Family relationships - a guide for siblings of autistic people
Having an autistic sibling can be a positive experience as they can share their unique qualities and outlook on life with you. It may help you to become a more accepting person. However, it may also be quite stressful at times.
Here we look at some of the potential concerns you may have about having an autistic sibling, whether you’re an adult, teenager or child.
We also have some resources for parents of younger children who have an autistic sibling.
Adult siblings of an autistic person
You might be concerned about the future care needs of your autistic sibling (if they have high support needs), particularly when your parents are no longer able to be their primary carers.
It may be useful to meet as a family to talk about ideal care options for your autistic sibling in the future. Your sibling should be included in this if possible, using whatever means of communication that will give them the opportunity to express their views.
Consider if they are able to live independently or what community care option would be best for them? Would they prefer to live in residential care or supported living?
You may want to help your sibling find a job, manage their money, choose a college or university placement or have a better understanding of how they are able to advocate for themselves. It’s particularly important to think about long term planning.
Teenage and child siblings of an autistic person
You may feel that your autistic brother or sister doesn’t get told off as often as you do and that your parents give them more attention. As a sibling this may make you feel angry, sad, jealous, frustrated and/or confused. Watching our What is autism? video may help you understand why your sibling acts in the way that they do.
Bridget shares her experience of having an autistic sister:
"Even now I still find it hard to deal with. I'm a lot more patient with my sister than I used to be, and I'm trying to be a better sibling to her. I sometimes slip and get into a bad mood - but hey, I can't be perfect all the time. I'm still getting used to the whole concept of autism, and I don't really understand all about it."
It’s important to remember that your parent/s don’t love you any less than your autistic sibling. It could be that you don’t require the same level of support that your sibling does, and so your parent/s feel they are able to trust you to do certain things alone. Although it may be difficult, try to speak to your parent/s to tell them how you feel, you may feel more comfortable to do this by text or email. They may be able to arrange some time when it can just be you and them.
If you can’t talk to your parent/s, then try to talk to an adult in school, friend or a helpline.
You could ask a teacher or pastoral support worker if they can teach autism awareness in school.
Talking to others who have autistic siblings may also help. There are some groups that your family can ask for support and who may be able to give you the chance to meet others in a similar situation.