Siblings. If you’re lucky enough to have one or more, it can be a blessing – and a curse! If you’re the oldest, you go from being the centre of your parents’ universe, to suddenly finding yourself a little off-centre when your younger sibling arrives. Of course, your parents don’t love you any less – they just share their love and grow their hearts to accommodate both of you – but to you, the child, it can seem like a bit of a snub! However, having a sibling can be amazing; you’ll probably always have someone who has your back, and be a best friend and confidante.
And then there are ‘autism siblings’.
Autism Siblings – The Unsung Heroes
Brothers and sisters of children with autism are a very special breed of sibling. They have to be. Sometimes they grumble about it (or throw an all-out strop!) and I’m sure there are many times when life just doesn’t seem fair. But, then they forget their grumbles and get on with the very important business of being siblings to children who can find relationships tough – and that’s an incredible skill to have.
I know that H struggles with Tink’s autism a lot of the time. I remember when she was born (H was four-and-a-half) and he asked when she’d be talking and when she would play with him. It’s taken the best part of six years, but we’re almost there. It’s been a long wait for him, and he’s not known for his incredible patience! He does get frustrated that she can’t do some things he wants her to, or that she screams at him when he gets too close (“she only screams at me – never anyone else!”). And I know for a fact that he feels she gets a disproportionate amount of our attention. I know, because he’s told me:
“When Tink arrived, in 2012, you and Daddy loved her more and gave her all the attention, and I didn’t feel that I got any.”
Ouch. Of course, I explained that we didn’t love him any less, but we loved them both the same. I also told him that he’ll always be my special boy, being my firstborn, and that he gets me all to himself now he’s home educated, so he can’t really complain now!
But, for all the struggles he has with his sister, H is the most amazing brother to her. He is very protective of her, and hates to see her mistreated in any way. He watches out for her when she’s doing something potentially dangerous and he will try to calm her when she’s upset, distressed, or heading for a meltdown. He persists in trying to play with her, and it’s paying off; yesterday, they spent ages in the garden kicking a ball to each other, throwing a frisbee and generally having a lot of fun.
How things will pan out in the future with their relationship remains to be seen, but I’m sure H will always look out for Tink and be one of her loudest advocates. It’s clear to see that although she hasn’t quite turned out to be the little sister he was hoping for when she was growing in my tummy, she’s not all that bad really and he adores her. She loves him too, even though he gets too close sometimes! I asked him what he loves about Tink, and he replied, “Everything. Her talking is amazing now!”
Here are some more inspiring stories of siblings who, despite the challenges autism can present, are superheroes to their autistic brothers and sisters…
“My daughter Elsa is nearly 3 years younger than Jude (12) and I remember a few years ago, actually more than that as I think she was only 5, she said that she wouldn’t take his autism away as then he wouldn’t be Jude. She still says it now, it’s really sweet. She really has had to grow up herself at times and this has made her a very independent young lady indeed. I have many a memory of her dressing herself when she was as young as two years old because I had to help Jude or Jude was having a “moment” and I was trying to support him. She never complained, never made a fuss but just knew that I had to give him a little more attention. I have forever felt guilty that she missed out on many things and continues to do so but we have a very supportive extended family and she gets to do many things with her Granny that I can’t often take her to because they aren’t Jude-friendly. She understands though, it’s amazing. Her school reports and teachers always comment on her empathetic and helpful nature and I put that largely down to being Jude’s sibling.” Living With a Jude
This post, from Joseph and his Amazing Spectrum Coat, about how step-siblings are just as important, and also from Joesph’s mum, this post on Facebook recently, with an awesome quote from his stepsister.
“Noah is 4 (NT) and Eliza is 9 (ASD) and he loves to help her any way he can, often taking the role of a carer as well as a brother. He helps her put her shoes on when her fine motor skills make her struggle and he even holds her hands to cross the road and gives her prompts to look for cars.” Living With Blooming Autism
A post from Mason’s mum about his brothers and how they keep him safe (Theo is only 16 months too!)
A Blog About Raising My Autistic Son wrote this piece about the importance of siblings…
“Sam is 6 and has autism and is non verbal. His sister, Sydney is 5. She let him push her pram round the park recently and stunned me with her words. She’s an absolute rock.” Mother Geek
“My Brother has Autism it means he can’t talk and he loves cars.” Esme, 7, sister of David – David B’s Autism and All Things ASD Journey
A Q&A with Riley, 8, about his brother Sonny, from To Autfinity and Beyond.
All about Harry’s brother Oliver, the superhero, as told by his mum Charlie from Our Altered Life.
This incredibly clever drawing from Naomi (also autistic) about her brother Isaac’s brain, with its mixed up wires. She’s also asked the local council to install a suitable swing at their local playground, as she felt it was unfair that her brother wasn’t able to play. You can read so much more about this amazing little girl and her family at Faithmummy.
And, finally, this beautiful poem, from Gemma at Isla’s Voice.
Please go and read about all of this amazing ‘autism siblings’, who do so much for their families without expecting anything in return.
Does your child have a sibling superhero? Tell us about them in the comments!
You may also like Autism: The Children in the Middle.