Helping Siblings Cope with Autism

November 10, 2015

Being the parent of a child or children with autism has its own unique challenges dealing with day-to-day events.  But being the parent of children both on and off the spectrum can be the biggest challenge of all. Balancing the needs and attention of all children in your home can be a major struggle.  How can you support, comfort and guide your non special needs child deal with life events, their sibling relationship as well as understand the challenges facing their brother or sister?  Let’s look at some suggestions from experts at and the Autism Network as to how to help your child cope with their siblings diagnoses.

  • Explaining Autism – Discussing autism with siblings can be difficult to do but should help your child understand the facts vs myths of things they may overhear or learn on their own.  While there is no perfect time to start discussing what autism is and why a sibling may act  in certain ways, most experts agree that starting an open dialog early is better.  That dialogue can continue and expand as understanding grows throughout the years.  Children will need more mature and in-depth explanations as they get older but beginning with a simplistic talk is best.
  • Sharing Attention – This is no easy task for any parent irregardless of special needs.  Siblings may feel that their autistic brother or sister get more attention especially given the vast number of appointments, therapies and at-home support that is needed.  Reassure your children that they are loved no matter how much time is spent on them.  Carve out some one-on-one time with your children to drive that point home.  Even if the alone time is reading a book together at night or car rides to/from sports or activities.  Some children also find comfort in knowing that these appointments and therapies are, in reality, hard work for their autistic sibling.
  • Dealing with Autistic Behavior in Public – No one likes to be embarrassed. Explain that it is extremely natural to be embarrassed by a siblings behavior.  Children should be taught that they do not need to explain their siblings behaviors to stranger if they don’t want to.  It often helps children to admit what embarrasses you as a parent in public so they feel they are not alone.  They should understand that they can not control how others respond, stare or point at a sibling but that they can control their own reactions.





The Autism Society

The Sibling Support Network