Balancing the Needs of Siblings When You Have a Child with ASD

Of all the challenges involved in raising a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of the most significant may be balancing that child’s needs against those of their siblings.

It’s common for the siblings of children with ASD to feel jealousy over the attention the other child is getting and confusion about the nature of the disorder. Here are some tips for dealing with these common issues:  

Explain what the condition means.  

In an age-appropriate way, explain to your children what it means that their sibling has ASD. This will most likely be an ongoing conversation, rather than a one-time explanation. Your children will likely have questions, and it’s important to try to answer them as clearly and as honestly as possible. Your children will be more likely to feel included if you are open with them about the circumstances, and it will also help them understand how to play and interact in an appropriate way.  

Include your child’s siblings in interventions.  

It’s important to know that there are resources available that may help your other children work through their feelings about having a sibling with ASD. Family support services, such as a sibling support group can help your children talk to others who will understand what they are experiencing, which can help to reduce their anxiety, frustrations, or other emotions.  

Set aside time for all your children.  

It’s common for children to feel that siblings with ASD and other disorders are getting more attention than they are.  That’s why it’s so valuable to make sure that you are spending enough time with every member of your family. It’s a good idea to set aside special times for you and each of your children.  This can be done in a variety of ways such as every Saturday afternoon, where the two of you can go to the zoo, get ice cream, go on a bike ride, or do something else fun together. Even finding small ways to provide each child with attention can have a big impact on how valued your other children feel.  For example, spending 10 minutes before bedtime to do an activity together. 

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