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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 various doctor and specialist appointments 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 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

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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Help for Sleep Problems in Children on the Autism Spectrum

"I need suggestions on how to help my child fall asleep and stay asleep! It takes him a long time to settle down, and even when he finally gets to sleep, it's not long before he wakes up and we start the whole process all over again."

Studies find that approximately 73% of young people on the autism spectrum experience sleep problems, and these problems tend to last longer in this group than they do for kids without the disorder. For example, kids on the spectrum are more likely to be sluggish and disoriented after waking.

Laboratory research has begun to describe the unique physiological presentation associated with sleep problems in these children, including disruptions in the sleep stage most associated with cognitive functioning (i.e. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep). In addition to physiological differences, some of the sleep difficulties in this population may be related to anxiety.

The impact of poor sleep is unequivocal. Poor sleep negatively impacts mood and exacerbates selective attention problems commonly found in kids with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism, as well as impairing other aspects of cognitive function.

There is no one panacea to manage sleep problems for these children. However, there are many interventions that are likely to be helpful. In general, moms and dads need to understand and be prepared for resistance to change that these “special needs” kids often show. Parents should also be prepared for problems to get worse before they get better as kids often initially challenge - but then gradually become accustomed to - new routines.

A good place to start an intervention targeted at improving sleep is changing lifestyle behaviors and environmental conditions that can influence sleep/wake patterns. These include exercise, napping, diet, and aspects of the bedroom and sleep routine.

Many children with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) have problems sleeping through the night or getting to sleep due in large part to sensory issues. Sensory dysfunction is typically an issue for kids on the autism spectrum. Many moms and dads are forced to try medications, or natural supplements (e.g., melatonin) to try to regulate sleep patterns. These may be beneficial.

Using sensory integration therapy can also be helpful so that the youngster can learn to regulate his or her activity level. The idea behind sensory integration therapy is that it is possible to "rewire" the brain of the child with sensory processing difficulties. Practitioners of sensory integration therapy are usually occupational therapists. Their focus is on the following systems:
  • proprioceptive (i.e., helping the child work on his ability to manage his body more appropriately; for example, to run and jump when it's time to run and jump, to sit and focus when it's time to sit and focus, etc.)
  • tactile (i.e., normalizing the child’s reactions to touch)
  • vestibular (i.e., helping the child to become better aware of his body in space)

A trained sensory integration therapist evaluates the child for sensory defensiveness, hypersensitivity, and sensory cravings, using several different scoring techniques. Some of the standard tests include:
  • The PEERAMID for ages 6-14 years
  • The Bruininks Osteretsky Test of Motor Proficiency for ages 5-15 years
  • Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) for kids between the ages of 4 to 8 years, 11 months
  • The Test of Sensory Integration for kids between the ages 3 to 5 years (TSI)

Depending upon the needs of your youngster, the therapist may use various techniques such as:
  • brushing and joint compression
  • deep pressure therapy, which may include squeezing, rolling, etc.
  • gross motor play such as wall climbing, balance beam, etc.
  • jumping on a mini or full-sized trampoline 
  • playing with a toy that vibrates, is squeezable, etc. 
  • swinging

Sensory integration therapists also may develop a sensory "diet," which may include a variety motor activities (e.g., spinning, bouncing, swinging, squeezing balls or silly putty, etc.), as well as therapist-provided interventions such as brushing and compressing arms and legs. The idea is that this "diet" will be provided throughout the day, whether by trained therapists, by the child’s teacher, or by the child’s parent. 

* Additional information on this topic can be found here:  Settling and Waking Problems

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

Here's what other parents have had to say:

•    Anonymous said... A friend of mine uses melatonin, for her son and has done for few years now. They use a low dose and only on school nights, never in holidays or fri or sat night. tThis is a godsend for them as he was only sleeping a couple of hours a night.

•    Anonymous said... A good routine, dont rush them and my best friend Melatonin. Its been shown that asd kids produce much less melatonin than their peers. Hideously expensive here in the uk and hard to get in the uk prescription only £200+ for a months supply but over the counter in the usa for $15 three months worth. Go figure.

•    Anonymous said... Chamomile tea, warm bath, aromatherapy, benadryl......any combination of the above.

•    Anonymous said... I have a routine. Often I will lie down with her for1-5 mins which we agree on beforehand and we have a music box which seems to soothe her. Took a long time to get this routine. Initially I was just glad to get her out of my bed now its much easier

•    Anonymous said... melatonin has been a life-saver for us! Talk with your dr. but there's usually no issues whatsoever. My aspie/severe SPD kiddo was the same way...up and down all night long. We started him on 3 mgs and that would help him drift off but he kept waking all night still. So we upped to dose to 6 mgs and that has worked awesome! Finally we can ALL get some rest!!

•    Anonymous said... Melatonin no side effects, safe. We noticed a huge difference in daytime behavior right away as well, a good nights rest is amazing.

•    Anonymous said... My aspie takes medications. He struggled with sleeping for awhile, but now with meds he sleeps better and is less irritable.

•    Anonymous said... My son will sit in the bathroom until he is calmed down enough to go to sleep. Sometimes it's an hour.

•    Anonymous said... Not enough light, too much light? Room to noisy, room too quiet? Hot and sweaty then gets cold when asleep? Needs something over his head Scared of spiders / monsters / shadows Lots and lots of things you can try, keep melatonin as a last resort

•    Anonymous said... our 5 yr old has same problem. In the beginning, we avoided medication. We tried aromatherapy, soothing bath + massage, classical music, etc., but nothing worked. He would sleep for 45 min., then jump to his feet in bed while screaming scared out of his mind. This would happen 2-3 times every night. After 1 yr. of minimal sleep, we had our son's Pediatric Behavioral Specialist prescribe him medication to aide in his sleep & help w/anxiety. He put him on Guanfacine 1/2 tablet at night. It also helps calm him due to severe anxiety. He's been on it for 2 yrs & it has done wonders for him. He's never had any side-effects from this medicine. Good luck in finding the best method for your child. I'll be praying for your son & your family!

•    Anonymous said... Physical activity helps, particularly yoga and gardening. As a last resort use melatonin and of course cannabidiol.

•    Anonymous said... Routine . Routine . Routine . Then he will still wake up tho about every few hours . My son is 13 . At age four we started clondine . Till he was about 7 then seroquel for a year . Off and on meletonin . It's not good for all night staying asleep . We tried trazadone also . Actually to get him to naturally stay asleep will take him getting older . My son at 13 can and will go to bed, early actually, and stay asleep with usually nothing . Ambilify in morning now and orap at night . But because he active and older its much much better . No problems with sleep at this time ! Good luck , just be patient and get help so YOU can get rest ! I'm catching up on mine during these "slow" years lol things have leveled out for now , as much as they can anyways . Never a dull moment that's for sure !

•    Anonymous said... We have used clonidine for the last 4 years. It has made a world of difference in our family. We have not noticed any negative side effects.

•    Anonymous said... We start our bedtime ritual an hour early. It includes bathroom, changing clothes, brushing teeth, etc. in the same sequence every night (the process is prompted by "ten minutes to bedtime.....5 minutes to bedtime....."). All of this is navigated/ motivated by reward. For us it is a book of his choosing and prayers from mom and dad. If he chooses to be uncooperative or takes too long playing in the bathroom sink, he is reminded he may be losing his book time. Also, we have always told him that he didn't have to go right to sleep if he is not tired, but he did have to stay in his bed and rest. He always goes to sleep within a reasonable time.

•    Anonymous said... We use a kids hypnosis cd on repeat and Relax & Sleep aid from the dollar tree. It has Melatonin in it. But I heard bad things about melatonin in larger quantities. Always research meds even the herbal ones

•    Anonymous said... Our doctor put our son on trazidone. He would fall asleep but not stay that way. I would find him up playing on his tablet or sleep walking. The meds help him stay asleep and we see such a HUGE difference in his behavior after a good sleep

•    Anonymous said... We used melatonin for almost a year but he started waking up and it became ineffective. So we brain stormed, as usual, and now we do our best to get some of his energy out. We do stretches. We put him in a long shower or bath depending on how he is feeling. I rub lavender baby oil on his legs and feet and neck. It has seemed to be more effective.

•    Anonymous said... We used to have the same issue. Still do from time to time but it's rare now. Our Dr.told.US to try melatonin . It's natural over over the counter. Found with vitamins and supplements. It helped.a lot!
*    The trick is finding the routine that works. We went through a lot of trial and error. After several years of melatonin, she was able to power through it and it no longer worked. We struggled for a while and then found that a sound machine, a diffuser with calming essential oil, 3mg of melatonin and rolling her tightly in her favorite blanket works. If we miss one of these components - it doesn't work.
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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.

Click here to read the full article…

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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content