March 8, 2023
Our heroes today are the siblings of individuals with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders. Obviously, some individuals with autism are only children, but many more have siblings. These siblings did not choose to have a sibling with a disability any more than a parent chooses to have a child with a disability. However, these siblings will forever be affected by their relationship with their sibling with a disability. Their childhood was altered in ways that only other siblings of those with disabilities can understand. No matter how much planning has been done or a family’s believes about caregiving responsibilities, the possibility of being their sibling’s caregiver hangs over their adult life. Being the sibling of an individual with autism is a special calling with special challenges that can last a lifetime. There are advantages as well, but the challenges can be overwhelming. Here are some ways to support these heroes so they can benefit from their special sibling.
• Sibshops https://siblingsupport.org/sibshops/ provide young brothers and sisters with peer support and information in a lively, recreational setting.
• Read and discuss fictional books with characters who have siblings with disabilities. For example, Al Capone Shines My Shoes (Tales from Alcatraz series) by Gennifer Choldenko or Rules by Cynthia Lord.
• SibTeen for adolescent siblings https://www.facebook.com/groups/SibTeen
• SibNet for adult siblings https://www.facebook.com/groups/SibNet
• Sib20 for sibs in their 20s https://www.facebook.com/groups/118970768514797
• Sibling Leadership Network https://siblingleadership.org/
There are also therapists who specialize in working with families of individuals with disabilities. Individual or group therapy is a great idea at any age. Learning coping techniques and dealing with issues as they arise will help foster a positive relationship between siblings.