HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Sibling Relationship Problems: Tips for Parents of Kids on the Autism Spectrum

"Any tips for helping my two older children (who do not have high functioning autism) to have a little more compassion for their younger brother who does? I try to help everyone get along, but it is wearing me out. Playing peace-maker is definitely my toughest job at present. Help!"

Parenting in general can be overwhelming. Add High-Functioning Autsm (HFA) or Asperger's to the equation, and the job just got tougher!

Taking care of a youngster on the autism spectrum can take up the vast majority of the parent's time and energy. From learning everything you can about the condition and what it entails ...to various doctor and specialist appointments ...to seeing about special accommodations both at home and at school, the list of things that must be done can seem endless. Fitting time and effort into more than cursory attention to your neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) kids who are also under your care can easily fall by the wayside without you realizing it.

Sibling relationships can be challenging when one child has HFA. Siblings often do not understand this disorder and the challenges that it creates. Also, the child with the disorder may take attention away from the other children, and may even embarrass them because of his or her inappropriate behavior. The family as a whole will face challenges beyond those of the typical family.

Siblings of a child with HFA may:
  • Be overly helpful to get attention
  • Feel alone or jealous
  • Feel angry towards their sibling
  • Feel embarrassed or bitter when they have to include their sibling in social situations
  • Feel guilty for not having the disorder
  • Feel resentful for having to care for their sibling

Sometimes the jealousy and resentment comes not so much from the extra time or attention their "special needs" sibling gets, but from a lack of understanding about why he gets that extra time or attention. Siblings might understand that their HFA brother or sister has a developmental disorder, but not understand the full effects of what that means. So, have them help you care for their sibling.

Maybe your neurotypical children can help with homework, or accompany you to a doctor visit or therapist appointment to see what really happens there. You certainly don't want to make any of this their full time responsibility, but by doing it once or twice, it can help open their eyes up to just why it is that you have to devote the extra time or attention to their HFA sibling. It can also make them more compassionate to autistic kids in general.

Being organized is essential. Keep track of your efforts. One of the best things any mother or father can do to is to schedule not only doctor and other appointments, but also certain events such as playtime. Be sure to set aside time for each child individually, at least once a week if not more, along with other family time. This does not mean you can’t be spontaneous, but it does allow breaks in your busy pace to occur more often if you purposely pen them in between all the other appointments.

Don't be afraid to talk about the disorder and the effects it is having on your family. Siblings need to understand this disorder to the extent that they can, based on their developmental stages.

Sibling rivalry can be a healthy sign, as it is common in all families and indicates that the youngster with HFA is being treated as any other sibling would. However, recognizing that this child can present some very real and challenging behaviors, it is important to prevent aggressive behaviors.

A social story for neurotypical siblings:





* More information on this issue can be found here: Helping Non-Autistic Children Cope with Their Asperger’s or HFA Sibling


More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:


Here's what other parents have had to say:

•    Anonymous said... Finding balance is a difficult thing. I know that my 10 year old feels I give his younger brother (9 year old with ASD) much more of my time and its probably true. It's a tough situation to always be in. I've talked to my oldest about the challenges our youngest deals with and he'll give his brother a break for a liitle while, but before you know it...he's right back to pushing his brother's buttons.  So wish I could have a day of peace.

•    Anonymous said... That is a tough job and it will wear you down real fast and in a hurry. My family has gotten a lot of help from ICM's and other therapists and still at times I want to pull my hair out but I do my best to be patient. It's hard being the only peace maker in the home and it's even harder when others do not want to understand. That's the case in my home anyway. Sometimes there's just not enough caring to go around. My oldest son has Aspergers and he's 14 and slowly I have learned to live with certain things and deal with things when it comes to him but when it comes to others in my home I almost have no tolerance for their actions and behaviors towards my oldest son. Sometimes I feel he is picked on just to get a rise out of him and if it wasn't for the help we get I would have already went crazy. I count on resources a lot and I am always looking for more ways to help my son and help my family.

•    Anonymous said... I'm having the same issue with my 15 year old daughter and 8 year old son who has Aspergers. He isn't on any meds yet due to his father...going to meet with the dr Saturday and Dr will emphasise the importance of it.

•    Anonymous said... My older daughter doesn't have asperger's but my son does and it has caused a lot of jealousy. I have had to explain to her that he get more time with certian things because that helps him be equal to her. She should be glad that she doesn't have those same problems to overcome and should be happy for that. No one expects her to answer for him.

•    Missy said... Mine is the other way around--DD15 has Asperger's, while DD11 is neurotypical. DD11 struggles at times to understand why her sister is treated differently than she is. DD11 has had to grow up in a hurry, having to help take care of her older sister at times.

•    Unknown said...I'm having a tough time. My 20 yr old son has just been diagnosed with aspergers. His 17 yr old brother is increasing intolerant and has a sharp tongue sometimes making derogatory comments which result in fights. Any advice please I'm desperate .

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