Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Siblings and Autism

Having a sibling with a disability can be challenging and when the disability is ‘hidden’ or not so obvious like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be even harder.

‘Normal’ family life is rarely problem free. A family that never disagrees would be incredibly odd! The presence of an autistic child is unlikely to be the sole cause of such problems, although it may complicate or exacerbate struggles at various times.

Often the sibling with ASD will require extra attention from the parent, and the other children may understandably feel left out or resentful. It’s perfectly normal. No one likes to feel left out, regardless what age they are, or the reasoning.

So what do you do about it? Can you do anything? Absolutely!

Consider setting aside a short period daily or at minimum, weekly, to connect with the other family members and let them know they are special in their own way. Perhaps use the time when a child is travelling from school, undertaking a sport or activity or after siblings have gone to bed. Share a milkshake, a trip to the park or the shops, a book or a game, something simple where the sibling without a disability is not the centre of the activity or event. How special would it be to have a designated ‘date’ with mum or dad, or better, both!

Don’t forget kids are pretty resilient too and research suggests that in the majority of families, the benefits of having a sibling with special needs far outweighs the disadvantages.

Tolerance, acceptance, patience, compassion, a strong sense of equality, social justice and a greater understanding of people and their differences are all common traits in people who have the blessing of a person with additional needs, Autism related or otherwise, in their family.

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