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How to help siblings cope with the behaviors of a child with Aspergers

Having a child with any type of developmental disability can be very stressful for the parents and the siblings of that child. This may be seen to be even more so at times for children with (physically) hidden syndromes like Asperger's. Children with physical disabilities have a more visible and obvious disability. Whereas children on the autistic spectrum tend to look exactly like other children but can behave very differently. For siblings this behavior can be difficult to understand even when they are aware of their sibling's ASD.

Many siblings can think of their ASD sibling as simply naughty or rude ? particularly if they are quite young and unable to fully understand the issues involved. Siblings may often feel embarrassed around peers, frustrated by not having the type of relationship with their sibling that they wanted or expected, and/or angry that the child with Asperger's Syndrome requires so much of the parents' time. This can often mean the child not wanting to ask friends over to play, as they fear their sibling may embarrass them. It is hard enough for parents of the child with Asperger's to understand why their child has this syndrome, much less why they behave the way they do.

Teach siblings about Asperger's Syndrome to the extent that they are able to understand. Let them know that it is okay to be frustrated with their sibling who is affected, but it won't help their relationship. Let siblings know what that child needs, again to the extent that they can understand and provide as normal of an environment as possible. Try to make this as concrete as possible with real life examples of what you mean that they can follow and relate to.

Obviously some family dynamics can make this tricky - but try to make some special parent-child time with the non-Asperger's sibling at least weekly. In order to do this you may need to look to your family, friends or local social services to offer the child with Asperger's somewhere to go for some respite. Whilst you can then do some activity with their sibling. This may mean staying in and watching a video or just chilling out in peace. Or it could involve a set activity like swimming, the cinema, walking, shopping etc. Whatever it is try to make it child-focussed so that your child gets to determine what you do (within reason!) It is often tempting to coddle the child with developmental disabilities, like Asperger's Syndrome, and expect the other children to do so as well.

But, the child with Asperger's Syndrome will benefit and learn social skills from their siblings as well, and they should be entitled to a reasonable amount of sibling rivalry as well as any other child. You don't want to deny the child with Asperger's the typical childhood, which includes fighting over toys and television shows. These formative sibling relationships and experiences have a major effect on children as they grow up (regardless of Asperger's).

So to summarise siblings need to know enough about their brother or sisters issues to give them an understanding at their level. They also need to know that it is OK to feel some negative emotions at times to their sibling, and where ever possible they need a little "special" time with you on their own.

Dave Angel is a social worker with families who have children on the Autistic Spectrum and is the author of a new e-book that answers the 46 most asked questions by parents of children with Asperger's. To claim your free 7 day Mini-Course for parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome, visit http://www.parentingaspergers.com today.


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