Overcoming Obstacles with Autism Siblings

The mere diagnosis of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can render a parent speechless. With the increase of Autism Awareness, diagnosis is becoming greater, however what to do once a child is diagnosed is often incomplete. One facet often overlooked is the siblings of the child with autism. How is autism affecting them and how should a family deal with the various issues which arise?

Before we get into the insights of integrating siblings of Autistic Spectrum Disorder children, let me just give you a bit of background on me. I have a son who seven years ago was diagnosed with a variety of issues, one being Autism. He was aggressive and the disorder had progressed to the point of being quite severe. Since he was in the middle of five children, it was advised that I institutionalize him. Life was very treacherous however every night as I put him to bed and he went through his routine of rubbing my arm to fall asleep, as tears flowed down my face, I wondered who would do this for my son in an institution? How much would I be able to see him? Wouldn’t he feel abandoned? Did he ask to get autism? With the resounding answer in my head, No this is not His fault, I knew I had to research a better solution.

Warnings. I had many warnings that keeping him home would ‘ruin’ the rest of the children. One particular doctor told me twice that, “You can’t let one bad apple ruin the whole batch.” Those words both haunted me and motivated me. It was a season where his younger brothers were mimicking all of his terrible behaviors and the time taken with him put an extra amount of responsibility on his older sisters. Was this doctor correct? Would he ruin the ‘whole batch’? I set out on a mission to help him and maintain my children in a loving connected way. In the next five years he came to a full recovery and all of his siblings came to unbelievable amounts of maturity, wisdom and connectedness. Instead of ruining the whole batch the whole batch created a beautiful sweet smelling apple pie! They now all travel and speak with me influencing people around the nation. My oldest has even written cookbooks. My children recently heard of a child being institutionalized for her autism. They all asked, “Mom could we please adopt her? We know what to do to help her!”

There are a few tips I learned along the way that made all the difference for us. As I’ve traveled ,spoken and coached many families, I’ve seen these tips work over and over again. I hope you’ll also find them helpful to make a positive impact with your own children. Creating a lasting legacy!

1.Explain everything. You cannot communicate enough with your children, the who, what, why, when and where of each step of autism. Don’t leave them in the dark.

2.Let them know you ‘need’ their help. They are valuable and worthy in their place in your family. Praise them for everything – look for the good and be sure to give 20 praises for every one correction.

3.Create ‘special times’ for each of the siblings. Often much time is needed dealing with autism, from melt-downs, to therapy, to special treatments. Be sure to balance it for your other children with special one on one times, late at night – any time. Be creative but make the time.

4.Open communication feedback – encourage your other children to tell you how they are feeling, without response, excuse, etc. Just listen and learn. Then make adjustments. They may feel unloved, abandoned, angry, jealous, etc. at times. Allow them the opportunity to know that you love them unconditionally and then create solutions to help them feel your love and care.

5.Get a baby-sitter. I know I was there. It’s difficult to realize that for a season you may have to get someone to watch your autistic child so you can do some ‘normal’ things in life with your other children. Like go to the park, out to dinner, etc. It’s okay – it’s a season as you continue to embark on the journey to recovery for your special needs child working toward the day when they can join your family. And it helps you all be re-energized to better serve and help your autistic child – working toward their recovery!

6.Make it even. If your autistic child needs a chart, a picture schedule, etc. make the same thing for all of your children. My children loved all those things! They all felt special because they were a PART of the process rather than an outsider looking in. This also helped my autistic son see good behavior modeled by his siblings.

7.Affirmations. It was impossible to give my autistic son enough affirmations for all the corrections throughout every day. So, we made repeating affirmation tapes for him to listen to every night. But all the kids got one. Each one being told by their parents how loved they are, how special, how valued, important, etc. Listening to your voice every night reaffirming your love and their worth is a wonderful way to end the day…any day – good or bad – it all ends well.

I hope these tips will help you and your whole family journey through this process of autism. You can get more insights and even contact me for coaching by visiting my website at kristiandkids.org