By Bonnie Malkin Gillman, Founder
Because children with autism require more attention, therapies and support, the needs of their brothers and sisters are frequently overlooked. Siblings share many of the same concerns their parents have regarding social isolation, the need for information and they worry about the caregiving expectations their parents have for them in the future. Sometimes, they feel resentment, embarrassment and under great pressure to achieve. They are frequently in the waiting room when “family centered” counseling and services are offered and are overlooked by support agencies.
Here are some ways you can help them:
- Plan to spend special time with siblings and be a good listener. If you provide a safe, comfortable environment, they may express their concerns to you.
- When siblings argue, try to remember that typically developing children deserve a life where they, like other children, sometimes misbehave get angry and fight. Try not to intervene with statements like “Leave your brother alone. You are bigger, you are stronger, you should know better. It is your job to compromise.” They are already more likely to feel guilty about their sibling’s developmental needs and most siblings have disagreements from time to time.
- Siblings deserve to have their own personal safety given as much as their brother or sister who has special needs. If they are in vulnerable situations due to aggressive or challenging behaviors, try to provide as much respite time as possible for them. If possible, plan activities that will keep them apart and enable you to give your full attention to only one of them at a time.
- Offer to care for your grandchild with autism so that his/her parents can spend personal time away with their sibling(s). It will convey the message that parents are supportive of all of their children and afford them the opportunity to communicate about their concerns.
- Important to Remember: One child’s special needs should not overshadow another’s achievements and milestones. Celebrate and reinforce the accomplishments of all of your grandchildren.
You may find more information about sibling support groups by calling your local children’s hospital or go online to these sites:
For Adult Siblings: http://siblingleadership.org