Siblings and autism

I read an article today online that was published in the March issue of the journal Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities.  The findings show that some siblings of autisic preschoolers show signs of developing hyperactivity.  It also supports the notion that mothers of young autistic children experience more depression and stress than mothers of typically developing children (hmmm…  I’ll address this at a later time)

The article states that siblings of children with autism probably should be watched with appropriate academic supports in place, says Laura Lee McIntyre. “Our findings are rather positive overall, but these kids should be on our radar screens,” she adds. “It has been shown that around 30 percent of siblings of autistic children have some associated difficulties in behavior, learning, or development.”

Well… I’ll give you my professional advise on the subject.  Just some thoughts from a Mom who has lived with this subject for over 15 years now.

Siblings of a child with autism are a special breed.  They are thrown into a world of chaos and unpredictable moments.  Every trip to the grocery store, community center, or even restaurant is sometimes humiliating and extremely stressful.  Every holiday is an adventure in coping.  They are asked to help watch their sibling so the parents can run errands, or have a conversation, or work from home, or even take a bath.  They are asked to not talk loudly, play music, or watch a movie as it might upset their sibling.  They are asked to limit visitors to the house to avoid extra chaos.  They sacrifice their rooms, clothes, bathrooms and sometimes computers.  They watch in horror as a melt down occurs and try not to add to their parents stress. 

I see these siblings as incredible people.  They are exposed to more in their first 18 years than most adults in a lifetime.  They learn to accept people for who they are, and to not judge someone if they are different.  They learn to share.  They learn that life is not fair.  They learn that short term sacrifices will help achieve long term goals. 

They learn to not ‘react’ to their sibling.  Reacting just creates more chaos, more stress.  They know that their sibling does not ‘hear’ their words but only sees their actions, which just makes the unwelcomed behavior continue. 

Siblings change their diets so support their brother.  Siblings give up a saturday night with friends so their parents can get a much needed break. 

I don’t doubt that the above findings are true.  I’m sure they will find a lot of long term effects on siblings of a child with autism.  I just wish some of the studies would also ‘find’ the incredible, undeniable, God-given coping skills that these kids develop.  They are the true heros of autism.

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  1. Wow…sounds like these siblings have been taught that the world doesn’t revolve around them like so many of the kids these days think. Sounds like these siblings will be amazing husbands/wives/mothers/fathers. Sounds like these siblings are someone I would want my kids to hang with!


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