Building Bonds When a Sibling Has Autism

Melissa Kossler Dutton

Siblings of children with autism are likely to encounter “special challenges” dealing with their brother or sister, according to The Autism Society. Parents should be mindful of that and work to help their children develop relationships, experts say.

If the child with autism rebuffs friendly gestures from siblings, it’s possible to teach them strategies to engage their brother or sister. These skills include things such as making sure they have someone’s attention, giving simple instructions and praising good play, according to this article on the society’s website. One research study comparing videos made before and after children learned such skills showed they played together more and seemed much happier than after skills training.

Children living in Central Ohio have another potential source of information. Nationwide Children’s Hospital offers monthly Sibshops for siblings of kids with autism. During the workshops, children learn coping strategies, meet other children who have an autistic sibling and participate in fun activities. The Sibshop takes place one Saturday a month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The $20 fee includes lunch. Registration is required. The next workshop is May 18. 

Additional resources for families are available from the Organization for Autism Research and Autism Speaks