Building Your Children's Sibling Relationship
Also see: Tips for Grandparents/Extended Family
Neurotypical siblings may need help adjusting to having a sibling with autism and may struggle with building a relationship with their sibling with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Parents can help their neurotypical children by spending quality time with them, supporting their needs and listening to their concerns when they are frustrated. Seek opportunities to strengthen your children’s relationship, such as planning activities for them to enjoy time together and building family traditions.
How can we make our typical children feel special?
- Don’t always make your neurotypical child the caregiver of your child with ASD. When you do request that they be the designated caregiver, model for them what they should do, and provide a schedule and specific tips to guide them with this responsibility.
- In contrast, find a time when your neurotypical sibling can enjoy doing something age-appropriate instead of always assuming more mature responsibilities.
- Find opportunities for you to spend one-on-one time with your neurotypical children. Be aware of how important that quality time is to your neurotypical children.
- Help them explain to their friends about their sibling with ASD. Give them words to say, but also validate their concerns, frustrations and embarrassment.
- Provide a comfortable space where they can invite friends over.
- Allow your child to have possessions that they don’t have to share with their sibling with ASD that will be kept in a safe place. Similarly, setup a space in your home—like the neurotypical sibling’s bedroom—that just belongs to him or her.
- Show your neurotypical children that your child with ASD has consequences for negative behavior. Explain that you understand their frustrations. If you can, also explain what behaviors you are currently working on with your child with ASD.
- Introduce your neurotypical child to other children with siblings with ASD. Sibshops, for instance, are an effective way your neurotypical children can relate to and spend time with other siblings.
- Allow your neurotypical child to engage in appropriate developmental activities, even if the child with ASD cannot.
How can I help my child with ASD bond with siblings?
- Highlight the strengths your child with ASD brings to the family.
- Expose your child with ASD to the hobbies and interests of your neurotypical children. Try to develop some common interests. For example, find a way for all of your children to enjoy a soccer game or bake cookies.
- Work with your child with ASD on behaviors that may annoy your neurotypical children. Explain to your neurotypical children that you understand how they may be frustrated when your child with ASD engages in certain behaviors.
- Include the neurotypical sibling when setting priorities for their sibling with ASD to help develop harmony in the family and household.
Find a Sibshop near you: Sibling Support
Sibling Support Project Website