Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
10 Tips to Help Siblings
of Asperger’s Children Succeed-Part 2
A challenging aspect of having a child with Asperger’s behavior issues is watching the impact that it has on your other kids. In our last newsletter, we covered tips 1 through 5 to help sibling of Asperger’s children succeed. Click below to see the original newsletter.
All parents have to provide extensive additional support and time to their child on the autism spectrum. But this takes away from the time you might normally spend with your other children. The balance is difficult for many parents and for their children.
Here are some additional tips to balance the needs of your neurotypical children with the needs of your child with challenging Asperger’s behavior.
6. Being Embarrassed
It’s only natural that the typical child will be embarrassed by some of (perhaps even a lot of) things that the child with Asperger’s behavior issues does. The typical child might be afraid to bring friends home, or have trouble being out in public with the family. What to do? Encourage honesty and a healthy dose of humor. Model for them how to deal with inquisitive strangers.
“Oh, that’s just Brian being Brian again.”
“Oh, that’s just my brother Jason. He has Asperger’s Syndrome.”
It’s okay to talk with your typical child in a way that shows you know the Asperger’s child isn’t exactly behaving in a typical way. Don’t try to sugarcoat things, but try to put a humorous spin on them if you can.
Try to point out the positive traits of your Asperger’s child as well, to compensate for the less pleasing aspects of their Asperger’s behavior. “Look at how quickly he can program that DVR! Can you believe he can name the capitals of all 50 states?” etc.
7. Feeling like the parent
In many cases, the typical child will often feel like another parent. Since they can see that their sibling’s Asperger’s behavior problems are overwhelming their parent(s), they want to step in and help. Being the brother or sister and naturally having a different perspective and relationship to the person with Asperger’s, they can sometimes see things in a way the parent can’t. Sometimes, they can be even better at calming a sibling from a tantrum than their parents.
But this of course creates a paradox – while the typical child wants to help ease the pain of both their brother or sister and their parents, it’s not their job to take on so much responsibility. So while you should complement and encourage their compassionate behavior, you should also take care to remind them that they don’t have to be the parent. Remind them that you will always be there for them, and try to find other activities to engage them in so they can have some Asperger’s-free childhood experiences.
8. Planning for the future
It’s an unfortunate truth that after the parents die, the neurotypical siblings often by default become their siblings with Asperger’s caretakers. Some siblings worry about this from an early age, and some seem to accept it as a basic fact without too much apparent angst. Some are more prepared and accepting of this challenge than others. Whatever the case, make plans for your child with Asperger’s behavior issues after you’re gone as early as you can, and share them with your other kids. It’s not a subject anyone wants to think about, but it has to be dealt with. Whether you’re setting up a trust fund, finding a group home, or whatnot, be clear with your other kids about what their responsibilities may or may not be so it’s not just hanging in the air.
9. Teach them how to deal with bullying
Kids with siblings who have Asperger’s behavior problems will often try to stick up for their siblings when they get bullied at school. It’s only natural, but sometimes this can be a huge and uncomfortable responsibility. Teach them to tell a teacher when they see their sibling being bullied, and to tell you as well. They don’t need to shoulder this burden alone.
10. Different Types of Reactions
While siblings are all individuals and will act differently, there does tend to be common reactions to having a brother or sister with Asperger’s Syndrome. We often see that siblings fall into one of four basic roles when they have a sibling withAsperger’s behavior issues.
- Pseudo Parents – Siblings who take on the role of the parent.
- Detachers – Kids who withdraw because they do not know how to handle having a brother or sister with Asperger’s, they withdraw and become detached from their sibling.
- Antagonist – A child who will try to get more attention by acting out or behaving badly in order to draw some attention to themselves because they feel their sibling gets all the attention.
- Over Achiever – The over achieving sibling who gets straight As in school or goes out of their way to be perfect. This child often attempts to be very independent and self-sufficient.
In each case, the most important thing is to make sure the child feels loved and gets as much individual attention from you as you can imagine — and to make sure they have a life outside of autism such as school activities, special interest camp or other activities.
The good news is that kids with a sibling with Asperger’s tend to grow up to be much more compassionate, sensitive people. Growing up with a sibling with Asperger’s behavior problems is never going to be easy, but if you follow some of the above tips, your child will come out of this just fine (perhaps even better than fine).
And for more information on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome read The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide.