Role of Siblings in Autism Treatment

lisa lagrou

Role of Siblings in Autism Treatment – The greatest help in helping my ASD / Aspberger’s Syndrome child in his progress turned out to be his younger sister.

I didn’t realize it at the time. God had blessed me with what my son needed most, and with something that I could not give my son myself. I prepared him the right meals, I worked with him on his OT skills and I did whatever I could to put him on the right track, but I could not fill the shoes of a sibling.

Role of Siblings in Autism Treatment

My daughter came as a surprise to us. I had just finished nursing my son shortly after he turned one, only to find out I was pregnant one month later. At the time, I was extremely overwhelmed. I was trying hard to take care of a child that apparently had special needs, even if I did not know the diagnosis at the time. How was I going to welcome another baby in a mere nine months?


What I did not realize was the impact my daughter had on my son or the role of siblings in autism treatment in general. My daughter was born when my son was not yet two. At the time, my son was almost completely non-verbal. He had not even called me “Mommy” yet. We had him tested about 6 months later, and he qualified for special needs services which started shortly after.

The initial impact from the special services were difficult to to notice since progress was slow. About this time, my daughter was becoming more of a true sibling and a bigger part of my son’s life. Here are the different ways she made an impact that we realized during the time, but even more so now looking back.

My daughter was a very early talker – something I definitely was not accustomed to. She began with two-three word phrases well before she turned a year old. She wanted to talk to her brother and she did so repeatedly. She ended up being a great role model for him and gave him someone close to him to have youthful communications. Plus, I can’t ignore the fact that my son was obviously observing someone who was passing him when it came to socializing and communication. I knew he was in store for some serious progression when I saw he was working hard to catch up to her level so he could relish his role as “big brother”.

My daughter also had a love for playing with her brother. Many children with autism or Aspbergers are not social, but rather more of a loner. And, sometimes they don’t have the skills to perform a typical give and take during game play, turn taking, good sportsmanship, etc. Day after day of playing with his little sister taught my son how to interact with other kids. We soon saw him wanting to be more social and to play with other kids. Now, all he wants to do is play with friends!


And, maybe one of the most impactful behaviors (and many parents’ most irritated moments) my daughter presented was the typical sibling “rivalry.” My son was recognized by therapists as having a lack of standing up for himself. He was very different with respect to “sharing.” For example, you could walk up to him and grab a toy right out of his hand and he would not say a word or complain. We used to think, “Wow, what an easy-going child.” When, in fact, we had an overly complacent child that was headed on a dangerous path. I recall his speech therapist presenting scenarios to try to get him  to “react” but nobody could do it as well as his sister. Additionally, if an aggressive child shoved my son, he would not express sadness, fear, or any type of revenge for that matter. Instead, we would find him wetting his bed at night or having other emotional issues. My daughter has been a comfortable companion for him to debate and argue with, in the most healthy way imaginable. This was a very good thing for him and continues to be good practice. We have seen our son stand up for himself and it’s a great feeling.

So, to say “everything happens for a reason” would be true in this case. Had my husband and I waited until we were “ready” to have another child, we would not have seen the progress in our son and may have decided to not have another child for a while, which would have only set him back even more.

I hope the Role of Siblings in Autism Treatment is studied or considered more.

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