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Siblings of Children with Autism: What to consider

Raising a child with autism can come with both challenges and incredibly beautiful life experiences. A diagnosis of autism for your child can also come with many different emotions spanning from relief to have an answer, to fear of the unknown, and all emotions in between. But how can this diagnosis or its symptoms effect a sibling? At times, siblings of children with autism can get overlooked as they often do not have as many immediate needs to be addressed making it all the more important to carve out intentional time for them. Below I will address some important considerations for sibling of children with autism.

If you have general questions or concerns about autism, see Autism in Children: What you need to know. If you are wondering what therapies are typically recommended for children with autism, see Supports and Services for Children with Autism. Wanting to know what symptoms of autism can look like across the lifespan, see How Symptoms of Autism Can Change with Age

What to consider for siblings of children with autism

Remember, all children with autism and their siblings are unique and have individual strengths and weaknesses. Thus, there is no one size fits all list that encompasses all considerations for siblings of children with autism. Below are general examples of topics to discuss, activities to implement, and considerations for siblings of children with autism.

Teach

Teach siblings about autism, including: what it means, how autism is diagnosed, typical symptoms and behaviors, and therapies their diagnosed sibling may attend. Give them time and space to ask questions about autism away from their diagnosed sibling. It is not uncommon for a sibling's friends to have questions so it is important that they feel informed and have an understanding about the diagnosis.

Activities

Make time for siblings to engage in age appropriate activities. Children with autism often spend a decent amount of time in various therapies which can fill up a family's schedule making it important to be intentional about finding time for siblings to attend age appropriate activities. Age appropriate activities for siblings can include sports, gatherings with friends, or school clubs.

Talk

Give siblings an opportunity to talk to you about how they are doing and how things may be affecting them. Check in with them directly, apart from their diagnosed sibling. Are kids at school kind to them regarding their sibling? Are there emotions that they want to discuss with you or situations they were unsure how to handle? Having open communication about their feelings, experiences, wants, and needs is key.

Responsibility

At times, siblings of diagnosed children can have increased responsibility placed on them such as attending to their siblings needs or caring for household activities while parents engage with their sibling. It is important to be mindful of extra responsibilities being placed on siblings and to make sure this is not adding stress or interfering with their time to enjoy childhood.

1-on-1 time

Finally, be intentional about making time for one-on-one time with siblings of diagnosed children. With therapies and added needs it can be easy to focus a large portion of time on their diagnosed sibling, and it is important to carve out time to engage with each child individually. This is a great time to engage in activities that may not be a good fit for their diagnosed sibling.

A free therapy consultation in Draper

Hopefully this helps answer your questions about considerations for siblings of children with autism. If you have other questions, feel free to call me at (801)-613-9184 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to answer additional questions or direct you to the right person. If you are looking for parent training or challenging behavior support for your children, you can read more about how I can help HERE.

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