Be open with them about some of the differences they may see; don’t hide things from the non-autistic siblings. Having this conversation is not a one-time thing; actively create opportunities for conversation.
It is typical for the sibling to have some negative feelings. Here are some of the common feelings:
- Not knowing how to connect with their autistic sibling
- Lack of attention from and alone time with parents
- Concerns about privacy
- Stress from increased responsibility
- Being the target of aggressive behaviour
- Worrying about their parents or the future¹
The sibling may feel that they are treated differently than their brother or sister. Explain to them it is only because they might need more help to understand the world, but how it is important that we also see the world as they do. Show them ways in which they can support their sibling as well. Acknowledge their negative feelings and work on solutions.
It is also important to take time to listen to the non-autistic sibling regarding the autistic sibling, they often have a unique insight. You may find that your autistic child is more sociable and vocal with their sibling.
Highlight the positives!
Explain to them and encourage them to see that autistic people are amazing and have many skills. Talk about their sibling’s strengths. Make it clear to your non-autistic child that they have a choice in their involvement in caring for their sibling (if they should need any care).
Use visual planners to show the sibling when as a parent you can have special time together that is just for them.
Sibling to sibling interactions
The special bond between siblings can still exist with autistic siblings. Siblings can find ways to be creative and play well together. Sometimes, sibling interactions occur naturally, other times you may have to encourage them to happen. Encourage play with games that they both with like. You may have to play with them at first but make sure to fade yourself out as soon as you can. Teach the non-autistic sibling how to interact and speak to the autistic sibling. Give social praise when you witness positive interactions.
Siblings of autistic children or young adults often learn positive life lessons; they develop maturity and have a wider understanding of individual needs. Encourage the non-autistic sibling to have their own interests that are just for them such as afterschool clubs and sports.
There are also support groups for siblings with autistic children, such as SIBS.
1. Marcus Autism Center. (n.d.). Promoting Positive Sibling Relationships. [online] Available at: https://www.marcus.org/autism-resources/autism-tips-and-resources/promoting-positive-sibling-relationships#:~:text=Growing%20up%20with%20a%20sibling.