Siblings: The Autism
Spectrum Through our
Eyes should be read by
all persons desiring a
better understanding
of the issues that
siblings of children with autism
experience. This book is a good read for
parents and young adult siblings of
children with autism.” Journal of Autism
and Developmental Disorders
Learn More
Effect of Autism on Siblings
By Derenda Timmons Schubert, Ph.D.
How will having a child with autism in the
family negatively affect my typical child?
Each child and family is different so one
cannot provide a global answer.
However, the following interventions
will help to diminish stress and promote
positive adjustment: providing the
typical child with education about
autism throughout his or her lifespan,
opportunities to share positive and
negative feelings, opportunities to meet
other siblings and families with children
with autism, activities outside of the
developmental disabilities community,
special time with parents, skills to
interact with their siblings and if
something were to happen to the
parents, a plan for the care of the child
with autism.
How do I describe “autism” to my typical
The description depends on the
developmental level of the typical child.
For instance, preschool and early
elementary aged children are usually
satisfied with a description of behaviors
their brothers/sisters exhibit. For
example, a parent could explain that the
child with autism does not like change,
or his clothes bother him, or she cannot
talk, or it makes her feel better to pace
back and forth. As the typical child ages,
the descriptions, explanations, and
vocabulary can become more detailed
and specific. One way parents can
determine if they have provided enough
information to the child is to look for the
“glazed over eyes.” If you see this
expression, you have said enough. You
may also gauge what you say by the
questions presented by the typical child.
Inform the child that he or she is always
invited to ask questions about their
sibling’s special needs.
Is autism contagious?
No. You cannot catch autism like you
catch a cold. Children with autism are
born with their special needs. Parts in
their brains work a little bit differently
than other people’s brains and because
of this, we see these behaviors.
What should I do when kids make fun of my
I don’t want to join in, but I’m afraid if I
don’t, they won’t like me. This can be a
tough one for kids. I have asked other
children with siblings with special needs
to help me answer this question. Their
suggestions include the following: Even
though they might not be your friends
anymore, stick up for your brother or


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