Supporting Siblings of Children with Autism
Raising multiple children is difficult, and it can be hard to carve out time to provide attention to each child individually. This can become even more difficult when one of your children has more individual or challenging needs. Due to these additional challenges, extra attention may need to be given to your child in order to support their needs. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to balance the attention given to your child with challenging behaviors and the attention given to your other children. This is nobody’s fault, but it tends to leave your other children receiving less attention and support than they would otherwise receive. In today’s blog, we’re going to talk about some great ways to help support the siblings of children with autism.
Carve out time for your neurotypical children and give them an outlet
Spending one-on-one time with your children is incredibly important. While your child with autism may require more time and attention than you’re able to give to your other children, it’s important to be able to dedicate a little time each day with them as well, and will mean a lot to them. It can be as simple as watching an episode of their favorite show with them, reading them a story before bed each night, or playing a quick game after dinner, but getting to spend a little special one-on-one time with you can make a world of difference in their eyes.
Also, just as it’s important for parents to have a support group within the community where they can talk to other parents living in similar situations, the siblings of children with autism need external supports where they can meet and interact with peers in the same boat as them. This can happen through community programs, respite services, or online groups. Allowing your children to meet other kids in similar situations can give them a healthy outlet to release their emotions and talk with someone who might understand their frustrations, which can help your children feel a sense of acceptance and let them know they aren’t alone.
Talk about autism with your children
It’s important to talk with your children about autism to educate them about the diagnosis and what it means. Your children may be nervous or unsure about asking questions on the topic, so take the lead in the conversation to help them know it’s okay to ask questions. Some questions your children may have could be “Why does Sarah bite a lot?” or “Why won’t Bobby talk to us?”. In these situations, telling them “Bobby isn’t able to talk the same way we do” can greatly help increase your children’s understanding of their sibling. Similarly, as your children get older, they may wonder what the future will look like for their sibling, or what they may be asked to help. By opening a dialogue with your children and explaining things to them, they will develop a stronger understanding of autism, which can help your children learn healthy coping strategies to prevent feelings of jealousy, loneliness, anxiety, or embarrassment.
Another great benefit to having open conversations with your children is that it can also help teach siblings of children with autism patience and improve their ability to handle difficult situations. It is important to discuss where your children can go if they are feeling overwhelmed and need time to themselves to process everything. Just as your child with autism may need a space of their own when they are feeling overwhelmed, allowing your neurotypical children to have a space when they need time to themselves can greatly help them stay calm during challenging behaviors and will provide another strong coping strategy as mentioned earlier.
Foster a strong relationship between your children
In addition to having open and honest conversations about autism with your neurotypical children, it is also vital to nurture a positive relationship between them and their brother or sister with autism. Teaching your children the best ways to communicate and play with each other can do wonderful things for increasing understanding and building kinship between your child with autism and your neurotypical children. This will not only benefit your neurotypical children, but will also help your child with autism develop better social and peer play skills.
Thank you for reading; we hope you found this helpful and informative! Be sure to follow Golden State on social media to stay up-to-date on what’s new, and catch the latest blogs for more helpful tips and guides. Have a great day!