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The Challenges of Asperger’s Siblings
When a child is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the parents’ natural response is to pour time, energy and finance into trying to help them. While it is not intentional, other children in the family may be overlooked or sidelined as a result. If they are very young, they may not be aware that this is happening until they look back later in life. Those who are older or in their teens may be embarrassed by their brother or sister’s behavior in public. There are a number of things that parents and children can do to cope with Asperger’s siblings in the family.
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What Parents Can Do to Help Asperger’s Siblings Cope
When a child is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, parents are normally overwhelmed and shocked. If they realize that the diagnosis may have a similar impact on their other children, they can make extra time to sit with them and talk it through as a family. Parents can also help their children in the following ways:
- Allow Asperger’s siblings to express negative feelings and vent frustration from time to time. If a parent admits that they sometimes feel angry as well, it gives the child permission to admit to their feelings.
- Explain what Asperger’s syndrome is and why the child with it is poor at communicating or speaks in a strange manner.
- Parents need to guard against over-involvement with the Asperger’s child, as well as over-protectiveness. Both of these can be emotionally damaging to the siblings.
- Arrange for children to meet other children who are Asperger’s siblings. Sharing stories and meeting someone of a similar age who can understand the situation can be very helpful.
- Some children resent having to do chores while the child with Asperger’s is not expected to do anything. Parents should assign household jobs to each member of the family, including the Asperger's child.
- Explain what therapies the child with Asperger’s syndrome is experiencing and if relevant, offer to involve the siblings with treatments and therapeutic games.
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How Asperger’s Siblings can Deal with the Challenges of their Brother or Sister
It can be difficult for a child to accept that they have a sibling with Asperger’s syndrome. Here are some ways they can overcome the challenges that face them:
- Other children can be cruel and mock those with a disabled sibling. Inviting them home to meet the sibling with Asperger’s and then explain what the condition involves. Doing so will often stop this type of victimization.
- Asperger’s siblings need to be assured that autism is not infectious and they cannot catch it.
- It is important for children and teens with an Asperger’s brother or sister to know what provision has been made for their future. If this is not clarified, they may feel a terrible burden of expectation that they will end up looking after them.
- Siblings often feel a mixture of love and hate for the Asperger’s child. They need reassurance that this is normal and does not make them a bad person.
- One on one time with parents is important and should be pusued by both the parent(s) and child(ren).
- Children can become stronger people through helping with their Asperger’s sibling. Learning to have the right attitude is a large part of succeeding in difficult circumstances.
Asperger’s siblings have many challenges to face compared to other children. With help and support from parents and other people, they can overcome these and grow into strong mature adults with compassionate hearts.
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Children with Autism, Michael D Powers, Woodbine House, 2000