The Challenges of Being an Autism Sibling
But of course, if you’re an autism sibling, your life isn’t perfect. You’ve probably faced a lot of challenges over the years, too.
Many autism siblings feel resentment toward the child with autism. It’s no wonder why: the sibling on the spectrum is front and center in everyone’s minds, as they have special and unique needs. But that means the neurotypical sibling may feel ignored or lonely. And even though they may understand why their sibling needs so much more attention, it still hurts at times. Neurotypical siblings may also feel that their parents are more lenient on the brother or sister with autism, which also causes frustration.
Speaking of frustration, that’s another thing siblings often must cope with. Though they dearly love their brother or sister on the spectrum, they are affected by the challenging behaviors they exhibit. Screaming may be irritating when trying to study; aggressive behaviors may be scary; and meltdowns in public may be embarrassing. (The stares from strangers don’t just affect the parents!)
Jack Mansour, another autism sibling, knows this firsthand. He explains one instance in which his brother had a public meltdown because his socks got wet and everyone stared. “When I got home, I went on my bed and cried,” he said.
Siblings may also feel tasked with being their sibling’s caregiver, especially if the child with autism is more severely affected. This can be frustrating because, naturally, they may want to spend their free time hanging out with friends or doing other things. This also becomes a concern for many siblings when they reach teenagehood or young adulthood. Though many are often willing to be their sibling’s full-time caregiver, some may not wish to do so—and they may wonder if they’ll even have a choice.
Finally, being an autism sibling can be challenging because the relationship is so inherently different from many other sibling relationships. People with autism obviously feel just as much love as neurotypicals, but they express it in different ways, so they may not bond with their neurotypical siblings in the way other children do. For autism siblings, even though they feel incredible love for their sibling, that can feel like a bit of a loss.