Adolescent and Child Psychologist Edmonton - ABC Psychological Services

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Your Autistic Child and Their Siblings
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Your Autistic Child and Their Siblings

Having a child with autism is not only demanding on the parents, but also a challenge for any siblings. Your extraordinary child certainly needs care and attention, but this often leaves little time for other members in the family. It is important that parents learn to successfully juggle all responsibilities so that each individual feels that their needs are being met. 
Parents with multiple children often struggle with feeling that they are adequately meeting the needs of the entire family. Families can learn to thrive together by utilizing professional autism services in Edmonton. Our local child therapists specialize in helping families cope along the path of having a loved one with autism. 

A Delicate Relationship

There is often a great deal of stress between an autistic child and their siblings. This derives from simple misunderstanding or even jealousy. Parents sacrifice their own individuality to meet the needs of their autistic child, but young children often do not grasp the concept of self-sacrifice — and should not be forced to do so. Though the challenges of having a sibling with autism are very unique and demanding, individuals who have grown up in homes with special needs siblings report that they were able to cope well with the experience.  

Valuable and Unique Skills

Unique life experiences almost always offer a positive takeaway. Children who have a sibling with autism naturally learn coping mechanisms and alternative routes of thinking that others are not familiar with. These skills are tools that they will carry with them throughout their lives. They will endure, overcome and manage tough situations gracefully. Parents are the greatest teachers and role models for siblings of autistic children. When they see mom and dad managing or using mechanisms, they will pick up and retain those same valuable skills. 

Common Issues

Some siblings will manage the situation without issues, while others will be on the opposite end and have a very difficult time coping. Here are some common issues that children with an autistic sibling display:

  • Embarrassment with friends
  • Jealousy towards sibling(s)
  • Frustration towards sibling(s)
  • Concern over caregiving
  • Overly concerned for stressed parents
  • Attempt to compensate for autistic sibling

Foster the Relationship

It is important that you “take the bull by the horns,” so to speak, and talk with your children about autism as early as possible and as often as you are able. Strange behaviors can frighten or confuse a young child, so be sure to explain your autistic child’s activity in a simple, straightforward manner that will be easily grasped by the sibling. 
Relationships are hard to build with a person who has autism, and siblings are no exception. Research has shown that siblings who take a “teaching role” have an easier time fostering a positive relationship. Educate your child on ways to effectively get and maintain the attention of their sibling, and how to praise their sibling for playing well. 

The sooner a child is diagnosed with autism, the better for the entire family. Each member deserves to understand, learn to cope and work together to build one another up. Cognitive assessments, like those performed by the professionals at ABC Psychological Services, are critical to make an early diagnosis. Contact us today to find out more. 

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