Thinking About the Sibling of an Autistic Child


The other day I was reading a blog post about a Mom’s very legitimate concerns about what Autism brings to the sibling of an Autistic  child.  I truly understood where she was coming from because it’s one thing as parents that we have the  responsibility for our children but what about siblings to each other?  Our children will *knock on wood* out live us and family looks out for each other which inevitably means that the siblings will have to be there for each other.  Will my son be able to look out for my daughter or will it be one-sided?  I am an only child so the sibling dynamic is a completely new thing for me and then in our family you add a  twist of Autism.   So I decided to comment to let her know from our perspective what  we see with our little girl.


Johnny has a sister 3 years younger then him and I refer to her as  Princess on my blog.  He is eight years old and she is five.  She loves him so much and at times she is like another Mom to him but to his chagrin.  When he was younger I sometimes wondered if he liked her baby toys more then her because they were all cause-and-effect and he really really enjoys that.  He would sit by her when she was a baby and be the first person to pop her soother back in her mouth.  When she is nervous about trying something new or scary she immediately finds courage if she sees him trying to do it.  She will ask him if he was scared and he will say, “yes….but I want to to do it so I do it.”  She hates it when if she sees him at school he literally runs the opposite way and hurts her feelings.  Is it fair?  No. But she REALLY LOVES her brother.  Somewhere along the line he began really showing how much he loves her too.

Empathy….understanding… it’s okay to be different….responsibility, these are all things that she learns from having him as an older brother.  She reminds us everyday about unconditional love and she fights for him at school and defends him to us.  Her relationship with him has made her a stronger person as she navigates the social dynamics of kindergarten.  She has leadership skills that are more developed at a younger age.   Her genuine kindness and thoughtfulness teaches Johnny every day so now we enjoy unexpected surprises from him.  There are  all the ballet classes where Johnny would stay outside the door and stand on the chair peeking through the little window trying to catch a glimpse of the sister trying to dance .   All the times when he was so sick with a bad cold yet he would sit and watch a ballet recital.  He wanted to do it so he could watch his sister and be a proud older brother.  He has huge depth of love and emotion and when he cares he care so very deeply and she loves to bask in his attention.    There are days where they play with each other and days and they do not.   There are all the times where they want to sleep with each other and cuddle and have a little sleepovers.  The other day Princess couldn’t go to school because she got the flu.  Johnny asked me, “Mommy can I stay home and take care of my sister please.” 


So yes I am worried about the burden on her and what she misses because of him….but what about what she has gained?





10 Comments Add yours

  1. harrietrh says:

    My sister has Autism, she is 29 and I am 22. Everyone has a unique experience with Autism.. however, I have written a post on my blog about my experience as a sibling and some observations – perhaps you will find my insight useful? I am still trying to understand the role of the sibling in an Autism family myself.
    I share many of the sentiments in this post. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I can say that my sister has shaped me as a person – for the better.

    All the best

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      Thank you for reading my post and sharing 🙂 I will definitely take a look at your blog. I am really interested in learning how to help my daughter navigate relationship with her brother. Thx for the follow too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. NickyB. says:

    I’m really praying that in the end, my daughter won’t consider her brother a burden. I worry about that all of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cyn says:

      I know what you mean. I worry when they are teenagers etc I worry about when they are older…. I have just experienced a weekend on sibling arguing that was jealousy based over toys and then over teasing each other. I think my daughter just doesn’t like it when her brother doesn’t know when to stop. She feels when he doesn’t notice the social cues. It’s a lot that the sibling has to deal with… As parents we do it we have to do but I do experience some guilt having to put this on her. But as I wrote on my blog post she tends to see him as a person first:) do your kids have a good relationship?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. NickyB. says:

        Yes they do but lately the arguing has been happening more. Exactly what you said about him not knowing when to stop. He doesn’t realize when it’s no longer fun for my daughter. It’s so difficult to try and teach him to look at her face and realize when she is mad or sad. Sometimes he gets it, sometimes he doesn’t. Ugh! Really difficult to deal with.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Cyn says:

        My son is a “cause and effect” kinda boy so he also does it just to watch her reactions because she gives him so much drama so much input. So sometimes it feels like an experiment he wonders whether she’s going to get upset the same way as she did before? OMG! then I have to worry about I don’t want to discount her feelings and tell her to try to be neutral because her feelings are important as well and she needs to vocalize them and not feel like her feelings are not important. Frustrating isn’t it? Other parents will tell me all brothers and sisters do this to each other but they don’t realize that with autism brings kind of tenacity and repetition that you won’t find anywhere else. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. NickyB. says:

        EXACTLY!! They (some parents) just don’t get it and frankly I’m tired of trying to explain it to them.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Cyn says:

        I find I put a pretend smile on my face and just nod because they won’t be able to get…they don’t experience it. Sad really…

        Liked by 1 person

      5. NickyB. says:

        Story of my life!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow that’s an eye opener
    You know i have always felt that our son was a burden to his big brother, but all the time he puts him first.
    They have learnt to play together and share everything, he teaches him to write and reads to him
    Sometimes he teaches us things about his brother and we caught by surprise
    This other day he came rushing to the house they were playing with other kids, he said they made fun of his brother because he is non verbal, he told them all the wonderful things his brother can do and he was teaching and advocating for his brother

    I was so proud
    But in all that said I worry about the Amount of attention that goes to the little one and big one is second

    Liked by 1 person

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