Parents who have an autistic child often struggle to find a way to balance their time and attention, especially with other children they may have who are not on the spectrum. This can create tension and stress between siblings that isn’t healthy for anybody in the family. The autism society proposed the following steps to help siblings cope with having an autistic brother/sister:
- Siblings need age-appropriate information about their autistic brother/sister so they can begin to understand why their sibling is behaving in a way they may find weird. Keeping this information from your child will cause confusion and potential resentment later on.
- The same way you praise your child on the spectrum for their progress and effort is the same way you should praise their sibling as well. This recognition is important for keeping up your child’s self-esteem and make sure they feel accomplished when they overcome their own obstacles as well.
- Take a small chunk of time where you spend direct one-on-one time with your typically developing child. Siblings may feel ignored sometimes and so doing this may lessen any building stress or worries they may have that you don’t care for them as much as their brother/sister.
- Teach your child how to play and interact successfully with their autistic sibling. Use toys and activities that interest them both, and provide positive reinforcement for them working together, such as praising.
- Work together with your typically developing child to be more patient and understanding of each other. Help them develop positive ways to cope with and manage their emotions.
- Explain strategies for dealing with questions and comments from their peers or other people in their community. Prepare them for situations that may arise where people do not understand what autism is and how to react.
- Make sure to give each child the space they need from their sibling. Despite the typically developing child may have more responsibilities, make sure that they aren’t overwhelmed or resentful of things they may have to do for their sibling that will not necessarily be reciprocated.