Siblings of Aspergers Children

"I would like some tips on how to teach a younger sibling (age 3, not in school yet due to rural location) not to pick up unwanted behaviours from his Asperger's brother."

You might be concerned that your 3-year-old will pick up unwanted behaviours because he might have Asperger’s, also. Asperger’s does, indeed, have a genetic component.

New research in the area of Asperger’s has shown that toddler siblings of Asperger's children are more likely to exhibit the same atypical behaviours as their brothers and sisters with the Asperger's, even when they don’t eventually develop the disorder. Andy Shih, PhD, of the Baby Sibling Research Consortium, states that this increases the importance of careful monitoring of high-risk siblings of children with Asperger’s for any signs of a disorder. If one should occur, you are well-situated for early intervention. If atypical behaviours occur, but there is no Asperger’s, you will feel relief at knowing that your second child does not have it.

If you have a child with Asperger’s, the odds are 50 to 100 times greater that your second child will be diagnosed with Asperger’s. At the age of three, it might be difficult to tell if the child has Asperger’s. 

Ask yourself the following:
  • Does your younger son have age-appropriate communication skills?
  • Does he follow his brother’s exact behaviours?
  • Is he overreacting to sensory stimuli (e.g., actions, lights, sounds)? 
  • Does he cover his eyes or ears to avoid sensory stimuli?

If you answered “no” to these questions, your son is probably just imitating his older brother, and that is very common with siblings. He might see his older brother as a role model, or he sees his brother getting a lot of attention for these behaviours, and he is imitating him to get some of the attention.

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, consider having a professional, such as an Intervention Specialist or special education teacher, observe your three-year-old when he interacts with his brother, and when he is alone. You might be thinking of waiting to see if your son outgrows these behaviours; however, if he does have Asperger’s, you should begin early intervention. Make sure that the professional you consult is experienced in assessing autism spectrum disorders, and that his experience specifically includes Asperger’s Syndrome.

Your awareness of the sibling relationship, along with the help of a professional, will give you information and assistance to help with your three-year-old, if he, too, is diagnosed with Asperger’s. Stay in touch with the professional involved so that you can provide a comprehensive level of care for both your children.

The Parenting Aspergers Resource Guide: A Complete Resource Guide For Parents Who Have Children Diagnosed With Aspergers Syndrome


  1. I would like to know the same thing, my one year old is a MEANY, she copies her sister who has aspergers. Pretends like she is having a meltdown, but laughs doing it.. she doesn't know better....

  2. I had this same asperger child is now 9 and my typical child is 6, both boys, and they play together constantly. Because the younger one was typical I never really gave much thought to making sure he was not modeling behaviors and even though I knew he liked to test us and his teachers I just assumed that was because he was smart and often bored at school. Now I have realized that he is lacking in many cognitive skills, just like his brother that I never picked up on so just like with his brother I am having to teach those problem solving skills one at a time.

  3. RE: Where are the tips?: The tip is to determine if the younger sib is (a) simply imitating the older child (in which case, this is normal and mostly o.k.) or (b) has Aspergers too. The parent may discover she has bigger fish to fry than worrying about typical brother-behavior.

  4. It is hard to tell if they are mimicking the older sibblings behaviour or starting to show signs. My youngest started similar behaviour at 3 and at 5 our pead who is our local ASD specialist wasn't sure if he was aspergers or just copying his eldest brother, he was diagnosed PDD with aspects of aspergers. As he has got older the aspergers is coming thru stronger and it is different from his older brother, but then it's not often to find 1 the same.

  5. RE: But what should we do when they are imitating the asperger child? I dont ever want to make my son feel horrible and dont know how to correct the imitating.... Weve tried a few things but its not working.

  6. He gets a consequence for the behavior (not for the imitating).

  7. RE: Should the consequence be the same for the asperger child? I feel like no, but I'm not sure how to explain that to two 5 year olds. I want to be as fair as possible to all, what are your thoughts? Thanks for answering my question!!

  8. Yes... Scenario: The Aspie does bad behavior #1 he gets consequence A. The NT brother imitates his Aspie brother by doing behavior #1 he gets the same consequence as his brother. Make it about the behavior, not about the fact that the younger one is "copying" the older one.

  9. One thing we deal with is my Asperger's child (age 5) has a hard time saying hello and good-bye. So he usually will just wave or give a high five. My 3-year-old, however, who is a regular chatterbox, makes great eye contact, freely gives hugs, etc., is copying the hello and good-bye behavior of his older brother. What should I do in this situation?