Supporting Siblings of Children with Autism
Raising a child with autism can come with its own set of challenges, and extra attention may need to be provided in order to give the support your child needs. Unfortunately it can be difficult to balance the attention given to your children with autism and the attention given to your neurotypical children, and though it’s nobody’s fault, this tends to lead to your neurotypical children receiving less attention and support. In today’s blog, we’re going to discuss some ways to help support the siblings of children with autism.
It is important to talk with your children about autism to educate them about the diagnosis and what it means. Your children may be nervous or unsure about asking questions on the topic, so take the lead in the conversation to help them know it’s okay to ask questions. Common questions your children may have could be “Why does Alex bite a lot?” or “Why won’t Erin talk to us?”. In situations like these, saying something like “Erin isn’t able to talk the same way we do” can help increase your children’s understanding of their sibling. Similarly, as your children get older, they may wonder what the future may look like for their sibling, or what they may be asked to do to help out. By explaining things to your children and starting a dialogue, this can help them develop a better understanding of autism, and can help your children learn healthy coping strategies to prevent feelings of jealousy, loneliness, anxiety, or embarrassment.
Another benefit to having open conversations with your children is that it can also help teach siblings of children with autism patience and improve their ability to handle difficult situations. One topic that is important to discuss with your children is where they can go if they are feeling overwhelmed and need time to themselves to process everything. Allowing your neurotypical children to have a space they can call their own when they need time to themselves can greatly help them stay calm during challenging behaviors and will provide a good coping strategy as mentioned earlier.
In addition to having open and honest conversations about autism with your neurotypical children, it is also very important to develop a positive relationship between them and their brother or sister with autism. Teaching your children how best to communicate and play with one another can do wonders for increasing understanding and building kinship between your child with autism and your neurotypical children. This will not only benefit your neurotypical children, but will also help your child with autism develop better social and peer play skills.
Spending one-on-one time with your children is vital. While your child with autism may require more time and attention than you’re able to give to your other children, it’s still important to be able to dedicate a little time each day with them as well. Whether it’s watching an episode of their favorite show with them, reading them a story before bed each night, or playing a quick game after dinner, making sure all of your children get to spend a little special time with you can make a world of difference.
Finally, just as it’s important for parents to have support groups within the community where they can talk to other parents living in similar situations, it’s also important to provide supports for the siblings of children with autism where they can meet and interact with peers in the same boat as them. This can come in the form of community programs, respite services, or even online groups. These different supports can help the entire family when life seems to get overwhelming. For your children, allowing them to meet other kids in a similar family setting can give them a place to release their emotions and talk with someone who might understand their frustrations, which can help your children to feel accepted and show them they’re not alone.
Thank you for reading, we hope you found this helpful and informative! Be sure to follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on what’s new at Gateway and catch the latest blogs for more helpful tips. Have a great day!