News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: What strategies can parents use to support healthy sibling relationships when ASD is part of the picture?

JCCHD | Thu, June 07, 2012 | [Q and A ][Sibling Spotlight][Webinars]

Children holding handsParents of children with autism must try to balance the demands of caring for their special-needs child while simultaneously meeting the needs of the rest of the family. Every member is affected by the financial, emotional, and physical demands of having a child with autism. It is important to look at how these factors can affect individual relationships within the family, and to seek support for strengthening those relationships. There are several useful strategies that parents can use to ease the path for siblings who do not have autism—the first is improved communication.

Start by asking the tough questions. Think about the more obvious things that could be causing your child confusion. Talk about why their sibling might act differently, ask what they know about autism, and help them think through the reasons why their family life may be different than their friends’. By helping siblings ask questions and express their feelings, parents can encourage open communication.

Some ideas to consider:

Family Outings: Children might be afraid to go out in public for fear of being embarrassed by their sibling’s negative behaviors. Parents can learn to address this concern by taking trips to places that are not likely to cause over-stimulation. Look into places like Morgan’s Wonderland, the first park designed for children with special needs and their families.

Family Fun Nights: Start a tradition of weekly/monthly family nights. Include favorite activities such as cooking together or playing games. You don’t have to take a trip or spend a lot of money. Setting aside quality family time is important for maintaining healthy family relationships.

Special Time: give yourself special time to focus on siblings, on yourself, and on your spouse.  Daddy/Daughter or Son nights, Mother/Daughter or Son nights, and Parent’s Night.

Make special time between family members. It is important that everyone in the family feel special, even parents. Remember to make time not only for your children and your spouse, but also for yourself!

It is important that as parents you feel informed and able to find support systems for everyone in your family.  With open communication, support, and guidance, siblings of children with autism can reach their full potential and learn the value of compassion, communication, and respect for all.

To learn more about specific sibling strategies, join us for a free webinar on Tuesday, June 12 at 12 CST. Click here for more information.

L. & Glasberg, B.A. (2003). Siblings of children with autism: A guide for families. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.