Supporting your Child Whose Sibling has ASD

When you’re the parent of a child with ASD, you know the impact Autism Spectrum Disorder can have on your entire family. What you may not realize is how much of a toll ASD can take on the siblings of the child with ASD. Studies indicate that siblings of children with ASD are at risk of anxiety, depression, and social difficulties. While you’re coping with the challenges facing your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, how can you support your child who does not have an ASD diagnosis?

  • Be understanding when your child has negative emotions about his or her sibling with ASD. Sometimes, a neurotypical child might be embarrassed by the behavior of a sibling with ASD, or jealous of the time and energy required from the parents. Whatever your child is feeling, honor that, and help the child to work through it.
  • Recognize that each child is unique, regardless of abilities or special needs. The child who doesn’t have ASD still needs to be recognized as a unique individual with his or her own needs, thoughts, hopes, and desires. Be mindful of your typical child’s needs, making a plan to handle difficult situations that may arise. This is especially important when ensuring that each of your children gets the academic support they need.
  • Nurture a relationship between the siblings. Sometimes it’s hard for a child to build a relationship with a sibling who has ASD. Fortunately, you can teach your children how to engage their sibling, so that the children can play together and form a bond. Most children with siblings who have ASD develop a fierce devotion and loyalty to their siblings.
  • Acknowledge that your neurotypical child may be responsible for his or her sibling later in life. It is likely that your child with ASD will outlive you and will need the support or even care of his sibling. Knowing this can be challenging to siblings trying to build their own lives, but you can help by encouraging them to form their own identities outside of the family, as well as discussing plans you have in place for your child with ASD.
  • Give each child one on one time. Your child with ASD needs to be a fully integrated member of your family, but that doesn’t mean that every activity must be shared by the whole family. Remember to give your neurotypical children regular, separate time, whether that’s one evening a week or just a few minutes each day. Make a point of celebrating each child’s achievements, and allow your children without ASD to be the central focus sometimes.

If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

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