Autism Does Not Define My Brother
When you meet someone for the first time you try and get to know each other while asking questions about their life. One of the first questions people ask is, Do you have any brothers or sisters? I always respond with, Yes, I have a younger brother named Dougie. We are 3 years apart and he has autism. Normally, people assume it was difficult growing up with a sibling with autism. The fact is I grew up being super close to my brother just like anyone elses relationship with their siblings. Autism does not define my brother.
When I first meet someone, there is one story that I always seem to tell people to describe our relationship.
Dougie and I grew up loving Disney since we were little. I wanted to share with him everything Disney. Growing up he loved The Lion King and I loved Beauty and the Beast. We would watch the movies, play with the toys, but more than anything we loved going to the parks. Dougie and Is favorite ride was Buzz Lightyears Space Rangers Spin and that remains true to this day.
Dealing With Daily Routines
Everything Was About Ben And I Felt Left Out
I did feel left out when I was younger. This was not intentional on my parents part, but it is how I felt. It was all about Ben. Ben needed the support and I understand that. My parents used to say I was self-sufficient. It was not easy for them, it was not easy for Ben and it was not easy for me. As I grew up, I felt ignored.
There is a lot of information out there about how supporting a child with autism affects parents, and there is a lot about the child who is autistic. But what about me? The most important part of my life, the part of my life where my core personality was built, became all about how to help Ben, or how things were for Ben. I know how much my parents love me, I know how much my brother loves me, but it was still hard thinking that I was second.
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An Exploration Of Love And Family In Why Is My Brother Autistic
When a child is diagnosed with autism, its important for parents to look into what that diagnosis will mean for their family. From reading parental guides to seeking advice from professionals, a lot of work goes into researching how to care for their autistic child. But in the process of all this hard work, one aspect can be overlooked the relationship between the autistic child and their siblings.
The dynamic between a neurotypical child and their autistic sibling can be complicated and multilayered. The line between playmate and caretaker is often blurred, and children may feel as though they have to occupy both roles at once. How much should the child be expected to serve as a role model for their sibling? And when do they get to shirk these responsibilities and just be a kid? In her book Why is My Brother Autistic? author Alexandra Amoroso looks deeper into this relationship and gives us an insiders view of what its like growing up with an autistic sibling.
Ever since her little brother Tony was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Alexandra Amoroso has worked hard to understand her brothers world. With this book, shes gathered her firsthand experiences and insights into a guide for children with autistic siblings in order to help educate those whose families resemble her own.
Alexandra Amoroso, author of Why Is My Brother Autistic?
I Worry About The Future
Sometimes I worry about the future. I worry about a time where my parents are no longer with us. I worry about Bens mental wellbeing because it takes him longer to adapt to change. I worry that one day this support circle he has wont be there. Even if I am scared about what the future may hold for Ben, all I know is that I will keep supporting his autonomy until his independence really is all him.
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About Siblings Of Autistic Children
Most siblings have their ups and downs. It can be great to have sisters and brothers to play and share interests with. But many siblings also have times when they disagree, fight and feel like theyre competing for their parents attention.
In many ways, having an autistic sibling is similar to having typically developing siblings its both enriching and challenging.
For example, siblings of children with disability, including autistic children, are often particularly caring, compassionate, independent, tolerant and responsive to the needs of others. But sometimes siblings of autistic children might feel sad, anxious or confused about their autistic siblings behaviour or its effects on family life.
Its normal for typically developing children to have a range of changing feelings about their family situation.
If you have both autistic and typically developing children, theres a lot you can do to support your typically developing children and their relationships with their autistic sibling.
He Has Frequent Meltdowns
Meltdowns can be part of the package with someone with ASD, and how they handle them is different from person to person. They usually happen after a buildup of tension or frustration and can come out of nowhere. They’re almost always purely emotional.
Emma Dalmayne, an adult on the spectrum and a mother of autistic children, says,”When you have a meltdown, it’s as if the world is ending. Everything is too much and you feel like overwhelming darkness has engulfed your very being. Irrepressible anger that may seem completely irrational to an outsider can be inwardly devastating us internally.”
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Top Challenges Faced By Siblings
Whether the sibling of an autistic child is rich or poor, mellow or anxious, there are certain shared challenges.
I Felt Jealous And Became Attention Seeking
I was so jealous of my brother and this pushed me to become attention seeking. I pushed my parents to notice me, but as a young person, you do not quite see the negative impact this had. I was very good at mathematics but purposely became bad at it on paper just because! My rebellious attitude completely changed the path I took and I achieved average grades. Looking back on this, I wish I had accepted the subjects I was good at.
The thing is, despite feeling that I was not as important as Ben, I was always protective of him and never treated him like I was jealous of him.
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I Think My Mother And Sister Are Autistic What Should I Do
Its important to ask yourself whose agenda this is, says Annalisa Barbieri, and whether they really want help
I have often wondered whether we have undiagnosed adult autism in our family. All my life, I have felt I have greater emotional intelligence, in terms of understanding the world and other people, than my elder sister and mother. Our mother, in particular, finds it difficult to read social signals and fit into social circles. She often speaks about her disappointment in life, in not having had a fulfilling career, and I have been affected by this in wanting to overcompensate in mine. Listening to her consistently lamenting her failures is an emotional strain and I feel some responsibility for her sadness, which I know is irrational.
My sister has also struggled with relationships. Although she is trying to climb the career ladder, she has been unsuccessful at many interviews. Outside work, she always has an overbubbling enthusiasm for a subject matter or hobby, which I think puts people off becoming friends with her. I find myself wanting to hide my successes from her.
Recently, I moved to be closer to my parents. I feel really sad about this situation, as I can see once again that making friends is very difficult for them, but I cant fix it, however much I try. I want to maintain my own life without feeling guilty that theirs is not so fulfilled.
How To Date A Man With Autism
Dating someone with autism takes time, work, and effort. But that goes for any other relationship too.
The best thing to do when understanding how to tell if someone has autism, especially if it’s someone you love , you must learn to accept them and not try to change them.
It can be hard to deal with an autistic partner and you may never fully understand how the ASD brain works, but just because it works differently than others doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful and brilliant.
Being clear and openly communicative to your autistic partner is a good way to make your relationship work.
Stasaitis explains that to make a relationship work it “requires a potential partner being willing to be very specific and clear in all communications. You are basically interpreting what you say to them by clarifying your exact meaning. An increase in awareness for both people is important.”
And, like with any relationship, having patience with your partner is everything. Allowing the autistic person time to process everything is crucial when in a relationship with someone on the spectrum.
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Dealing With Verbal And Non
I Wasnt Treated Equally To My Brother
I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was 19 years old, yet when I told my parents, they did not seem surprised at all. In fact, one of the first things they said was Well, I always thought you were. This really angered me! They were told through both primary and secondary school that I was lazy. I wish my parents had demanded that I was not lazy and that there was something else going on. I couldnt help but think but you didnt do that with Ben. When there were signs that something was happening to Ben, they ran around like headless chickens to get an answer. But not with me. With me, they left it. This is by far the hardest thing to feel. I know my parents love us equally, but this point in my life was hard to get past.
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He Resists Changes In Plans
It may not seem like a big deal, but it can be very difficult for someone with ASD to cope with a sudden plan change. They have usually been thinking about the event for a while, and it’s very confusing to them and can be another cause for anxiety. They like rigid routines and firm plans.
On the WrongPlanet forum, user Steel Maiden said, “If someone called me suddenly and asked me to change my whole day’s plans, just like that, I would shout at them and refuse to leave the house. The change of plan would be far too traumatic.”
Things I’ve Learned Having A Brother With Autism
This post is by 18-year-old Seana Wheeler, a loving sibling to her brother with ASD. Seana aspires to raise more awareness through her writing and hopes to advocate for autism further in the future.
BEING MORE THAN A SIBLING
At times, I have felt more of mother to my brother than a sister. I have felt protective of him so fiercely it defies any other sibling relationship I’ve seen. Our bond is strong and unbreakable. I cannot for a moment imagine my life without him. He has taught me more about myself than anyone ever has and for that I thank God for bringing him into my life.
LOVE, HATE AND LAUGH
Laughter in most eventualities regarding autism is what helps ease the hardship that comes with it. After all, laughter is one of lifes greatest medicines .
Days will contain moments of loving the person your sibling is and others with hate for the way autism has affected them. You are not angry with them. You will understand the meaning of this, if you do not already, soon.
HELPING MY PARENTS
I have seen the stress my brothers autism has had on my parents. I have wished I could do more to ease their worries. The simple truth is that there isn’t anymore I can do for them or my brother, but offer as much support and love as I can.
Ethan is the gentlest human on this earth. He encompasses innocence and gentility all into one. He is a better version of myself and possesses qualities that I believe everyone should take example from.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO FEEL
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How To Help Your Neurotypically Developing Child
Whatever your circumstances, and whatever the abilities and challenges of your autistic child, it’s important to keep your neurotypically developing child’s needs in mind. That said, however, it’s also important to remember that disability in the family is not a bad thing. Given the right circumstances, a child with an autistic sibling can gain great personal strengths. Empathy, responsibility, flexibility, resourcefulness, and kindness can all come from the experience.
Here are some tips for ensuring that your neurotypical child has a positive outcome: