The Life Of An Autism Sibling

In the back hall of a church she watched as her brother climbed a toddler slide. As he sat at the top of the slide flapping he lost his balance and fell off. He was shocked and shaken as he laid there confused and hurt.

While the adults checked him over his sister ran around the room looking for all his favourite teddies, then sat beside him stroking his hair and whispered: You are ok. Don’t be sad. You are ok.
She is smaller than her brother, weaker than him physically, and much more timid in nature.
Yet she is strong. 

She is the sister of a child with autism and that is something very special. 
She copes with screaming and has learnt to be a peace keeper.

She copes with a brother who is controlling and she has learnt to compromise.

She copes with a sibling who rarely sleeps and she has learnt to rest as and when she can.

She copes with the unfairness when her sibling does not understand rules and she has learnt patience and maturity beyond her years.

She copes with aggression and responds with peace.

She copes with his iPad on full volume and responds by showing him how to plug in earphones.

She copes with people staring at him and she smiles at them and puts her arm around her brother in support.

She copes with getting less attention than she deserves and has learnt to play herself to cope.

She instinctively knows and understands now when he is experiencing sensory overload and leads him to a quieter place.

She opens snacks for him because she knows he does not have the co-ordination to do it himself.

She has learnt that he can not join in her games and copes with that disappointment better than many adults would.

She fights her brothers corner.
She keeps him safe.

She changes the TV channel when he screams at a show he does not like.

She even makes hand dryers work for him because she knows how much he likes them.

The life of an autism sibling is not easy. They are often over looked and expected to cope. They miss out on so much because of the needs of their sibling and have to adjust to family life dominated by an invisible condition. A lot is expected of them beyond what other kids deal with.

It takes strength to cope when your brother screams daily. It takes strength to understand certain toys can not be bought because they pose a danger to your sibling. It takes strength and maturity to realise and accept that having friends around to play may be more difficult than it is for others.

To watch your brother or sister struggle with something you do easily and not boast about this, to stand up for your sibling when others mock them, to cope with public meltdowns and not be embarrassed: you are amazing! 
Let’s hear it for the autism siblings! You all deserve the lime light for once!


Just this once


Those of you who follow this blog, or know me from social media, will already be aware that my six-year-old twins are educated in very different schools miles apart. As a mother you just get used to these things.

You get used to seeing different coloured school wear in the washing pile when you once thought it would only be one. You get used to doing homework with just one child when you always envisaged it would be done in duplicate. You get used to writing a daily diary for one but not the other. You get used to them leaving and arriving home at different times. You get used to only holding one little hand walking to school.

But just because you get used to it does not mean it stops hurting.

While I love both my children’s schools and know in my heart that both of them are currently in the right placements to support their needs socially, emotionally, as well as academically, I still have that vision of walking them both to school and talking to them both about their day.

It was part of that dream. It was part of that ‘deal’ when I became a parent of twins, it just seemed to be an unwritten law that my children would go through life experiences together. And some days that dream is hard to let go of.

It is the biggest irony in my life that autism separates my children to the very same degree it unites them. They both have the same diagnosis, they both share the same triad of difficulties, they both have delay in similar areas, yet since the age of two and a half they have been separated in their education.

From then on fairness became impossible. One gets school trips when the other doesn’t. One has homework every night while the other gets to play. One gets swimming, the other doesn’t and so on. But the hardest of all is when they have different days off.

And this is what we have this week. Despite both schools being in the same local authority they are having different training days for staff and therefore I have the problem of explaining to my children why one has to go to school when the other doesn’t. For the one who leaves earliest and comes home latest (and who also has the least understanding) the day when his sister was off has had little impact on him. He has no idea what she wears so never even noticed she wasn’t in her uniform that morning. But when I have to walk Naomi to school while his taxi won’t be coming for him on Wednesday I know we are going to have a problem.

We don’t do change of routine very well here. And Isaac does not do the whole ‘not going to school’ thing. He barely copes with not going at the weekend let alone on a day when he should be there!

So I have come up with a plan. I have revived my dream. On Wednesday morning I am going to pretend for one day that everything is how it should have been. I am going to take two little hands, talk to two little children instead of one, and walk to school with both my twins. Just this once.

And thanks to the wonderful staff at my daughters school I get to do it at home time too. Isaac will walk with me to collect Naomi and he has been invited into her class to meet her classmates. He will have his talker with him with a pre-recorded message for the children. I am emotional just thinking about it.
His sister is so excited and proud to show off her brother. The school is willing to give me time to introduce him and let him ‘say’ hello. And I get that magical experience of walking both my children to and from school together. It has always been my dream.

It may only be for one day. But I WILL get that experience.

Life is about moments to treasure. And on Wednesday I can pretend all is well.

Just this once…