When you find out your child has autism you may be worried about what to tell the siblings, or how to help them understand why their brother or sister is different. You may also have to cope with explaining why all of a sudden they need more attention then the other children. Dealing with an autistic child can be difficult, being the sibling of one can be even harder.
Sometimes we as parents become so involved in helping our autistic child, that we forget that our other children need our love and attention too. The situation can become quite critical if the siblings feel like mom and dad don’t love them as much as the afflicted child.
How do we stop this?
One way is to get the siblings into autism support groups. Many cities now have groups that specialize in helping siblings of autistic children to cope with the difficulties and issues that arise in having an autistic sibling.
Another important thing we can do as parents, is to make time for our other children. Even if it means having to get a sitter for the one child, so that you can spend time along and bonding with the siblings. It is important for the children to know that they too are loved, and cared for by the parents.
It is also key to help the siblings cope with the embarrassment that may come from having an autistic sibling. Autistic children often stand out, and can be quite loud and attention grabbing. This can make being a sibling quite difficult. You’ll need to help your child cope with the possibilities of dealing with embarrassment as a result of their sibling.
You also need to make sure that the siblings do not become too parentified, and end up overly caring for their autistic sibling. Too often, they see the weaknesses that their sibling has and step in to help protect them. This is completely okay, but it is important to keep their responsibilities minimal, as they still need a chance to be children, and grow up as such.
One advantage that the siblings have when it comes to their own lives, is that they will typically be more accepting of others with problems or differences. They tend to be more empathetic of others around them that are different.
Having a child with autism can be challenging, but being a sibling can be even worse. With the proper care and attention to the entire family, all of you will cope better.