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Aspergers and Sibling Issues

In this post, we will be referring to the sibling with Aspergers as the “Aspie” – and the sibling without Aspergers as the “neurotypical”...

The discovery that a child has Aspergers (or high-functioning autism) has a profound effect on a family. Kids suddenly must adjust to a brother or sister who, because of their disorder, may require a large portion of family time, attention, money, and psychological support. Yet it is an important concern to any family that the neurotypical sibling adjusts to the Aspie, because the neurotypical child's reactions to the Aspie can affect the overall adjustment and development of self-esteem in both kids.

In any family, each sibling, and each relationship that siblings have, is unique, important, and special. Brothers and sisters influence each other and play important roles in each other's lives. Indeed, sibling relationships make up a youngster's first social network and are the basis for his or her interactions with people outside the family. Brothers and sisters are playmates first; as they mature, they take on new roles with each other. They may, over the years, be many things to each other -- teacher, friend, companion, follower, protector, enemy, competitor, confidant, role model. When this relationship is affected by Aspergers, the long-term benefits of the relationship may be altered (e.g., the Aspie may have limited opportunities to interact with other kids outside the family; thus, social interaction between siblings often takes on increasing importance).

Each youngster's personality and temperament play an important role in their response toward a sibling, including one with Aspergers. Although both positive and negative feelings exist in all sibling relationships, for school-age kids and young adolescents, these relationships tend to be more positive than negative in their feeling tone. Furthermore, kids with an Aspergers sibling appear to have more positive and fewer negative behavioral interactions than do those with a non-Aspergers sibling. These positive aspects include higher levels of empathy and altruism, increased tolerance for differences, increased sense of maturity and responsibility, and pride in the sibling's accomplishments.

Living with a brother or sister, including one with Aspergers, can be rewarding, confusing, instructive, and stressful. Siblings of an Aspie express a range of emotions and responses to that sibling, similar in most ways to the range of emotions experienced toward siblings who have no disability. Kids react toward an Aspie with feelings of love, empathy, pride, guilt, anger, and support; the predominance and prevalence of these reactions have great impact on the levels of stress and coping ability of the Aspie. The positive or negative nature of the relationships between siblings and among family members may be influenced by factors such as these:
  • age differences between kids in the family
  • family's child-rearing practices
  • family's lifestyle
  • family's resources
  • kind and quality of the support services available in the community
  • kinds of coping mechanisms and interaction patterns that exist within the family
  • number of kids in the family
  • other stress-producing conditions that exist in the family
  • severity of the disorder

Each youngster's reaction to having a sibling with Aspergers will vary depending on his or her age and developmental level. The responses and feelings of the neurotypical sibling toward the Aspie are not likely to be static, but rather tend to change over time as the sibling adapts to having a brother or sister with Aspergers and copes with day-to-day realities. Preschool-aged siblings, for example, may feel confused, afraid, anxious, and angry about a brother or sister with Aspergers. All kids are different; the intensity of a youngster's concerns, needs, and experiences will vary from sibling to sibling, as will a youngster's reaction to -- and interpretation of -- events. The younger the child the more difficult it may be for him or her to understand the situation and to interpret events realistically. Neurotypical siblings may resent the time their parents give to the Aspergers sibling and perceive it as rejection. They may wonder what is wrong with them that their parents love their Aspergers sister or brother more.

During the early years, the neurotypical sibling may mimic the physical or behavioral actions of the youngster with Aspergers, or the neurotypical sibling may regress in behavioral development. Later on, he or she may be prone to extremes of behavior such as "acting out" or becoming the "perfect" child.

Elementary school-aged kids may feel embarrassed or ashamed as they recognize differences between their Aspergers sibling and someone else's “normal” brother or sister. They may worry about "catching" or developing the disorder, and they may feel guilt because they themselves do not have the disorder. They may also feel protective and supportive of their Aspergers sibling, and this may trigger conflicts with peers.

Young adults may have future-oriented concerns. They may wonder what will become of their brother or sister with Aspergers. They may also be concerned about how the people they socialize with, date, and later marry will accept the brother or sister with Aspergers. Additional issues faced by young adults may include genetic counseling when planning their own families, and coping with anxiety about future responsibilities for the brother or sister with Aspergers.

Family Stress Factors—

The discovery that a youngster has Aspergers can produce stress among family members. Stress can also be caused by a number of ongoing factors, or by special circumstances. Siblings need an explanation for the tensions within the family and the cause of the tensions.

Some families are stressed by the amount of financial resources required to meet the needs of the youngster who has Aspergers. Some moms and dads may expect neurotypical siblings to accept the brother or sister with Aspergers as "normal." This expectation can lead to internalized feelings of anxiety and jealousy which the neurotypical sibling may be reluctant to voice. The parents, in turn, may fail to recognize the youngster's unhappiness and may deny that a problem exists.

Neurotypical siblings may feel obligated to compensate for the youngster with Aspergers, to make up for that youngster's limitations. They may be acting as a surrogate parent, assuming more responsibility than would be usual in the care of a neurotypical sibling. On the other hand, siblings may help the family by providing their parents with assistance and support, which they otherwise might not have, in the care of the youngster with Aspergers. The neurotypical youngster may experience jealousy because he or she may be required to do family chores, whereas, the sibling with Aspergers is not required to do them -- despite the fact that the Aspie may be unable to do them, or would have great difficulty doing them. The neurotypical sibling may resent having to integrate the Aspie into the neighborhood peer group, and may experience or perceive peer rejection because of having a sibling with Aspergers. Finally, the neurotypical sibling may feel embarrassment because of the Aspie’s characteristics or inappropriate behavior. Essentially, moms and dads, other adult family members, and professionals should realize that neurotypical siblings need special understanding, attention, support and recognition of their unique contributions to the family system.

Siblings with Aspergers, on the other hand, also experience stress as family members. These common stresses include:
  • anger resulting from an inability to do things as easily and quickly as their nondisabled brothers and sisters
  • frustration at not being able to make themselves understood
  • irritation over constant reminders about everything
  • low self-esteem
  • unhappiness at being left to play alone
  • withdrawal because of lack of social skills

Through it all, with understanding and support, there are usually many positive interactions and normal sibling give-and-take situations from which each learns and matures.

When moms and dads have a double standard for Aspergers and neurotypical kids, conflicts can arise. Even though the youngster with Aspergers, in fact, may need and receive more parental attention, the amount given may be perceived as unfair by neurotypical siblings. Some moms and dads, on the other hand, may tend to overindulge the “normal” sibling in an effort to compensate for a brother or sister with Aspergers. The normal rivalry between all siblings may cause the neurotypical sibling to perceive incorrectly that the parents favor or love best the sibling with Aspergers. Sara expressed the resentment she feels when her brother is dealt with lightly in comparison to her punishments:

"Normal kids can get pushed aside when their brothers or sisters has Aspergers. Jacob seems to get help naturally --it's like attention to his needs is "built into the system." I'm the bad one, but he can do no wrong. He makes all the messes, but I get into trouble if I don't empty the dishwasher."

Unlike their parents, siblings may have no knowledge of life without a brother or sister with Aspergers. Siblings generally are poorly informed about this disorder. Yet siblings' needs for information may be as great - or greater - than those of parents, because of their identification with their brother or sister with Aspergers. It is important to bear in mind that they have limited life experiences to assist them in putting the disorder into perspective. Moms and dads should respect the neurotypical siblings' need to be recognized as an individual who has concerns and questions as well as his or her right to know about the disorder. Neurotypical siblings may require information throughout their lives in a manner and form appropriate to their maturity.

For many siblings, anxiety-producing feelings often are not expressed in day-to-day family interactions and discussions, and are shared even less at school. These internalized feelings complicate sibling relationships, for kids need to vent their emotions. Kids should be given an explanation for their sibling's problems so that they will not make incorrect assumptions.

Moms and dads and professionals need to be aware that there may be a gap between the neurotypical sibling's knowledge and actions. A neurotypical sibling may be able to rationally explain a brother's or sister's disorder to inquiring friends or neighbors, but may still exhibit temper tantrums over the same sibling's actions in the home.

Most importantly, the need for information and understanding does not have to be addressed solely by the moms and dads. A youngster's disorder is a concern which should be shared by parents, helping professionals, and society. For example, some progressive clinics and hospitals have designed programs that include siblings from the beginning. These programs offer Family Support Groups which bring entire families together as a means of sharing information and mutual support.

It is important for teachers to be sensitive to neurotypical siblings' feelings and needs. Teachers can do much to promote positive sibling interactions as well as acceptance of Aspergers in all kids. During the school years, especially the early years, teachers can help to promote sibling awareness and interaction by providing opportunities for siblings to learn about Aspergers (e.g., conducting a "sibling day" or a “sibling workshop” can be an excellent way of introducing siblings to Aspergers). On this day, activities can include sharing positive experiences about having a sibling with Aspergers. Siblings without the disorder might be interested in seeing and/or participating in some of the unique activities in which their Aspergers brother or sister participates in.

Information puts fears into perspective. In most instances, simply knowing the facts about Aspergers takes away the sting of embarrassment, as well as uncertainty and fear. While embarrassment can and does occur in many situations over the years, knowledge can help one cope.

Ask parent groups, social workers, therapists, doctors, teachers, or counselors about the availability of support groups and other sibling resources in your area.

Planning For the Future—

Planning for the future raises many important issues for the family of a youngster with Aspergers. The most challenging of these dilemmas is the care of the adult sibling who has the disorder. Even though neurotypical adult siblings have lives (and often families) of their own, they face unusual, additional responsibilities because of their unique relationship with their brother or sister with Aspergers.

The amount of responsibility that adult neurotypical siblings assume for their adult sibling with Aspergers varies with individuals and with circumstances. It is dictated by a consideration of family and job responsibilities, personal choice, and available community support.

Perhaps the most challenging issue a family faces is, on the one hand, encouraging and fostering the independence and self-determination of the person with Aspergers and, on the other hand, facing the reality that, at some level, assistance may be necessary.

When planning for the future of the sibling with Aspergers, you should consider such things as mobility, social and communication skills, education, and the individual's own ideas about where to live and work. Even after careful planning and the appointment of a guardian or co-guardians, plans should be made for emergencies. A file should be kept in a safe place, known to all family members. The following ideas should be addressed when making future plans and the information should be included in this accessible file:

1. Neurotypical siblings should know where to access the needed educational, vocational, and medical records of the Aspergers sibling, and be ready to anticipate his or her changing future needs.

2. Know your state's laws regarding guardianship and independence. Do not assume that you as parents will automatically remain your youngster's guardian when he or she reaches the age of majority in your state. Establish whether the sibling with Aspergers requires no, partial, or full guardianship. This information should be in writing, and, if possible, make contingency plans in case the first-choice guardian is unable to assume that role. Be aware of the consequences in your state of not having a guardian appointed.

3. Families should gain an understanding of the legal and eligibility requirements of programs available to the family member with Aspergers. Investigate resources through government programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Vocational Rehabilitation, Independent Living Centers, employment services, parent and disability groups.

4. Families should discover the types of community resources available. The range of services and resources varies considerably according to place of residence. Keep abreast of any changes in the availability of these services. Consider the sibling's need for long-term care, as well as for employment and companionship.

5. Families should consider the future health of the sibling with Aspergers with respect to needed services and care. Moms and dads should document where he or she can receive medical care and the financial resources and arrangements necessary for this care.

6. Develop financial plans for future care. If the family is considering establishing a trust for the family member with Aspergers, it should consider the incomes of the kids in the family, including the sibling with Aspergers. Make a will only with an attorney experienced in devising wills for those who have an heir with this disorder. Inheritances must be treated with caution. It is especially important to investigate the continued eligibility for certain social services if assets from an estate, pension, or life insurance are left to the youngster with Aspergers.

7. Be aware that, as families grow and develop, the members within it change. Living with and caring for a youngster with Aspergers is different from living with and caring for an adult with Aspergers. Family members should continually ask themselves the following questions:
  • Are my career plans compatible with my responsibilities for my brother or sister with Aspergers?
  • How will the responsibility be shared with other family members?
  • How will these needs change?
  • Is the involvement financially, emotionally and psychologically realistic for me?
  • What are the needs of the sibling with Aspergers?
  • What can be expected from local support groups in the community?
  • What is and will be my level of involvement?
  • Will my future spouse accept my brother or sister?

The care of a sibling with Aspergers is, in large part, a family affair and a responsibility that should be shared as evenly as possible. By planning effectively for the future, parents can help ease the responsibility and the feelings of stress that uncertainty about the future can bring.

Suggestions to Moms and Dads—

Moms and dads set the tone for sibling interactions and attitudes by example and by direct communications. In any family, kids should be treated fairly and valued as individuals, praised as well as disciplined, and each youngster should have special times with parents. Thus, moms and dads should periodically assess the home situation. Although important goals for a youngster with special needs are to develop feelings of self-worth and self-trust, to become as independent as possible, to develop trust in others, and to develop to the fullest of his or her abilities, these goals are also important to neurotypical siblings.

To every extent possible, moms and dads should require their kids with Aspergers to do as much as possible for themselves. Families should provide every opportunity for a normal family life by doing things together, such as cleaning the house or yard; or going on family outings to the movies, the playground, museums, or restaurants. Always, the youngster with the disorder should be allowed to participate as much as possible in family chores, and should have specific chores assigned as do the other kids.

Care-giving responsibilities for the youngster with Aspergers should be shared by all family members. It is especially important that the burden for care-giving does not fall onto the shoulders of an older sibling. If there is an older sister, there is a tendency in some families to give her the primary responsibility, or an excessive amount of it. Today, however, more communities are providing resources to ease the family's care-giving burdens. Examples include recreation activities, respite care, and parent support groups.

Here are several strategies suggested by neurotypical siblings themselves for mothers/fathers to consider in their interactions with their “normal” kids. These siblings suggest that moms and dads should:
  • Welcome other kids and friends into the home
  • Use respite care and other supportive services
  • Use professionals when indicated to help siblings
  • Teach siblings to interact
  • Schedule special time with the neurotypical sibling
  • Require the Aspergers youngster to do as much for himself or herself as possible
  • Recognize that they are the most important, most powerful teachers of their kids
  • Recognize special stress times for siblings and plan to minimize negative effects
  • Recognize each youngster's unique qualities and family contribution
  • Provide opportunities for a normal family life and normal family activities
  • Praise all siblings
  • Listen to siblings
  • Limit the care-giving responsibilities of siblings
  • Let siblings settle their own differences
  • Join sibling-related organizations
  • Involve all siblings in family events and decisions
  • Be open and honest
  • Accept the disorder

Kids with special needs may often need more help and require more attention and planning from their parents and others in order to achieve their maximum independence. Brothers and sisters can give parents some of the extra help and support they need; the special relationship of brothers and sisters is often lifelong. This special and unique bond among siblings can foster and encourage the positive growth of the entire family.


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

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

Helping Non-Autistic Children Cope with Their Asperger’s or HFA Sibling

"What suggestions have you tried regarding helping the siblings of your autistic child to have more compassion. When they try to play with our autistic child, it always ends badly as he has to make up and enforce a set of rules for whatever game they are playing at the time - so we are in the position of having to keep them apart."

As a mother or father, you want to give all your kids equal attention. But when parenting a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA), that can be difficult. Your “special needs” youngster has more challenges and obstacles – and may take more of your time. As a result, your other children may begin to feel left out.

In addition to feeling left out, siblings of an AS or HFA youngster may experience the following:
  • trying to make up for the deficits of their sibling
  • frustration over not being able to engage – or relate to – their sibling
  • embarrassment around friends
  • concern regarding their parents’ anxiety
  • concern over their role in future caretaking
  • being the target of aggressive behaviors



Due to the nature of AS and HFA, it may be tough for your non-autistic children to form a satisfying relationship with the sibling who has the condition. For instance, their attempts to play with their sibling may be rejected, may turn into a fight due to his or her lack of play skills, or may end suddenly due to his or her meltdowns and tantrums.

The parent needs to understand what the non-autistic kids may be thinking and feeling. These kids love their AS or HFA sibling. They want to understand why there are some things that he or she can’t do, and how they can help. By honestly answering their questions in an age-appropriate way, the parent can clear up any confusion, help ease worries, and give the other children a chance to help out.

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

How to help your non-autistic children cope with their AS or HFA sibling:


1. Preschoolers are self-centered by nature. Your non-autistic preschooler may feel that everything is about him and what he wants — from the toy he wants to play with to the game he asks for at the mall. As a result, helping him understand why his AS or HFA sibling needs more of your time and attention can be difficult. When possible, try to spend one-on-one time with your non-autistic youngster. Even a few minutes spent watching a cartoon or allowing him to help you cook a meal can provide the quality parent-child time that he needs.

2. When your children ask about their AS or HFA sibling's disorder, explain it using simple, honest descriptions they can understand. For example, if they ask why their brother only eats chicken nuggets and fruit, you can say something such as, "He has trouble eating certain foods because he has Asperger Syndrome." If they ask, "What is that?" …state in simple terms that it's a disorder that makes certain foods taste bad.

3. Younger children tend to have a wild imagination. So, the monster in the closet is very real, and the tea at the tea party is very hot. When children have a sibling with AS or HFA, their imagination might lead them to worry that their sibling’s disorder is contagious, like the flu. Reassure them that they can’t "catch" a disorder like Asperger’s, and that nothing they did caused their sibling to have this disorder – it is nobody’s "fault."

4. Don't let your children make you think that everything always has to be "fair" and "equal" — sometimes one kid needs more than the other, whether or not he/she has a disorder.

5. As your children start to better understand the "why" of their sibling’s diagnosis, you will probably get more complicated questions from them. For instance, for questions about their sibling’s meltdowns, your response may be: "He has trouble putting his feelings into words, so he throws things to express his feelings." Then, the next question may be, "Will he ever be able to tell us how he feels?" …to which you can answer honestly: "Yes he will, but we have to help him calm down and show him how to use words instead of acting-out. That's why he goes to his therapist.”




 ==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

6. Don't spend any time trying to figure out which youngster is to blame for a dispute. It takes two to argue — everyone involved is partly responsible. That includes your AS or HFA child.

7. If arguments between your AS or HFA child and his/her siblings are frequent, consider holding weekly family meetings in which you repeat the rules about fighting – and review past successes in reducing conflicts.

8. At some point, your children may try to explain their AS or HFA sibling's disorder to their peers. Some of their friends may ask rude questions, make inappropriate comments, or even engage in teasing and bullying. This, of course, can leave your AS or HFA youngster feeling ashamed, hurt, or angry. Parents can help their children cope with this situation by rehearsing some conversations. For example, “If one of your friends says ‘what's wrong with your brother?’ … you can say ‘he has autism’. If your friend says ‘what’s that?’ …then you can say ‘it’s something that makes my brother act differently than we do’.”

9. Consider establishing a program where all your children earn points toward a fun family-oriented activity when they work together to curtail arguing and fighting.

10. Sibling rivalry occurs in all families, but in those cases where one child has “special needs” – and therefore gets “special attention” – the incidents of sibling rivalry can be more frequent and more intense. Jealousy is common, and claims that “you love him more than me” abound. After all, they may see their AS or HFA sibling occasionally being allowed to stay up later, being excused from doing chores, getting extra help with homework, not being made to eat his vegetables, and so on. Comparisons are typical, but parents can explain to their non-autistic children that while it seems unfair, their AS or HFA sibling has to have this extra help due to his disorder. As an analogy, one parent stated, “If your brother was crippled and had to have a wheel chair to get around, would you complain that he has a wheel chair and you don’t?”

11. If your kids frequently quarrel over the same things (e.g., video games, the TV remote, etc.), post a schedule showing which youngster "owns" that item at what times during the day or week. If this doesn’t work and they keep arguing about it, take the item away altogether.

12. As your children become adolescents, you may find that you rely more on them to keep an eye on their AS or HFA sibling or to help around the house. As a result, they may feel increased pressure to care for their sibling, and may even become resentful. So, try not to ask too much of your non-autistic children. Make some responsibilities (e.g., helping with homework, babysitting, etc.) a choice. This will help them feel that they have control over how much assistance they provide. For instance, you might say, "It would be great if you could help your brother with his Math homework, but if you have other plans, that's fine."

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

13. Make sure children have their own time and space to do their own thing (e.g., to enjoy activities without having to share, to play with friends without a sibling tagging along, to play with toys by themselves, etc.).

14. Remember, as children deal with sibling-conflict, they also learn important skills that will serve them well later in life (e.g., how to compromise and negotiate, how to control aggressive impulses, how to value another person's perspective, etc.). So in essence, some sibling conflict is actually a good thing.

15. In some families, the sibling rivalry between the non-autistic child and his or her “special needs” sibling is so severe that it disrupts daily functioning, or drastically affects one or both of them psychologically and emotionally. In this case, parents should seek the assistance of a mental health professional. Get outside help if the conflict is related to other significant concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc.), is so severe that it's causing marital problems, is damaging to the psychological well-being or self-esteem of any family member, or creates a real danger of physical harm to any family member.

On a positive note, siblings of a youngster with AS or HFA often admit that there were many positive things that resulted from growing up with a “special needs” brother or sister. For example, they developed confidence when facing difficult challenges, learned how to handle difficult situations, and learned patience, tolerance and compassion. Research reveals that non-autistic children viewed their relationship with their AS or HFA sibling as positive when they experienced positive responses from parents and friends toward their sibling, had a good understanding of their sibling’s disorder, and had well-developed coping skills.

Moms and dads should support their non-autistic children to find ways in which they can relate to – and share an interest with – the AS or HFA youngster. By utilizing the suggestions listed above, all siblings can bond with one another and show affection by laughing and playing together.

Aspergers Children Who Abuse Their Siblings

Question

How can I help my youngest child age 4 cope with my 12 year old Asperger child’s sneaky aggressive behavior toward him? My four year old loves his older brother but is constantly being manipulated and abused. He does this very sneaky and tries not to get caught.

A typical example: My Asperger child will appear to cuddle with my child on the couch while he's secretly smashing the air out of him until the 4 year old screams. It's hard to watch my loving four year getting hurt every time I turn my back.


Answer

Research reveals that 53 out of every 100 kids abuse a sibling (higher than the percentage of grown-ups who abuse their kids or their spouse). What some children do to their sibling inside the family would be called assault outside the family. 

Here are some important facts related to sibling aggression. Researcher suggests that:
  1. A younger sibling who is very aggressive increases an older sibling's level of aggression.
  2. An older sibling who is very aggressive increases a younger sibling's chances of being aggressive too.
  3. If mothers/fathers show hostility in their family interactions, their kid’s level of aggression increases.
  4. Parental hostility related to economic pressures has an impact on kid’s aggression.
  5. Just having a sibling influences a youngster's level of aggression.
  6. Aggression runs in families.
  7. Although parental hostility is a risk factor for childhood aggression, marital conflict between mothers/fathers is not.
  8. Other family risk factors that increase the likelihood of childhood aggression are economic pressures, single parenting, violence in the home, and maternal depression.
  9. Boys are more physically aggressive in sibling relationships than girls, but girls can be just as aggressive in non-verbal ways.
  10. Sister-to-sister relationships have less fighting than brother-to-brother or brother-to-sister combinations.
  11. Having a nurturing older sister protects younger kids from becoming aggressive and even protects them from developing substance abuse issues, but having an overly aggressive older brother has the opposite effect.
  12. Kids tend to show more aggression toward siblings at younger ages, and then outgrow it.
  13. Kids learn how to be aggressive by watching their older brothers/sisters.

As moms and dads, we may be tempted to ignore fighting and quarrelling between kids. We may view these activities as a normal part of growing up. We say, "Boys will be boys" or "They'll grow out of it." However, thousands of adult survivors of sibling abuse tell of the far-reaching negative effects that such unchecked behavior has had on them as kids and grown-ups.

Sibling abuse, as all forms of human abuse, may be sexual, physical, or emotional:
  • Sexual abuse includes unwanted touching, indecent exposure, intercourse, rape or sodomy between brother/sister.
  • Physical abuse ranges from hitting, biting, and slapping to more life-threatening acts such as choking or shooting with a BB gun.
  • Emotional abuse is present in all forms of sibling abuse. It may include teasing, name calling, belittling, ridiculing, intimidating, annoying, and provoking.

Kids often abuse a sibling, usually younger than themselves, to gain power and control. One explanation for this is that the abusive youngster feels powerless, neglected and insecure. He/she may feel strong only in relation to a brother/sister being powerless. The feeling of power kids experience when they mistreat a brother/sister often reinforces their decision to repeat the abuse.

How can you identify normal “sibling rivalry” versus “sibling abuse”? Here are some useful guidelines:
  • How does the abused sibling respond? Victims often respond to abuse from a sibling by protecting themselves, screaming and crying, separating themselves from the abuser, abusing a younger sibling in turn, telling their moms and dads, internalizing the abusive message, fighting back, or submitting.
  • How often does it happen and how long does it go on? Acceptable behavior that is long and drawn out may become abusive over time.
  • Identify the behavior. Isolate it from the emotions associated with it and evaluate it.
  • Is the behavior age-appropriate? Remember that generally you should confront fighting and jealousy even if you tend to think it is "normal."
  • Is there a victim in the situation? A victim may not want to participate, but may be unable to stop the activity.
  • What is the purpose of the behavior? If it tears down another person, it is abusive.

If you suspect abuse, it's important to act quickly to stop it. An effective parental response involves the following steps:
  • As a parent, you play a critical role in teaching kids how to mediate disputes without aggression. By setting rules and expectations for how your kids interact with each other, they are more likely to find ways to resolve their differences without aggression throughout their lives.
  • Be a good role-model of positive and esteem-building behavior.
  • Bring all kids involved into a problem-solving process.
  • Figure out alternative solutions to the problem.
  • Get enough fact and feeling information to assess the problem accurately.
  • Help kids to arrive at a child-set goal (goals set by moms and dads often become rules that kids will not follow).
  • How you handle aggression between siblings is critical. A common complaint among kids is, "He started it!" If you continually punish one youngster, and do not properly address issues with another youngster who could be instigating aggressive situations, you will likely breed resentment between siblings that could result in even more aggression. Assuming the older youngster is the aggressor could mean that you are missing a younger child's aggressive impulses and letting them go unchecked.
  • Minimize the violence your children see on T.V. and in the movies.
  • Reward sensitive, positive behavior among siblings.
  • Specify appropriate ways of acting and consequences should abusive behavior occur in the future.
  • State and restate the problem to make sure you understand it clearly.
  • The most important role you play with your youngster is that of a model for behavior. Your kids are more likely to do as you do, not as you say. If they see that you handle stressful situations by becoming aggressive or belligerent, they will learn this behavior. It is important to be aware of the behaviors you are teaching your youngster. Do you drive aggressively while screaming angry insults at other drivers? Are you rude or aggressively demanding toward others, such as restaurant or other service workers? Your kids learn through these interactions.
  • Work together to set up a contract which states the rights and responsibilities of each youngster.

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

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book


==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

How To Help Siblings Deal With An Aspergers Brother/Sister

The special needs of the siblings without Aspergers (high functioning autism) can be classified into four categories. These children need:

1. help dealing with peer and community reactions
2. information
3. to have expectations clarified
4. to have their feelings validated

Having a child with any type of developmental disability can be very stressful for the parents and the siblings of that child. Siblings without Aspergers may be drawn into care-taking roles (e.g., teachers, co-parents). Many children find these roles difficult to fulfill because it takes away much of their own childhood and sets aside their own needs.

For most siblings without Aspergers, having an Aspergers brother or sister becomes a central experience in their lives. They may see their Aspergers sibling as having the spotlight (not an easy situation for any kid). Thus, it is very important for parents to be aware of how the Aspergers child – and the sibling without Aspergers – may need to be nurtured in special ways.

Often times, brothers and sisters are thrown together for better or for worse. When a sibling has Aspergers, it can complicate that relationship because one child lacks social skills and the other child simply cannot figure out why his brother or sister acts the way he/she does.

Here are some important factors to bear in mind as you attempt to assist your NT or “neurotypical” child (i.e., the child without Aspergers) in dealing with his/her Aspergers sibling:

1. A child may need help in understanding what it feels like to be sensitive to touch or sound. A demonstration of metal scratching a chalk board could be used to show how sound can be unpleasant to their Aspergers brother/sister.

2. Children may become anxious about an Aspergers sibling’s future, and to some extent may begin to wonder what their own responsibility should be. Sometimes having an Aspergers brother or sister can interfere with establishing a sense of autonomy. The non-Aspergers child can feel guilty as she moves forward toward relationships, higher education or jobs, while the Aspergers brother/sister may be developing more slowly or struggling. The non-Aspergers child may feel like she is abandoning her parents as well. Reassure her that things are being taken care of, and that it is important that she keep moving forward in her own individual life.

3. Children may become competitive with - or critical of - their parents around how to best manage the behavior of their Aspergers sibling. Admit that you, the parent, do not have all of the answers. This admission provides an opportunity for a more realistic picture of parents as people coping, rather than as ‘superheroes’ whose achievements the child can never equal.

4. Don’t put the sibling in a parenting-role with the Aspergers child. Let her know that she can help or teach, but it is important for her to have different ways to interact that are also fun.

5. Don't accept bad behavior from your Aspergers youngster, and don't expect perfection from your other kids.

6. Fully educate yourself about your Aspergers youngster, and then inform his siblings on an age-appropriate basis. Know that Aspergers kids find it very difficult to pick up on social cues and often have intense, narrow interests.

7. Get some counseling from a mental health care professional. There is nothing wrong with allowing your children without Aspergers to receive extra assistance to help them cope with their Aspergers sibling. In psychotherapy, they can learn specific tools, build self confidence, and have a safe environment to share their thoughts and feelings.

8. Give children without Aspergers a balanced presentation of both the special strengths and talents as well as the challenges of the child with Aspergers.

9. Help your Aspergers child understand how his siblings think and feel, and why they behave the way they do.

10. In some cases, non-Aspergers siblings feel the need to be high-achievers in order to make up for the stress caused by their Aspergers brother/sister. Keep an eye out for this “perfectionism” and reassure the child without Aspergers that she can simply be herself (e.g., “It’s OK to do your best – but perfection is never a requirement”).

11. It is often tempting to coddle the Aspergers child and expect the other children to do so as well. Do not make this mistake.

12. Know that the Aspergers diagnosis should be disclosed to the child with Aspergers before it is explained to siblings. Once the child with Aspergers appears to be comfortable discussing the diagnosis with other family members, you can share the label with his brothers and sisters. Until then, use descriptive language, but no label.

13. Know that the child with Aspergers will benefit and learn social skills from their siblings. They should be entitled to a reasonable amount of sibling rivalry. You don't want to deny the Aspergers child the typical childhood, which includes fighting over games and movies.

14. Let siblings know what the Aspergers child needs to the extent that they can understand, and provide as normal of an environment as possible.

15. Let your children without Aspergers know that it is all right to feel angry, embarrassed, jealous, neglected, worried, or any other feeling they might have about their Aspergers sibling. Emotions are not “bad”; siblings often have these feelings, and they are not “wrong” for having them.

16. Non-Aspergers children sometimes feel guilty that they have friends and their Aspergers sibling does not, and they may find themselves in a position of having conflicting loyalties between friends and family. If a sibling becomes protective when her Aspergers brother is teased, reassure her that she is not the only protector – it is the parent’s and teacher’s job as well.

17. Non-Aspergers kids benefit from opportunities to express their emotions about their Aspergers sibling’s special needs and behaviors. Useful activities might include reading books about Aspergers, making a book about Aspergers, or using puppets/dolls/stuffed animals to facilitate the expression of emotions.

18. Parents often find it is necessary to explain why their rules and expectations may be different for the child with Aspergers (e.g., the Aspergers child may be allowed to spend more time on the computer or less time doing homework). This may appear unfair to the other children, but it needs to be explained at a level they can understand (e.g., “Your brother needs special teachers at school to help him with homework…” or “The computer helps your brother calm down when he feels over-stimulated…”).

19. Realize just as you may grieve the loss of a “normal” child, the Aspergers child’s siblings may also be grieving, because they don't have the kind of sibling-relationship that other families enjoy. Let them talk about their feelings.

20. Seek support groups. Moms and dads in these support groups have other children too, and they can be a valuable resource for the siblings of your Aspergers youngster.

21. Set aside quality time alone with each youngster. One way to accomplish this is to take one child at a time on an errand or personal appointment when you can.

22. Some children may benefit from sibling support-groups. This can be particularly useful when the sibling does not know other siblings of Aspergers children. In a support group, the brother/sister has an opportunity to find out that he/she is not alone. Sibling support groups promote an atmosphere in which siblings are more likely to express negative feelings; they may feel safer to do so because they are in the presence of others going through similar experiences, and because they don’t have to worry about hurting or angering their parents. Siblings can also use the support group to brainstorm ideas about how to handle touchy situations with their “Aspie” brother/sister.

23. Sometimes kids believe that Aspergers is contagious. Reassure siblings that they cannot “catch” a case of Aspergers even though they are around their Aspergers sibling frequently – it’s not like a cold or the flu!

24. Sometimes kids blame themselves and engage in “magical thinking” where they believe that their actions or angry thoughts “caused” their sibling to have Aspergers. Thus, reassure siblings that having Aspergers is not anyone’s fault – it is simply something some people are born with.

25. The children without Aspergers need to be encouraged to pursue their own interests. This helps them focus outside the stress that having an Aspergers sibling may have on the family and helps them see themselves as more than so-and-so’s brother/sister.

26. The sibling without Aspergers may find herself in a situation where she has to explain to others the unusual behavior of the Aspergers sibling. After helping children to better understand Aspergers, they can be helped to learn to explain what Aspergers is to others. Moms and dads can help by providing opportunities for kids to rehearse or practice explaining (e.g., through puppets or role-play).

27. Understand that Aspergers is an "invisible" disorder. Siblings may be embarrassed in front of their peers when their sibling (who looks no different than any other child) can't stop blinking his eyes or making faces (tics). Siblings may think of their Aspergers brother/sister as simply naughty or rude – particularly if they are quite young and unable to fully understand the Aspergers-related issues.

28. When explaining an Aspergers child’s behavior to the other children, be sure to provide factual information and concrete explanations (e.g., “He plays the same thing over and over because he doesn’t think that it’s fun to try new things…” or “She’s flapping her hands because it helps her calm down…”).

29. When siblings witness cruel behavior towards their Aspergers sibling – or are the target themselves – it is imperative from the beginning that adults get involved. Siblings should be encouraged to share this information with trusted adults as soon as it occurs. Moms and dads can use this opportunity to discuss with all the kids in the family how to choose friends. Both the sibling and the Aspergers child will need to develop strategies with school staff for dealing with teasing/bullying.

30. "Family meetings" where parents and all the kids get together to discuss the week's events can (a) provide good insight to family members and (b) provide opportunities to problem-solve past issues and trouble-shoot potential future issues.




Best Comment:

I have a brother who was born in 1967 who I believe has Asperger’s. My brother began undergoing testing to determine what his problems were and how he could be helped when he was three. He worked with a speech pathologist, went to a local clinic for special needs kids and repeated kindergarten. My mother said his doctors could not find a suitable label for his disability so we just called it a learning disability.

My mother got a master’s degree in Special Education in the 1980’s and my parents worked tirelessly on trying to improve my brother’s understanding of non-verbal language and his balance and coordination throughout the 70’s and 80’s. My parents advocated at the local, state and national levels, but when they weren’t around, I was my older brother’s policeman at school, church and in other social settings. We both had to cope with extensive bullying.

My brother became a talker when he lived in Indianapolis and made good friends there, but moved away to try a PhD. He is still subject to embarrassing and explosive bursts of temper and awkward and painful falls. He knows everything about city planning and has a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees, but never had a serious girlfriend and cannot relate to his peers who are married and raising children. He successfully lived hours away from my parents for 12 or more years although he hated his government job.

He has been living at home again with our parents for the last five years after having a disastrous experience trying to do a PhD in Ohio. He has a history of anxiety and depression and has had incidents of road rage with and without me in the car. At times, he has struggled with suicidal feelings also. He has barely worked full-time in the last five years and has had considerable difficulty re-launching his career after completing his second master’s. He hasn’t had a date in a decade. He applies for jobs all the time, occasionally gets interviews, but is not hired. I know part of it is the economy, but I’m concerned that he needs guidance he is not getting. I don't think his problem is a lack of motivation right now although he has struggled with that in the past.

My parents are in their 70’s now and we live in Oklahoma while the rest of our relatives live in Indiana, so there isn’t much extended family support. Neither my brother nor I are married with children. I want my brother to at least have a work life he can be proud of that will pay his bills and I deeply desire for him to not feel so socially isolated. I’m scared that he will be more than I can handle when my parents pass away. Because he has so much formal education and once worked in a career position and even helped a mayor in Tulsa get elected, I don’t know if the techniques in your book will be helpful to him or if he will even be open to them. My parents over-parented him and I think he is showing the fallout from that.

Do you even think I am on the right track? He says he doesn’t worry much about his learning disability, but I am concerned that out of ignorance and good intentions, my parents gave him extremely unrealistic expectations for his life that are dangerous for him now. My mother acknowledged that he may have Asperger’s. His physical coordination never improved despite years of coaching him on it. His social awareness improved along with his communication skills, yet he has few friends and rarely feels understood. He was exempted from registering for the military at age 18 by his clinical psychologist and pediatrician and was allowed to take college entrance tests un-timed. He is still extremely slow to complete tasks and has crippling perfectionism that keeps him from taking risks.

Should I press for him to be evaluated by a clinician for Asperger’s? Should I attend a support group for siblings of those with Aspergers? Are there any services or groups that might help him since he is an adult and is, in fact, approaching middle age? He has already received years of counseling with different people. Or would a definitive Asperger’s diagnosis really be helpful to him? I have often thought that it might help for him to matter-of-factly state in job interviews and in social situations that he has Asperger’s because generally, people just think he is weird, underestimate his intelligence and then avoid him or exclude him.

Helping Your “Neurotypical” Children Cope with a Sibling on the Autism Spectrum

Parenting a youngster with Asperger’s (AS) or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) places some unexpected burdens on moms and dads – as well as siblings. The time involved in meeting the needs of a family member on the autism spectrum may leave the parent with little time for the other kids. As a result, there may be consistent tension in the household.

Many siblings of an AS or HFA child experience the following stressors:
  • Angry that no one pays attention to them (in their opinion)
  • Being the target of aggressive behaviors from the autistic child
  • Concern over their role in care-taking
  • Concern regarding their parents’ anxiety
  • Embarrassment around peers
  • Frustration over not being able to engage or get a response from their AS or HFA sibling
  • Guilty for negative feelings they have toward their brother/sister
  • Guilty for not having the same problems as their sibling
  • Jealousy regarding the amount of time and attention their mom and dad spend with their sibling
  • Not knowing how to handle situations in which their sibling is teased or bullied by others
  • Pressure to be or do what their brother/sister can’t
  • Resentful of having to explain, support, or take care of their sibling
  • Resentful that they are unable to do things or go places because of their brother/sister
  • Trying to make up for the deficits of their sibling
  • Worried about their brother/sister



Due to the nature of AS and HFA, it is difficult for brothers and sisters to form a satisfying relationship with the sibling who has the disorder. For instance, the siblings’ attempts to play with their autistic brother may (a) be rejected by his ignoring them, (b) fail because of his lack of play skills, or (c) end suddenly because his meltdowns are scary. What child would keep trying to form a friendship with someone who seemed upset to one degree or another every time he was approached? It’s not surprising that siblings become discouraged by the reactions they encounter from their autistic sibling.

There are special demands placed on the siblings of an AS or HFA child. Thus, it is crucial that they learn to manage these demands. It’s also crucial that parents (a) educate their “neurotypical” (i.e., non-autistic) children about autism spectrum disorders, (b) work at improving interactions among all the kids in the family, and (c) ensure brothers and sisters grow up feeling they have benefited from the love, time and attention they all need.

Fortunately, your non-autistic kids can be taught simple skills that will help them to engage their AS or HFA sibling in playful interactions. These skills include things such as praising good play, making sure they have their autistic sibling’s attention, and giving simple instructions.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

Below are some suggestions regarding ways parents can help their “neurotypical” kids in the family cope gracefully and effectively with the experience of having a sibling on the autism spectrum:

1. Even though it is important for your AS or HFA youngster to feel like a fully integrated member of the family, it is equally as important that your other kids have “special time” too. Thus, as much as possible, try to find some regular, separate time for the other kids. It could be as simple as one evening a week, a Sunday morning, or even a 10 minutes at bedtime each night.

Making sure that each and every child has the exact amount of “parent-time” is not necessary – or even important. What is important, though, is the opportunity for each child to feel special and to feel an overall atmosphere of equity in the home. If the “special needs” youngster experiences serious behavior-management problems, most parents will have neither the endurance nor the time to give all the kids exactly the same amount of attention. This is understandable and something that simply comes with the territory.

2. If the AS or HFA child is particularly aggressive or disruptive, the emotions of the “neurotypical” children may become so severe or upsetting that they will need professional counseling to help them cope. Also, meeting and talking with other kids going through the same thing can be very helpful (even if it's just online).

3. Research supports the idea that siblings of an AS or HFA child need to understand what autism is all about. Parents need to educate their “neurotypical” children about the disorder early – and do it often! From early childhood, these siblings need explanations that help them understand the behaviors that are of concern to them. And, the information provided needs to be adjusted to the siblings’ age and understanding.

For instance, very young kids may be concerned about the odd behaviors of the AS or HFA child that scare them (e.g., meltdowns, aggression, etc.). An older youngster may have concerns about how to explain autism to his or her peers. For teenagers, these concerns may shift to the long-range needs of their “special needs” sibling and the role they will play in future care. Every age has its needs, and the parent’s task is to listen carefully to the immediate concerns of the non-autistic children.




4. Some degree of sibling rivalry is to be expected in all families, whether or not autism is factored in to the equation. But, sometimes the rivalry crosses the line into abuse (e.g., one of the children acts out abuse in play, acts out sexually in inappropriate ways, has changes in behavior/sleep patterns/eating habits, has nightmares, always avoids his or her sibling, one child is always the aggressor while the other is always the victim, or the conflict between siblings is increasing over time). If there is a chance the sibling relationship has become abusive, parents should seek professional help.

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

5. Try to have a mixture of family activities where all members participate, and individual activities where one child is the focus of your attention. In addition to one-on-one time, it’s also good to have some events when one youngster in the family has the focus of everyone’s attention (e.g., birthdays, graduations, etc.).

Siblings may become frustrated and angry if they have to do everything with their AS or HFA sister/brother. In fact, there may be times when it may not be fair to insist that they be included. For instance, if the AS or HFA child can’t sit still for a school play, then it may be better if she or he stays home while your “neurotypical” youngster performs.

6.    Consider purchasing some books on the topic. Here are a few:
  • Brothers and Sisters: A Special Part of Exceptional Families, by Thomas Powell and Peggy Gallagher.
  • Offspring and Parents, by Diane Marsh, Rex Dickens and E. Fuller Torrey. 
  • It Isn't Fair! Edited by Stanley D. Klein and Maxwell J. Schleifer
  • Living with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs: A Book for Siblings, by Donald Meyer and Patricia Vadasy.
  • Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

7.    Talk to your physician if you see any of these warning signs in your “neurotypical” children as they try to cope with a sibling on the autism spectrum:
  • withdrawal (e.g., hibernating in their bedroom)
  • talk of hurting themselves
  • poor self-esteem
  • poor concentration
  • physical symptoms (e.g., headaches or stomachaches)
  • perfectionism
  • loss of interest in activities
  • hopelessness
  • frequent crying or worrying
  • difficulty separating from parents
  • changes in eating or sleeping (e.g., too much or too little)

Research indicates that the majority of “neurotypical” kids cope well with their experience of having an AS or HFA sibling. However, that doesn’t mean that they do not encounter particular difficulties in learning how to deal with him or her. While having a sibling on the spectrum is a challenge to the siblings, it is certainly not an insurmountable obstacle. Most “neurotypical” kids handle the challenge effectively, and many of them respond with humor, grace, and love far beyond their years.

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

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

How will your other children be affected by your Asperger's or HFA child?

An estimated seven million "typically developing" American kids have siblings with some type of “disorder” (e.g., ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, depression, anxiety, etc.). These kids face many of the same challenges - and joys - as their moms and dads, but they also face other problems. Some resent the extra demands placed on them at an early age by the affected sibling, and many feel neglected by their often overburdened parents.

Some kids say they fear "catching" their sibling's disorder. Others may wish that they, too, had a disorder so that they could get all the attention their sibling does. And many suffer embarrassment about their sibling's inappropriate behavior or abnormal appearance, and then feel guilty about it.

On the other hand, some siblings welcome the early maturity and responsibility that come with having an Aspergers or high-functioning autistic (HFA) sibling. They are often well versed in the details of their sibling's behavioral traits and quirks, and they take pride in being able to explain them in sophisticated ways.

So, exactly how will your other children be affected by your "special needs" child? 

That depends on how you, the parent, deal with this challenge. Your neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) kids will take their cues from you and your husband/wife. The attitudes and actions you model will be reflected in them. They will not only project the values about their Aspergers or HFA sibling's differences within the family, they will demonstrate these beliefs in school, the community, and the world at large.

Thus, parents need to work toward setting a positive tone when first presenting their youngster's disorder to his siblings. It not only influences the quality of your immediate family relationships, but it also affects the ways in which all your kids perceive all people with differences for the rest of their lives.

When you introduce the topic of autism spectrum disorders to your neurotypical kids, consider these points:

1. Allow for process time and questions.

2. Begin by highlighting the ways in which individuals are more alike than different.

3. Decide if it's best to share the information with each sibling in privacy or if it should be done with the family as a group.

4. Discuss the gifts and talents of your other kids first and then discuss those of your Aspie.

5. Discuss the ways in which the entire family is going to strive toward being more sensitive to the needs of your HFA child — needs previously unacknowledged or unrecognized.

6. Don't play the pity card — you want your children to be children and to maintain their typical relationships as siblings, not walk on eggshells.

7. Don't put unfair or unrealistic expectations on your neurotypical kids about increased responsibilities or the burden of future care-taking.

8. Emphasize autism spectrum disorders as a natural experience, and dispel fears about it being a contagious disease or something that can suddenly happen to just anyone.

9. Partner with your "special needs" child about the issue of disclosure to agree on how much or how little to reveal.

10. Talk about respecting your autistic youngster’s ownership of confidentiality, discretion, and disclosure.

11. Wherever possible, try to engage all your kids in any activities that can include them all. Are there games and routines that your entire family can engage in? This will work toward family bonding, patience and tolerance – and it will make learning fun for your Asperger's or HFA youngster.

12. The more you treat your child’s way of being as “natural” and “no big deal,” the more his neurotypical siblings will automatically pitch in, help out, and pick up the slack without thinking or complaining beyond typical sibling rivalry.

There will be occasions when your neurotypical kids require some strong parental support when they are unable to manage internal and/or external pressures.  

Some pitfalls to be mindful of in observing your neurotypical children may include coping with:
  • Becoming weary and worn out from constantly defending their Aspergers or HFA sibling
  • Being ostracized by their friends who don't want to hang around them or come over to your house because of the affected child
  • Feeling guilty when they want to go places and do things alone
  • Feeling perpetually pressured to “parent” or protect their Aspergers or HFA brother/sister
  • Feeling pressured by peers to reject their Aspergers or HFA brother/sister
  • Mental health issues due to the stress associated with having a "special needs" sibling, especially in older daughters who may develop depression or an eating disorder
  • Perceived embarrassment caused by their Aspergers or HFA sibling's behavior, especially in public

If you recognize problems in any of these areas, it will be important to have a private "family meeting" with your neurotypical kids to offer your love, praise and reassurances. Are there ways that you can compensate in partnership with them, especially if they've been feeling left out?

Be willing to admit it's true if you have unintentionally been neglectful, and plan some quality time with your them apart from the rest of the family.


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

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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Do you need the advice of a professional who specializes in parenting children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders?  Sign-up for Online Parent Coaching today.

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The 14 yr old has been having meltdowns and the 16 yr old is reacting to them...

Question

I'm in the middle of a separation that has many levels of drama and it's taking me a lot to manage. Meanwhile, I have 4 children - 3 boys and a girl. I have a teen that is on the Autism spectrum and one 2 yrs older. The 14 yr old has been having meltdowns and the 16 yr old is reacting to them which only escalates things in to fist fights and hole punches in my walls and asking for the male neighbors to come over and support me to bring order. The older one is suffering from the loss of his dad who at the same time resents for what he feels he suffered in abuse at his hands but, longs for him. It's just so much and I'm concerned that things will totally break before I can figure how to get past everyone’s hurt and now resentments and anger with each other. Help!!!!


Answer

Re: Siblings reacting to meltdowns...

Having a youngster with any type of developmental disability can be very stressful for the parents and the siblings of that youngster. This may be seen to be even more so at times for kids with (physically) hidden syndromes like ASD [High-Functioning Autism].

Kids with physical disabilities have a more visible and obvious disability. Whereas kids on the autistic spectrum tend to look exactly like other kids but can behave very differently.

For siblings this behavior can be difficult to understand even when they are aware of their sibling's autism. Many siblings can think of their autistic sibling as simply naughty or rude – particularly if they are quite young and unable to fully understand the issues involved.

Siblings may often feel embarrassed around peers, frustrated by not having the type of relationship with their sibling that they wanted or expected, and/or angry that the youngster with ASD requires so much of the parents' time. This can often mean the youngster not wanting to ask friends over to play, as they fear their sibling may embarrass them.

It is hard enough for parents of the youngster with ASD to understand why their youngster has this syndrome, much less why they behave the way they do.

Teach siblings about the disorder to the extent that they are able to understand. Let them know that it is okay to be frustrated with their sibling who is affected, but it won't help their relationship.

Let siblings know what that youngster needs, again to the extent that they can understand and provide as normal of an environment as possible. Try to make this as concrete as possible, and provide real life examples of what you mean that they can follow and relate to.

Obviously some family dynamics can make this tricky - but try to make some special parent-child time with the non-autistic sibling at least weekly.

In order to do this you may need to look to your family, friends or local social services to offer the youngster with autism somewhere to go for some respite (while you can then do some activity with their sibling).

This may mean staying in and watching a video or just chilling out in peace. Or it could involve a set activity like swimming, the cinema, walking, shopping etc. Whatever it is try to make it youngster-focused so that your youngster gets to determine what you do (within reason!)

It is often tempting to coddle the youngster with developmental disabilities, like ASD, and expect the other kids to do so as well. But, the youngster on the spectrum will benefit and learn social skills from their siblings as well, and they should be entitled to a reasonable amount of sibling rivalry as well as any other youngster.

You don't want to deny the youngster with ASD the typical childhood, which includes fighting over toys and television shows. These formative sibling relationships and experiences have a major effect on kids as they grow up (regardless of autism).

So to summarize, siblings need to know enough about their brother or sister's issues to give them an understanding at their level. They also need to know that it is OK to feel some negative emotions at times toward their sibling, and where ever possible, they need a little "special" time with you on their own.

 
Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 
 
 
More articles for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:
 
Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

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Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

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Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

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Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

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Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...
 
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A child with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can have difficulty in school because, since he fits in so well, many adults may miss the fact that he has a diagnosis. When these children display symptoms of their disorder, they may be seen as defiant or disruptive.

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My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

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Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...