A young man wrote to Autism Bulletin recently to express his frustration about his adult sister's life. The details I will keep private, but the gist is that he feels that his sister, though employed, is capable of much more than the duties of her entry-level job. In addition, he is frustrated that she continues to demonstrate a narrow set of interests in her life.
A few things struck me about this note, and I want to share them with you and then ask for your comments and advice for siblings.
1.) Parents need to pay attention to the emotions and needs of siblings of our kids who have an autism spectrum disorder.
Of course we don't forget about our typically developing, or developed, children as we spend so much energy on our children with autism. It's a good idea, though, to add to our long to-do list: look for ways to meet siblings' emotional needs.
There are support groups for siblings available in many areas. Sometimes those groups are designed specifically for siblings of people with autism spectrum disorders, and sometimes they are for siblings of people with various disabilities.
You may find it useful to do other things, like special outings, activities geared specifically to the sibling's interests and passions. The key is to set aside time for this.
2.) The sibling's needs don't stop after childhood.
As this young man noted, he is thinking a lot about his adult sister. He consults with his parents, but he has his own ideas, wishes for his sister and frustrations.
3.) There is something good going on here.
This young man was very frustrated and took the time to write to me about it. When I wrote back to this young man, I started off by telling him that his sister is a very lucky person to have a brother who cares so much about her.
That good fortune is a blessing, really, for all of us. It shows that people who grow up in a home where the family is a group of caring people can make a difference. I know that my outlook on life, on the world, on people has changed since my family began learning about autism. I can only hope that we find more people with the capacity for compassion and understanding as we continue along. In that sense, this young man's e-mail to me made my week.
Ideas for Finding a Sibling Support Group
More Info: Support Groups for Siblings of Kids with Autism
More on siblings on Autism Bulletin