“The Sibling Problem”?

I stumbled upon this article by Amy Leonard Goehner in Time Magazine about autistic children and their siblings. Specifically, the article talks about the challenges neurotypical siblings of special-needs kids face and gives some strategies to help families develop a positive relationship between siblings. The author states that the neurotypical sibling “commonly has very negative feelings—some might never connect or want to connect with their autistic siblings,” but that the child typically grows up to be a more caring and compassionate person than average. She then goes on to share a few common scenarios families with neurotypical and autistic children may encounter (such as the neurotypical child asking why the sibling won’t play with him/her).

I can see how the information in this article can be helpful, but I felt a bit put-off by the title of the article: “Autistic Kids: The Sibling Problem.” I think we can all agree that the sibling relationship is a complex one; and when you add physical, neurological, or psychological challenges to the mix it can make things even more challenging. I don’t know if I’m living in a vacuum or if I’m just not tuned-in to what my kids are doing, but my kids’ experience has not been the same as what is discussed in the article. Except for the fact that Zoe will occasionally just walk away from Ayden while they’re playing, I’m not getting the feeling that my son is either feeling resentful or not connected to his sister. I see my kids as having a very close relationship, and their interactions with each other are overwhelmingly positive. Ayden is young, but he’s also an articulate kid who has no trouble sharing how he feels. I’m wondering if other parents with both special-needs and “typical” kids have observed this in their own children. Please tell me: if you have both “typical” kids and kids with special needs, do you find that the typical kids show signs of resentment or negativity about their relationship with their special-needs sibling? If so, how do you handle it?

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