Siblings- Part 2

12 Dec

I saw an article online today entitled, “Autism’s Invisible Victims: The Siblings,” by Barbara Cain.

You can read the full article here.

This is the last paragraph, and I thought it summed things up very nicely:

“Autism isn’t just a health crisis; it’s a family crisis that impacts all members. Sometimes the impact on siblings can be positive. Aware of their comparative good fortune, these siblings were inclined toward sacrifice and mature beyond their years. Most were prepared to assume full responsibility for adult siblings in later years, and many enter an array of helping professions. But until we recognize autism’s collateral effects and attend to the special needs of the whole family, we will not really be grappling with the far-reaching but deeply felt impact of this disorder.

What I love about that last paragraph is how it mentions some good things that come from having an autistic sibling, while not negating the potentially ‘bad’ things that come with it.

I appreciate the writer’s attempt to enlighten families about the unseen impact of autism on the siblings. Often,  the deep effects go unnoticed. Sure, most parents are aware that sometimes siblings feel neglected or forgotten. Most parents have heard that kids can be jealous of autistic siblings sometimes. But do most parents know that siblings might feel pressured to grow up, to take on responsibilities they weren’t ready for? Do most parents know some siblings may have social stressors revolving around peers making fun of their autistic sibling, or the fact that they may not want friends coming over for fear of their sibling embarrassing them, or that they may have a hard time relating to friends because their life is so drenched in all things autism? There are a million and one ways autism might effect a sibling. So what I think the author was trying to say, and what I would like to echo, is that you just don’t know all the ways autism might be effecting your other children. You might find autism to be a huge blessing and a wonderful thing that should be celebrated, not lamented. But it doesn’t mean your other children feel that way. Be aware. Be alert. Be attentive. And never, ever, overlook or deny a sibling’s experience. And, like the article said, some great things just might sprout from your child having an autistic sibling.

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