hobbies/socialising outside the family: Encourage the other children in your family to have their own special interests and activities. This gives them some time to themselves and also allows them to focus on their own talents and interests. Make sure they socialise and get involved in activities and social events outside of the family, this ensures they have time to act their age and are not constantly impacted by the routine and demands which family life with a child with Autism may bring.
Make time for them: Much easier said than done and at first you might even feel guilty as you might think you are leaving your child with Autism out but it is actually about “levelling the playing field” by ensuring each child has sometime alone with you to do something they enjoy.
Praise and remember the benefits: Be sure to praise and thank your other children when they do something kind or make allowances for their sibling on the spectrum. This will not only help them to feel appreciated but should also serve as a reminder to you of the benefits of having a siblings with Autism. Your children are more likely to be understanding, caring and accepting of diversity and people with various difficulties in life, because of their love of their own sibling and the experiences that has given them – and that is a very good thing!