When one sibling in a family is diagnosed with autism, the entire family dynamic changes. Siblings of autistic child often feel isolated, left out, and confused. This can be especially difficult for younger kiddos, who may not understand why their brother or sister are so different.
Fortunately, there are ways that parents can support the siblings of autistic children. So, if you’re a parent of neurotypical and neurodiverse kids, this blog post is here to help you learn how to show support to all of them!
How to explain autism to siblings
If you have a child with autism, you might be wondering how to explain the diagnosis to his or her siblings. After all, autism can be a confusing and mysterious condition. Here are a few tips to help you make the conversation a little bit easier when explaining autism to a typical child:
Firstly, it's important to keep in mind that every child is different. So when you're explaining it to your child's siblings, make sure to use language that is appropriate for their age and understanding.
Try to use concrete examples and analogies whenever possible. For instance, you might explain that just like some people are left-handed, and some people are right-handed, some people's brains are wired a bit differently than other people's brains. This can help siblings understand that there's nothing wrong with their brother or sister—they're just different in certain ways.You could also explain some behaviors using relatable examples, like: “Just like you get upset when people take your toy without asking, people with autism sometimes get upset when people invade their personal space.”
Remember that your other siblings are probably just as curious about autism as you are, so don't hesitate to share what you know.
Finally, emphasize that having a sibling with autism is not something to be ashamed of. Explain that while sometimes it might be challenging, it's also an amazing opportunity to learn more about the world and grow in patience and understanding. This can help siblings feel good and confident about their autistic siblings.
Supporting siblings of autistic children: 5 Tips
Having a child with autism can be a challenge for any family, but it is especially confusing for their siblings. Here are five tips to help support the siblings of autistic child:
1. Spend time with them
As any parent of an autistic child knows, having a son or daughter with autism can be a handful. But what many people don't realize is that the siblings of autistic children often have a difficult time as well. They may feel left out or neglected when all the attention is focused on their brother or sister.
As a result, it's important to make sure that you spend time with them. This can help them to feel appreciated and loved, and it can also give you a chance to bond.
Make plans whenever you can, take them to their favorite places, cook, eat out… Ask them what they want to do and set up a date, so you can hang out together and have fun.
2. Be honest with them
Just like explaining autism to a typical child, it’s important that you also highlight why you’re paying more attention to your kiddo with ASD. Talking about your child's necessities with their brothers or sisters will help them understand more about the challenges you’re going through.
So, be honest and don’t sugarcoat it! Your kiddos will totally understand and probably will want to help you too!
3. Be inclusive
It can be tricky to find the right balance when parenting siblings with different needs, but there are some things you can do to help include neurotypical kiddos in the life of their autistic brother or sister:
One way is to involve them in activities that everyone enjoys. This can help them to feel like they are a part of their sibling's life and give them a chance to connect with their sibling in a meaningful way. So, for example, if they love a certain movie, encourage them to watch them together.
Additionally, you can also try to involve your kiddos in their sibling care. Neurotypical kids can help their siblings with autism with social skills' development.
Finally, set up play dates depending on what they like. Go to the park together, play video games at home, teach them how to bake. The possibilities are endless.
4. Be a good listener
Neurotypical kids also have needs, wishes, and desires, so it’s crucial that you listen to them! Ask them how they are doing at school, if they require anything, or how you can help them.
Dedicate a certain time in your day to talk and listen to what they have to say. That way, they’ll feel supported.
5. Seek out support
When most people think of therapy, they envision a session where someone lies on a couch and talks about their feelings. However, the reality is that therapy can take many different forms, and it can be beneficial for people of all ages and backgrounds. Neurotypical children often grow up feeling isolated and alone, especially if they have a sibling with autism.
While there are many support groups available for parents of autistic children, there are few resources available for neurotypical siblings. As a result, many neurotypical kids go to therapy to help them deal with the challenges of having an autistic sibling. In addition to providing support and guidance, therapy can also help neurotypical children to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with stress.
As more families seek out support for their autistic loved ones, it is important to remember that neurotypical siblings often need assistance as well.
Siblings of autism: Final thoughts
Growing up with an autistic sibling can be both a challenge and a blessing. On the one hand, neurotypical kids often have to deal with the extra care and attention that their autistic siblings require. This can be tough, especially when friends come over and there's always someone needing help.
But on the other hand, neurotypical kids also learn patience, compassion, and understanding from living with an autistic sibling. They learn to see the world from a different perspective, and they develop special skills in communication and problem-solving.
However, don’t forget to support them! Just because they are neurotypical doesn’t mean they don’t have needs and need support. And, with these tips, you’ll definitely learn how to do it.
If you want to learn more about how to raise autistic kiddos and everything I've learned as a mom of a girl with ASD, visit our blog!