Explaining Autism to Siblings in a Positive Way
Helping your other children understand autism in a positive way will help smooth their comprehension and adjustment.
When your child is first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, your world can be turned upside down. You and your spouse will both learn new ways to cope with emotions, balancing appointments, and more. Siblings of autistic children have an adjusting period as well. There are many questions, feelings, and concerns they will have. Explaining autism to siblings in a positive way is extremely important.
When initially looking up information on how to help with explaining autism to siblings, I was shocked by the first results. It felt they very negative and almost demeaning towards autism. Yes, there are some scary parts about autism, but I personally don’t feel the initial conversation needs to be negative. Just like any other disability, I want my children to see the amazing in being different. There’s enough negative out there, we all need a little more positive! So here is a list of positive ways of explaining autism to siblings.
* What is Autism? Autism means your sibling’s brain works in a different way. She might view things a little different from you. Autism is different in everyone, just like there’s no one quite like you. She loves to play just like you do, but may like to play in ways you think are funny or strange. You both like to play with cars, but she prefers to spin the wheels of the car instead of pretending to drive them.
* How does that affect me? Your brother is the same person he was before we told you he is autistic. His diagnosis won’t affect how we treat you, or your time with us or your brother. By knowing he has autism, it will help us learn better ways to work together as a family. This will make everyone happier and help make things a little easier.
* How can I help her? Helping your sister is mommy/daddy’s job, but there are things you can do to help when you two play. Sometimes, it takes people with autism a little longer to respond. So, if it seems like she is ignoring you, just give her a minute to reply. You may need to ask her again, and that’s okay. Sometimes people with autism have a hard time expressing how they feel. If she becomes really frustrated when you guys play, it’s okay to walk away and come tell one of us.
* Is Autism a bad thing? Can I catch it? You can’t catch autism. Just like you were born with brown hair, he was born with autism. It’s just a part of who he is. Sometimes, autism can be frustrating and make everyday things harder for him. That doesn’t make it a bad thing though. There are some awesome things about your brother being autistic. He so good at (finding things, puzzles, art, music, being honest, being loyal, etc.).
Explaining autism to a sibling can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be negative. Keeping the conversation positive shapes their outlook on all disabilities and differences. Your focus should be to keep that line of communication open between you and your children. Make sure they feel comfortable asking you any questions. They need to know it’s not their job to "fix" anything, and that it’s okay to have any emotions related to their sibling having autism. You may have to explain things many times, and sometimes in different ways. It will get easier in time and easier to see the positives as well.
Alicia Trautwein is an autism/parenting writer living in Missouri. She is the creator behind The Mom Kind, a website dedicated to parenting neurodiverse families. She shares her expertise along with her experience in parenting children, both with and without autism. For more information and a free copy of her ebook “Embracing Neurodiversity” visit www.themomkind.com.