Raising kids is hard. Having a child on the spectrum can make challenges a little more complicated. And, having an autistic child in addition to other children can make things a little more difficult. A parent plays many roles in their children’s lives including nurturer, coach, chef, chauffeur, referee, entertainer, nurse, protector, and so much more —a parent’s work is never done. For parents of autistic children, the list continues to include case managers, advocates, teachers, and therapists. While you are attempting to manage these many roles, siblings of children on the spectrum are often faced with their own challenges and taking on advanced sibling roles. In today’s post, we have a few tips to help you successfully manage parenting all of your children and supporting siblings of your autistic child.
Talk to them – openly and honestly.
The most important thing you can do to support both your autistic child and their siblings is to keep the lines of communication open and flowing. Children are naturally curious and are quick to notice differences between themselves and others. Explaining the diagnosis and what autism means for your child and family is important. Answer questions, respond to emotions, and encourage feedback. Open communication will help all of your children feel more comfortable and allow them to respond to others in social settings while reducing tension and jealousy within your household.
Help them understand autism as a spectrum.
As you learn about autism and your child’s diagnosis, it’s important to include the entire family in the information. Children will get the answers to their questions —and learn things they didn’t know they had questions about— from everywhere, including inaccurate information from peers and common stereotypes. By helping all members of the family better understand what autism is and which symptoms are manifested in your autistic child, you can help quell fears and empower siblings to be more empathetic, and they may be your autistic child’s biggest advocates.
Include siblings in treatment.
Including your other children, at age-appropriate levels, is important to fostering sibling bonds and making your family a cohesive unit. Most therapies for young children diagnosed with autism are play-based and offer an opportunity for interaction between other children, including siblings. Many therapies encourage treatment by parents or caregivers that extend beyond formal therapy sessions, which is also a great time to include siblings. If your autistic child does not interact well with others, this can be a learning opportunity for both children — a chance to apply ABA principles to your autistic child, as well as an opportunity to teach siblings how to interact and play. Asking for sibling input on communication cards and allowing them to help where they can empower them to feel included and involved.
Find sibling support.
While you can do everything in your power to support all of your children, there is nothing quite as powerful as coming together with people in like situations. Sibling support groups are great for introducing your children to other siblings of kids on the spectrum. Learning from each other and discovering that other families are similar to their own helps to empower children and offers a network for you, your child with ASD, and their siblings. Building relationships with peers provides an outlet for shared emotions and offers direction and insight for managing relationships as the children grow.
At SkyCare ABA, when you use our services to treat ASD, you get full-family support and access to resources for all of your children. By including the entire family, we believe that autistic children have the best opportunity for integrating into society successfully. Discover all of the services we offer your children in school, at home, and at our community-based clinics in your area. Contact us to begin treatment today!