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How to Be a Good Sibling to an Autistic Brother or Sister

By Sara Rudy Cook

Updated August 22, 2013

The following article was written by Sara, my son Tom's younger, typically developing sister. Sara and Tom are very close friends; like any siblings they have their squabbles -- but each finds many ways to give to and receive from the other. Sara offers some insights into the "up" side of being the sister of a boy with autism, and offers some tips for other kids who may have siblings similar to hers.

Autism from a Sister's Eyes

As a sister, with a brother who has autism it can be fun and difficult. In a way I would like to know what it is like to have a brother who is not thought as a person of low intelligence. But in a way I am happy he is not normal. He does not ignore me and think that I am embarrassing.

From what I hear from friends with brothers without autism they are almost always mean and so I am thankful that my brother is a caring, kind person, who sees life in a fun special way. I like that he is into nature, and he loves animals, and likes to look at and appreciate jewelry. Those are not normal characteristics of a normal 17 year old boy, but they are better characteristics, in my opinion, than always being on the computer or feeling stressed about social life, and other kids' fads.

It is very cool how he can name every animal he sees. Like when we go on hikes in the woods we see a bird or hear one he can tell us all about it for a long time, and how it is feeling. And how he can recite a book by heart. Like when we go to a farm and start picking blueberries he can tell the story of Blueberries For Sal word for word. Even though most of them are meant for children, its is very cool. And also how he can create a wonderful made up world in his room made of Lego's and other toys. It is like his imagination world has come to life and I can share his thoughts of life with him. And I feel like I can really connect with him.

As a sister of a brother with autism over the years I have some tips to share:

  • My brother can overreact to little things we say and do. The best thing to do is to go to a room or space that has very few people and, and try to get on a different subject. Or try to play a game that he/she likes, basically try to get their mind on something else.
  • Another situation is he/she can become obsessed on something. My brother for instance loves to watch little kid shows, like Chowder, Phineas And Ferb, and Codename: Kids Next Door. One way you can try to get them out of that habit is to try to get on something that is the same topic but slightly different and do it over time repetitively. For instance I had my brother watch H20 Just Add Water. For people who know this TV show, I know it is meant for girls but it is a step in the right direction of watching something for older kids.
  • A third situation is that he/she is freaking out about something and cannot stop. For instance my family and I were on a Disney cruise at dinner, and he was feeling sea sick and was being rude to the waiters. So I took him aside and made him laugh. So my advice is find something that makes him/her laugh and keep on doing it until he/she is happy.
So in conclusion it is hard and fun to be a sister of a brother with autism. And the best way to calm them down and be happy is, to either recite a line from a book or movie, or make them laugh and forget about what happened.
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