You may pick up from an early age that your brother or sister is different, even if you don't understand what is actually wrong. You may also notice other people's reactions, especially your parents' and grandparents', to your sibling.
Having a brother or sister with autism may make you feel many different ways including:
This may be because you feel that your brother or sister:
- does not seem to get told off when they are being naughty
- does not seem to care about how you are feeling
- receives more attention from your parents than you get (which also means you think that your parents do not love you as much as them).
Your brother or sister is not doing these things on purpose to try and hurt you. Your parents may act differently towards them because your brother or sister may need more help with the things that you can do without any help. For example, they may not be able to get up, get dressed and get ready for school in the morning without a lot of help and persuasion from your mum or dad. This does not mean that your parents love you any less or that you are not as important to them.
Tell your parents how you feel
It may not be easy for you to tell your parents your concerns about your brother or sister who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and you may be afraid of asking questions in case you upset your parents. However, the important thing is to tell them your feelings. Talking with other members of your family is important, as it lets them know how you are feeling (they cannot read your mind!) and it lets them answer any questions you might have or solve any problems you might be facing.
Some facts about autism
You may not really know what the word 'autism' means and this will make it harder for you to understand your brother or sister. By learning what autism means, it will make it easier for you to understand the way they behave, how to act with them and even how to stick up for them.
Autism is a disability and someone who has this may have problems in three main areas of their daily lives:
- Problems with communication (which means they may have trouble talking and telling people how they feel).
- Problems with social skills (which means they may not be able to make friends easily or understand what is acceptable behaviour).
- Problems with imaginative thought (which means they do not realise that other people have their own thoughts and feelings and they have difficulty trying to understand what these are. For example, they may not know when you are angry or upset).
It is a condition that your brother or sister will have for the rest of their life. There isn't a cure for autism but with the right help and understanding from your parents and from you, your brother or sister can live a long and happy life.
You cannot catch autism like you could catch a cold or measles, and you did not cause it because of your behaviour or thoughts.
Reasons why your brother or sister behaves the way that they do
- They may not show an interest in playing with you or they may completely ignore you because they don't always understand what you are saying and can get confused.
- They may seem to have little or no respect for your belongings (such as your pictures, toys or clothes) and this is because they do not understand that what they are doing is wrong. You may need to show them how to use your toys in an appropriate way.
- When your brother or sister does not get into as much trouble as you would for being naughty (such as if they kick someone), it is because they do not realise they have done something wrong.
What can I do to help my brother or sister?
- When your brother or sister needs time alone to be by themselves, give them some space.
- Try to be calm and patient with them even when they do something which may hurt your feelings.
- Speak slowly and clearly when you are talking to them (so they can understand what you are saying).