Tips for parents

Support for Siblings of Children with Autism: A Guide for Parents

The Impact of Autism on Siblings

As parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you know firsthand the challenges and joys that come with raising a child on the spectrum. However, it’s equally important to recognize the impact that autism can have on the neurotypical siblings within your family and provide the right support for siblings of children with autism. Studies show that siblings of children with ASD often face unique emotional, social, and practical challenges that can shape their experiences and relationships.


Increased Responsibilities and Parentification

Many neurotypical siblings of children with ASD take on additional caregiving and parental roles within the family, a phenomenon known as “parentification.” While some level of parentification can foster empathy, responsibility, and closeness within the family, excessive parentification can have negative impacts on a child’s emotional and social development. It’s crucial to strike a balance and ensure that your neurotypical child doesn’t shoulder too much responsibility beyond their developmental capabilities.

As parents, you can take steps to mitigate the potential negative effects of parentification on your neurotypical child:

  • Clearly define age-appropriate responsibilities and avoid overburdening your child
  • Provide opportunities for your child to engage in age-appropriate activities and social interactions
  • Seek professional support, such as family therapy or counseling, to address any emotional or behavioral challenges
  • Involve extended family members or support networks to share caregiving responsibilities when possible

                                                                       Emotional Challenges

Siblings of children with ASD may experience a range of emotions, including anger, frustration, jealousy, and even resentment. They may feel that their parents’ attention is disproportionately focused on their sibling with ASD, or they may struggle with feelings of guilt or embarrassment in social situations. It’s essential to create an open and supportive environment where your neurotypical child feels comfortable expressing their emotions without judgment.

Social Impacts

Having a sibling with ASD can also affect a child’s social development and relationships. They may face stigma, misunderstanding, or bullying from peers who lack awareness about autism. Additionally, the demands of caring for their sibling may limit opportunities for social interaction and participation in extracurricular activities.


Fostering Open Communication

Open and honest communication is key to supporting your neurotypical child. It’s important to make time to listen to their concerns, validate their feelings, and provide age-appropriate information about their sibling’s condition. Encourage them to ask questions and share their experiences without fear of judgment or criticism.


Sibling Support Groups

Consider connecting your neurotypical child with sibling support groups, either in-person or online. These groups provide a safe space for siblings to share their experiences, learn coping strategies, and receive emotional support from others in similar situations.



Quality Time and Attention

Make an effort to spend quality one-on-one time with your neurotypical child, doing activities they enjoy and giving them your undivided attention. This can help alleviate feelings of resentment or jealousy and strengthen your bond with them.



Respite Care and Family Support

Seek out respite care services or support from family members and friends. This can provide a much-needed break for both you and your neurotypical child, allowing them to engage in activities and social interactions without the demands of caregiving.

Building Positive Sibling Relationships

Encourage Understanding and Empathy. Help your neurotypical child understand their sibling’s condition and behaviors. Provide age-appropriate resources and encourage them to ask questions. Foster empathy and compassion by highlighting their sibling’s strengths and unique abilities


Create Special Sibling Moments

Organize special activities or outings that allow your children to bond and create positive memories together. These shared experiences can strengthen their relationship and promote a sense of connection.

Involve Siblings in Therapy and Interventions

When appropriate, involve your neurotypical child in their sibling’s therapy sessions or interventions. This can help them better understand their sibling’s condition and learn strategies for effective communication and interaction.


Celebrate Achievements and Milestones

Recognize and celebrate the achievements and milestones of both your children. This not only fosters a sense of pride and accomplishment but also reinforces the importance of valuing each child’s unique strengths and abilities.

Raising a child with autism can present challenges for the entire family, including neurotypical siblings. By fostering understanding, providing emotional support for siblings of children with autism, you can help them navigate the unique challenges they face and build a strong, loving bond with their sibling on the autism spectrum.




Janota ’06, Sarah, “Social Interactions of Siblings of Children with Autism: A Pilot Experiment” (2006). Honors Projects. 6.

Chu, ., Kassim, S.N.Z.b., Gan, C.H. et al. “Sometimes I Feel Grateful…”: Experiences of the Adolescent Siblings of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Malaysia. J Autism Dev Disord 53, 795–807 (2023).

O’Neill LP, Murray LE. Anxiety and depression symptomatology in adult siblings of individuals with different developmental disability diagnoses. Res Dev Disabil. 2016 Apr-May;51-52:116-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2015.12.017. Epub 2016 Jan 25. PMID: 26820453.