Growing up with a sibling is a wonderful thing. Of course, there are always ups and downs with any sibling relationship, just as there are with most relationships. But for siblings, you’re essentially “stuck” with each other and it can sometimes be challenging to get along.
Add the extra challenges of living with autism and you have a scenario that can be very tough to navigate at times and also very fun and exciting to experience at others.
Although it’s different for each family, there are common joys and challenges that most siblings of children with autism experience.
The Joys Of Having An Autistic Sibling
Much of the time, autism is seen as a disability. However, autism often presents the affected child with a very unique perspective on life. This unique take on life also impacts those people around the child–especially in the immediate family, and particularly with siblings, depending on their ages.
For children who are close in age with their autistic sibling, there is a great chance that their learning and development will be impacted by the sibling’s development. Either way, interacting and living with a sibling with autism is a very special experience. It can provide incredible perspective for children and it oftentimes results in a more open view of the world.
Living with an autistic sibling also tends to improve leadership qualities. Because the brothers and/or sisters are placed in an environment where helping out on a daily basis is often required, they learn to take initiative and improve at analyzing situations that call for action.
Their leadership skills can develop beyond being able to help out at home, too. A sibling of a child with autism is usually put through many more uncomfortable situations socially than the average kid. From taking up for the sibling when being teased to simply being around the autistic sibling in public, he or she is forced to adapt and this often leads to an improved ability to manage such situations.
Even though autism can be a very difficult disorder to manage and live with, there are truly some wonderful things that come out of living with a sibling with autism.
Of course, there are some real challenges that come with having an autistic sibling, too.
Common Challenges Of Having A Sibling with Autism
Probably the most common cause of stress for siblings of autistic children is feeling embarrassed in public. Whether it’s in school or out at dinner, even just knowing that your sibling could have a meltdown in public can cause a great deal of anxiety. Adding to that stress, siblings without autism may feel guilty for feeling that way – which is not only a complicated weight to carry around but also something that can be hard to pick up on as a parent.
It’s important to talk with your children about these types of situations and feelings because it gives them more opportunities to talk and work through what they may be feeling.
Aggressive tendencies of a sibling with autism can be another incredibly difficult thing for non-autistic children to understand and deal with. Since most children are taught that aggressive actions are frowned upon and should be avoided, it can be a real challenge when their autistic siblings are “allowed” to display aggressive behaviors.
If this is the case with your child then it’s important to communicate to your children without autism that their sibling is not able to communicate their pains and feelings as clearly as most people. This situation can make some kids feel less important than their autistic sibling, so it’s critical to communicate about it often.
Whether your non-autistic children feel taken advantage of, less-important or otherwise, it’s important to validate their emotions in order to effectively work through them.
Living With A Sibling With Autism
Having an autistic sibling presents many sources of joy and strength, as well as many challenges. Each family is unique and will manage this in their own way. Because your child’s siblings are still growing up and developing themselves, it can be a very tough situation for them to manage. Being there to support your non-autistic children is very important.