Does Autism Effect Siblings?


I’ve been reading a lot lately about the effect that autism can have on a sibling. Strangely it isn’t something that I had ever really thought about until an article popped up on my Facebook feed.

Just after an autism diagnosis the focus is purely on the child that has been diagnosed but what’s it like for the siblings? It can’t be easy seeing their brother or sister get all the attention, or having to deal with aggressive behavior from their sibling.

I know that siblings of children with autism are at higher risk of having autism themselves, but that isn’t really my concern with Evie. She shows none of the signs that Max did and at three years old, I think (hope) that if there was a problem I would have seen it by now.

Siblings are also more likely to have behavioral problems which is something that I am very concerned about. Evie sees Max’s meltdowns, his answering back, his inability to follow instructions and his hyperactivity and I can’t help but think that this must be having an impact on her. She does already pick up bad habits from him and she copies everything he does, and I worry that this will escalate over time. I try my very best to not let Max get away with things, he is disciplined when it’s necessary and I can only hope that that will be enough to keep Evie on the right tracks.

They are just kids at at the moment and Evie doesn’t see him as anything other that her big brother and her best friend. But inevitably as she gets older she will at some point realise that he is different, and what happens then?

My biggest worry, not just for Max but for both of them, is bullying. I hope and pray that Max doesn’t get bullied at school but unfortunately the facts are that children with autism are often targeted by bullies simply because they are different. If he is bullied this may have a knock on effect to Evie because her brother is ‘weird’.

One article I read talked about siblings being embarrassed of the sibling with autism and not wanting to be associated with them. And although I can understand this to a certain extent, the thought of it breaks my heart.

At the end of the day, we don’t have a crystal ball, all we can do is our best with them and wait and see how things work out. Hopefully they will both get on fine and there won’t be any problems at school but until then there is always that worry there.

Please do leave a comment if you have any experience with this.

Thanks for reading đŸ™‚



  1. April 3, 2016 / 11:50 am

    Emma, your concerns are very relevant. It is understandable that Evie will pick up ‘things’ from Max, as he is her older brother, and little ones do tend to ‘copy’ their big brother or sister. Perhaps, when Evie copies her brother, tell her it is not nice, or not right as she will eventually understand. Tell her that what Max is doing is not nice or not right. I am sure she may do things to get your attention ….It is not going to be easy Emma. Basically all you can do is take each and every moment at a time. In my case, my younger daughter was 2 1/2 when her sister got sick and never fully recovered mentally, and basically just deteriorated, so for her she knew her sister was sick and that her brain was not well, so we did not experience any hassles with her. When she was older, and went to school she was very open about her sister and although the other children didn’t understand the circumstances, she was very protective of her sister, as I am sure Evie will be of Max forever. It is tough Emma. Believe me, I feel for you and although Ashleigh’s situation is different it is similar in some ways, and I do understand. x

  2. April 3, 2016 / 7:15 pm

    I don’t have personal experience with this, but some degree of professional. As an administrator at a special needs school for students with behavioral and mental health issues, I supervised quite the eclectic assortment of individuals. Bullying is scary, and it receives quite a bit of media attention that concerns me because I don’t find the algorithm quite accurate from what I’ve seen in my work. My students comprised of bullies and the vulnerable in different ways, but I could never completely predict the students who would be targeted. I found sexually exploited girls bullied more than any other group, but that wasn’t completely uniform either. I had transgender students who were not quite convincing in their appearance and who also lacked adequate hygiene; they were respected and left alone by even some of my most criminally minded and aggressive students. I had autistic students as well who were left alone provided they weren’t offensive toward others (using slurs toward staff and peers for example).

    At the end of the day there is no way to predict it. Maybe when he is ready for school it can be a conversation with teachers and administrators as a means to demystify some of his behaviors. That might take some of the “odd” factor away. But, at the end of the day I’ve always ended up mostly impressed and overwhelmed by the understanding and support of even the most unlikely kids.

    Best of luck!

  3. April 7, 2016 / 3:00 am

    I started writing about our experiences with having 4 children two of them on the spectrum, but it got so long I copied it to my blog page, it’s there if you would like to read it!