Autism Through Sibling’s Eyes: How to Support the Bond

Autism sibling support

Supporting siblings of children with autism is extremely important. Siblings often experience a range of emotions like worry, jealousy, embarrassment, guilt, resentment, and confusion. They may feel left out as their autistic sibling requires more attention and care. Providing support can help improve their well-being and their relationship with their autistic sibling.

This article will cover the unique challenges siblings face, the benefits of support groups, tips for supporting siblings at home, understanding autism from a sibling’s perspective, and more. The goal is to provide siblings with resources to help them thrive and feel supported.


Challenges for Siblings

Siblings of children with autism face unique challenges that can be difficult to navigate. Some common struggles include:

Feeling Neglected

It’s not uncommon for siblings to feel neglected at times, as parents’ attention and resources are often focused on caring for the child with autism. Siblings may feel jealous or resentful of the time and energy that parents devote to their autistic siblings. Parents should try to spend one-on-one time with siblings and validate their feelings.

Difficulties Understanding Autism

Depending on their age, siblings may struggle to comprehend why their brother or sister behaves differently. Some children have trouble understanding autism itself. Parents should educate siblings about autism using age-appropriate language and encourage questions. Support groups can also provide siblings with peers who understand their experience.

Anger, Frustration, Embarrassment

At times, a sibling may feel angry, frustrated, or embarrassed by the behaviors of their autistic sibling, especially in public. These feelings are natural but can be discussed and worked through. Parents can help siblings process these complex emotions.

Taking on Caregiving Roles

As siblings grow older, some end up taking on caregiving responsibilities for their autistic siblings. This can negatively impact the sibling if responsibilities become excessive. Parents should be mindful of balancing caregiving duties among family members. Checking in with siblings and allowing breaks is important.


Benefits of Support Groups

Support groups provide a valuable opportunity for siblings of autistic children to connect and gain support. Groups allow siblings to meet and build friendships with other kids going through similar experiences. This can help siblings feel less alone and more understood.

Support groups also give siblings a chance to talk about their feelings, challenges, and experiences related to having an autistic sibling. Sharing these experiences with others who can empathize helps siblings process their emotions. Groups provide a safe, judgment-free space where siblings can express themselves openly.

In support groups, siblings can learn new ideas and strategies for coping with challenges from others who understand the sibling experience. This sharing of coping mechanisms equips siblings with valuable tools to navigate struggles like getting attention at home, managing difficult behaviors, or dealing with resentment or jealousy. Support groups empower siblings with the knowledge and skills to handle issues healthily.


Online Support Communities

Online support communities provide 24/7 access to connecting with other siblings of autistic individuals across the globe. The anonymous nature of online groups allows siblings to openly and honestly share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings without fear of judgment.

Some popular autism sibling online support forums include:

  • Wrong Planet – Active discussion forums with sections specifically for siblings.

  • Autism Speaks – Connect with other siblings through their online community.

  • Facebook Groups – Large autism sibling support groups exist on Facebook.

The forums act as a virtual safe space to vent frustrations, ask questions, receive encouragement, and feel connected at all hours with others who truly understand the sibling experience. The anonymity provides comfort in honestly expressing feelings without fear of judgment. Online support communities are an invaluable 24/7 resource for connecting autistic siblings globally.


In-Person Support Groups

In-person support groups can provide siblings of children with autism a dedicated space to connect with other siblings, share experiences, and learn coping strategies. These groups are often facilitated by professionals or volunteers who understand the unique challenges siblings face.

Local autism organizations may host monthly meetups for siblings to get together. Meetups provide a casual setting for siblings to talk, play games, or do an activity. Having fun with other kids who “get it” can be incredibly bonding. Some groups incorporate art therapy or counseling sessions to help siblings healthily process emotions.

Support groups tailored for teens or adult siblings are also available in many areas. These groups focus on supporting siblings navigating major life changes and transitions. For example, leaving for college while a sibling remains at home can be an emotional process. Connecting with others going through the same experience provides reassurance.

Dedicated support groups allow siblings to build community and friendships. Fellow siblings understand the complex emotions involved with having a brother or sister with autism. While parents and professionals play an important role, hearing directly from other siblings can make a big impact. In-person support groups help siblings realize they are not alone.


Support at Home

Having a sibling with autism can be challenging, but there are things families can do at home to support siblings.

One-on-One Time with Parents

Parents need to spend quality one-on-one time with siblings without the autistic child present. This gives them the focused attention they crave and helps them feel valued. Doing an activity together like getting ice cream, seeing a movie, or going to the park allows parents to connect with their siblings and focus on their needs.

Family Activities

Planning family activities that the autistic child enjoys can help them feel included and give the siblings positive shared experiences. This could include going to a museum with visual exhibits, doing crafts at home, or watching a favorite movie together. Adapt activities so the autistic child can participate in their way.

Open Communication

Parents should create an open environment where siblings can share both positive and negative feelings about their autistic sibling. Validate their emotions and work together to problem solve. Let them know it’s ok to feel frustration, sadness, or embarrassment sometimes. Check-in regularly to see how they are coping and provide extra support when needed.

Spending one-on-one time, doing inclusive family activities, and keeping communication open helps create a supportive home environment for siblings of autistic children. Though challenges persist, siblings will feel loved, understood, and able to thrive.


Self-Care Tips

Being the sibling of an autistic child can be emotionally and mentally taxing at times. That’s why it’s so important to take time for yourself and practice self-care. Here are some tips:

Take Time for Yourself

Make time in your schedule to do activities you enjoy, just for you. Read a good book, go for a walk, meet up with friends, take a relaxing bubble bath – whatever helps you recharge. You are still an individual with your own needs and interests, despite your family role.

Develop Hobbies and Interests

Having hobbies and interests outside of your family responsibilities provides an outlet and brings more balance to your life. Join a sports team, take an art class, learn a new skill, or pursue a personal passion project. Setting aside time to nurture your individual growth and talents is essential.

Keep a Journal

Journaling allows you to process your emotions, gain perspective, and reflect on your journey. Write about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings related to being an autistic sibling. This can be very therapeutic and empowering. Look back on previous journal entries to see how far you’ve come.

Making time for self-care is so important for autistic siblings. By taking care of your own needs first, you’ll have more energy and resilience to be fully present and supportive of your autistic sibling.


Understanding Autism

Autism is a complex neurological condition that affects how a person communicates, interacts, behaves, and learns. While autism occurs on a spectrum, those diagnosed typically have challenges with social skills, speech, nonverbal communication, and restricted or repetitive behaviors. They may also have sensory sensitivities, gastrointestinal issues, sleep disturbances, and epilepsy. However, autism also brings remarkable abilities in visual skills, music, math, and more.

To support a sibling’s development, it helps to understand some basics about autism spectrum disorder (ASD):

  • Learning Styles: Many with autism are visual learners who benefit from schedules with pictures and videos. They tend to learn best through systematic, structured approaches. Their learning style is often uneven, excelling in some areas and needing more support in others.

  • Communication: Some with autism are nonverbal, while others have limited language skills. Many struggle to understand body language, sarcasm, and subtle social cues. Alternative communication methods like picture exchange systems can help. Focusing on strengths in communicating through writing, art, music, or technology is encouraged.

  • Senses and Behaviors: Sensitivity to light, sounds, touch, tastes, or smells is common. Repetitive motions like flapping, pacing, or rocking provide comfort and sensory input. While behaviors like tantrums or stimming may be misunderstood, they serve a purpose for the individual.

  • Strengths: Many with autism excel in logic, problem-solving, spatial skills, and creative pursuits like music and art. They thrive with structure, routine, and clear expectations. Autism brings neurodiversity we all benefit from.

  • Therapy Approaches: Early intensive behavioral intervention, and speech, occupational, and physical therapies are often recommended. Other therapies like music, animal, or art therapy can also be beneficial. Finding therapies tailored to the child’s unique needs is key.

The more siblings understand about autism itself, the better they can relate to their brother or sister. Learning together with parents and providers leads to greater acceptance, empathy, and bonding.


The Sibling Experience

Growing up with a sibling with autism can be a unique experience that comes with both joys and struggles. Many siblings have shared insight into their personal experiences and the impact of having a brother or sister with autism.

“As a kid, it was hard when my brother would have meltdowns in public. I remember feeling embarrassed and wishing he could be ‘normal.’ But now as an adult, I’ve gained so much compassion and patience from my experience.” – Sarah, 26

“I’ve learned to be more independent since my parents often had to focus more on my autistic sister. It taught me skills that have helped me in life and in my career.” – Kevin, 32

“My relationship with my autistic brother has made me a much more accepting person. I’ve learned that we all have differences and each person deserves kindness.” – Ella, 19

While there are certainly difficulties, many siblings emphasize the special bond they share with their autistic brother or sister. Spending time together doing fun activities, communicating in your special way, and sharing jokes can make for wonderful memories.

“My sister has taught me so much about enjoying the simple things. She gets so excited about things I take for granted, like butterflies or rocks. Her joy is contagious.” – Lily, 22

The sibling journey is unique for each individual and family. But with open communication, training on autism, and support systems in place, the sibling experience can provide personal growth, bring families closer together, and open our minds to new perspectives on life.



Growing up with a sibling with autism can be challenging but also rewarding. Siblings need to have access to support systems where they can connect with other siblings who understand their unique experiences. Support groups allow siblings to openly share their feelings and experiences in a judgment-free environment. While autism impacts the whole family, the sibling relationship is unique. With understanding, compassion, and support, the sibling bond can be made even stronger in the face of autism’s challenges. There are many great resources available, both online and in-person, for autistic siblings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *