- Title: Siblings of Children With Autism
- Subtitle: A Guide for Families
- Authors: Sandra L. Harris, PhD, and Beth A. Glasberg, PhD
- Length: 163 pages
- Publisher: Woodbine House
- About the About.com Rating
For parents of children on the autism spectrum, the impact of one child's disability on the emotional health of brothers and sisters is a constant cause of concern. Siblings of Children with Autism offers research-based information and techniques for helping all family members learn, grow, express emotions, and be respected.
It's understandable that the needs of siblings of children with autism can get lost in the onslaught of things that must be done right now! to help kids on the spectrum. A child who can manage without constant parental intervention is likely to get the opportunity to do just that, and although parents know it's wrong and hurtful and unfair, it's often hard to see how anything else is possible. Siblings of Children With Autism provides a gentle reminder that young family members may be coming up with all sorts of explanations for the tilting of family life that have nothing to do with the truth.
The authors present research showing that even kids whose parents think they've done a great job of communicating about autism don't really get it. Goodness knows, autism can be hard for adults to fathom, so it shouldn't be surprising that youngsters struggle. But the degree of misunderstanding may be an eye-opener to parents, and the authors go on to provide some ideas for sharing information and feelings that should be manageable even under challenging circumstances.
Young siblings may be particularly upset that their brother or sister with autism won't play with them, and the authors suggest a kind of playing/teaching hybrid in which kids use ABA-like techniques to lure a sibling with autism into play and reinforce those playing behaviors. It's an interesting concept, but you'll have to be careful not to turn those sibs into spare unpaid therapists. Tempting though it may be.
Is This Book for You?
It's definitely for you if: you're a parent of a child with autism, and not sure about how your other kids are dealing with that ... you like your advice to come with research back-up ... you're looking for practical suggestions to help your kids interact.
It may be for you if: your child has developmental disabilities that, while different from autism, present many of the same challenges for siblings ... you're a teacher who wonders how siblings cope and what you can do to help (or just not make it worse) ... you're a relative of a family with an autistic child and would like to provide positive support.
It may not be for you if: your children are older, and playing and school issues are no longer large ... you're really, really sure that your kids get this whole autism thing and don't need special guidance or advice (though the research says you might be surprised) ... you'd be uncomfortable with the idea of kids using ABA-like techniques to "play" with their siblings with autism.
It's definitely not for you if: your child with autism has no siblings ... your child's disability is significantly different from autism and presents different family issues ... there is no room in your life at the moment for feeling guilty and heartbroken about all the things you've done wrong and the misconceptions your kids have picked up.
Table of Contents
- Brothers and Sisters: Getting to Know You, Getting to Like You, Wondering if You Like Me
- What Are They Thinking? Autism Viewed Through Children's Eyes
- Why Does He Do That? Explaining Autism to Children
- Let's Talk: Helping Children Share Their Thoughts and Feelings
- The Balancing Act: Meeting Everyone's Needs, Including Your Own
- Children at Play: Helping Children Play Together
- All Grown Up: The Mature Sibling
Try This Now
Do you think your child's siblings know what autism is? How you get it? Why their brother or sister has it? You may think you've explained things in an age-appropriate way, but research presented in Siblings of Children With Autism indicates that a lot of kids aren't processing that information, and are filling the gaps in their understanding with misinformation and magical thinking. The authors recommend discussing the topic gently and often, with open lines of communication for any questions and concerns kids may have. One technique to try is "thinking out loud" about things your child with autism may be doing, like hand-flapping or perseveration, in a way that provides some explanation for siblings and makes the behavior seem less strange. It may also open the door to other questions siblings have been wanting to ask but weren't sure it was okay.