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Asperger's Children and Sibling Rivalry: A Guide

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/23/2010

Sibling rivalry and Asperger’s syndrome sometimes seem to go hand in hand. The siblings of children with Asperger’s can often feel left out, or cheated of time with their parents. There are, however, ways to minimize these issues.

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    Explaining Asperger’s Syndrome to Siblings

    When a child has Asperger’s syndrome, you may be wondering how to explain her condition to her siblings. Some parents attempt to explain the intricacies of Asperger’s syndrome to the child’s siblings, and are surprised when the sibling rivalry seems to intensify even more.  Although adults are mature enough to understand when something is out of a person’s control, most children will not be able to make this distinction whether they are dealing with Asperger's.

    A better way to address this issue is to explain that everyone in the family – and outside of the family as well – has specific needs. For example, the sibling may have trouble with his biology homework or may not be able to go on the black diamond ski slope that his cousins can go on. Make sure they understand that it is our responsibility to understand the help that people need and to treat them respectfully despite those needs. Point out the needs that your child with Asperger’s syndrome has, such as the need for extra help in various areas. This can help the siblings relate to Asperger’s syndrome as “normal,” and it will help them empathize with the person who has it.

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    Can You Treat Them Equally?

    Can you treat children with Asperger’s the same way you treat their siblings? Unfortunately, you can’t. The child with either Asperger’s will probably need a lot more support than his siblings do. At the same time there are a few things you can try to limit the amount of jealousy that the siblings will feel because of this inequality.

    1. Take out each sibling at least once a week without the other sibling in tow. This applies particularly to the siblings who do not have Asperger’s, as the child will Asperger’s will likely be having this alone time as it is. Although it’s hard to carve this time out of your schedule, it will be well worth the investment.
    2. Do not coddle the child with Asperger’s any more than is necessary. She will need to learn how to hold her own in life, and dealing with siblings is a normal part of gaining this independence.
    3. Encourage your children to talk to you about how they feel about the situation. Just listening to their feelings can make them feel validated and can help to avoid any unnecessary sibling rivalry.
    4. Read as much as you can about effective strategies working with children with Asperger's and implement them at home.