When a family member is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, life changes. Life for the child who is diagnosed, for the parents, for the family friends and acquaintances, and life changes greatly for the siblings.
When our son, Sam, was finally diagnosed at age 9, his younger brother (by 2 years), Charlie, suddenly became the “older” brother. Whether circumstance made this 7 year old become the defender or whether his character was already programmed that way, Charlie took on Sam’s challenges with brute strength! Parenting both boys became a balancing act of sorts, as Sam needed much attention to both discover his issues and then look to get help for them, and Charlie needed the nurturing that any young guy should have at that age.
Balancing siblings can be a tough act that we all find ourselves in.
The best we can do in such circumstances is to be sensitive to the siblings. At times just putting the overwhelming needs for the autistic child aside for one afternoon can be a boost. Once in awhile I would take Charlie out of school for a fun day that involved all things Charlie! Whether we went to the movies, the park, or the museum, it was (and is) a time just for us.
The simple day to day things matter just as much. I made an effort of walking into Charlie’s room periodically to see what he was interested in and doing. For instance Charlie found companionship and comfort in music. He learned how to play the guitar on his own when the neighborhood kids would exclude him from the soccer games, because he was the brother of the “retard”. It’s true!
As you are probably well aware, bullying of the child with Autism often overflows to the sibling as well. When this occurred, Charlie retreated to his room and can now play the acoustic and electric guitar with great passion!
If you can find their particular interest, encourage it and be sure and take time to listen to their complaints without revealing your own. That’s a tough one sometimes, but try and put your frustrations on a back burner.
The sibling doesn’t need to hear our issues, as they have their own.
It doesn’t hurt to have a behavioral therapist step in when you see the sibling’s frustrations peak. We did this a couple of times with Charlie and it seemed to help.
I have also always kept Charlie’s school (teachers, counselors, and even principals) aware of his home life and the extra weight he may carry on his back. It never hurts for the educators to know the sibling has some adversities to overcome. This may prove to show some extra tolerance from the teacher. Maybe not every one of his teachers made a change, but I found most gave Charlie ample understanding.
Together, our family continually goes through the journey of Autism/Asperger’s. Though some of the world may look at us as quirky, I have the assurance that we are united with an understanding and respect for each other, and for anyone we see that may have Asperger’s like us!
by Jennifer Allen
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