Can I get autism from my sibling?
Autism is not contagious like common cold or measles. So, they don’t have to worry about getting autism from sibling or others who have autism. Learning that one’s brother or sister has autism can be a very difficult experience.
What siblings feel about the affected one?
- His behaviour upsets me
- I just get confused hearing the word “autism”
- I have started feeling different since this happened
- I am worried will it affect my future also
- How will my family cope up
It is important to remember that brother or sisters are just like any other child, except he or she has autism. This is a time for sibling and family to learn as much as about autism. Sibling support is important and will help his brother or sister to improve and grow up to their best of the capabilities. At times siblings need to talk about how it affects them. It would be good to seek a family member, teacher, or friend with whom the sibling can be open and honest about their question and feelings.
Sources of stress for siblings
- Embarrassment around peers
- Jealousy regarding the amount of time parents spends with their brother/sister
- Frustration over not being able to engage or get a response from their brother/sister
- Being the target of aggressive behaviors
- Trying to make up for the deficits of their brother/sister
- Concern regarding their parents’ stress and grief
- Concern over their role in future care giving
Some things they may be having trouble with:
- Understanding as to why their brother or sister is acting in a strange way.
- They may feel that their brother and sister gets more time and attention from parents
- They may feel embarrassed about their behavior, especially when they are with their friends or in any public place like at a store where other people may keep staring
- They probably do not know how to play with them
Some questions they may have?
- Will I get to spend time with my mom or dad?
- Do they still care about me?
- How much time do I have to play with my brother? What can we do that he or she will like?
- How can I explain my brother or sister’s behavior to my friends?
- Why doesn’t my brother or sister have to do chores and other things around the houselike I have to do?
How can siblings help?
- Parents can guide the sibling about activities that they can do together
- Siblings need to be trained in the best ways to interact with their sibling.
- Sibling need reassurance that it may take a little time and a lot of patience to learn how toplay with their brother or sister.
- As they spend time together, it is likely that sibling will get to know him or her better andstart appreciating differences between them.
- Sometimes your sibling’s behaviors may make it seem like he or she is not interested, orthey may have difficulty getting his or her attention. Finding an activity siblings can dotogether will allow them to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
Some activities siblings may enjoy doing with their brother or sister:
- Playing a board game or working on a puzzle.
- Playing an interactive video game.
- Playing a physical game, like tag or jumping on a trampoline.
What is expected as role of siblings?
- To accept differences among people.
- To be a loyal friend and stick it out during good and bad times.
- To learn how to tolerate different situations, and be smarter and more mature than other kids their age.
- To feel proud of their sib with autism, especially when they see how hard they work to overcome a challenge.
How to help siblings
- Provide opportunities for siblings to meet other brothers/sisters of individuals with autism, and share their experiences and emotions.
- Keep them informed and involved in decisions about their sibling.
- Give them some ‘special time’ with parents, away from the other siblings including the one/s with autism.
- Help them feel valued for their own sake.
- Help them understand it is ok to express dissatisfaction with the autistic sibling and the unfairness of having to live with autism.
- Give them time and opportunity to live their own life, without guilt.
- Read books with them to help them understand they are not alone with these feelings and to acknowledge the uniqueness of the sibling experience and their ongoing role in the life of their brother or sister with autism.
- Plan for the future, so the burden of responsibility is reduced.
Your brother or sister is still your sibling, so it’s important to have a good relationship, together as a family one can figure out ways to make sure everyone is happy!
Source: Information Booklet on Autism