Dear Parents,

When a family is stricken with a devastating diagnosis such as autism for their child, their world is turned upside down. This goes for any family with a high-needs child. Learning that your child requires highly specialized support causes a family to seek answers to the questions they ask themselves – What is the best thing can I do to help them? What do they need from me? What will their future look like? The search for resources begins, as does the journey for the rest of their lives. They strive to gain as much knowledge and information as they can regarding the disorder, and the resources to aid their child.

Children with autism, and other special needs, have to overcome hurdles that are often debilitating. If your family also includes at least one sibling without high needs, then another question to ask is – How will this affect them?  This article is focused on the siblings of children with high needs – the forgotten ones.

 The guide below has suggestions for focusing on the often forgotten sibling:

  1. Get them involved in their siblings’ care. They may one day be their caregiver. Work on sibling relationships.  Foster a desire to care for their high-needs sibling. (I speak from experience).
  2. Ask them how they’re feeling! Seek out guidance for how to create the best scenario for ALL of your children. Ask them questions and answer their questions. Talk to them about their sibling’s disorder.
  3. Provide equal opportunities. Make sure you are providing the siblings just as many opportunities as you are with your sick and ailing child.  It’s the typical siblings that I sometimes see being even more vulnerable because they are the key to our future and the future care of their high-needs sibling. Typical siblings are often left to fend for themselves. In the modern world, there are resources for just about every affliction that children suffer from.
  4. Insist that typical siblings be included in therapies. ABA, OT, PT, Speech, Music Therapy, Animal Therapy, Art Therapy, Horseback Riding, Specialty camps, walks, etc. But, be mindful that they are helping and not hindering. Get buy in from the therapist, but also respect when it is time to let them get back to the 1:1 time.
  5. Consider the sibling as a model. Teach them skills that you hope your other child will imitate.
  6. Have a sibling schedule a day. Often, schedules are set around the diagnosed sibling, which is natural when special considerations are being made. Make sure to center certain days around your typical kid.
  7. Keep your family involved in each other’s activities. Embed your high needs child into their siblings’ life AS MUCH as you embed their sibling into theirs (e.g. attend sibling’s sporting events, theater performances, competitions, award ceremonies, etc.). Make adaptations as necessary.
  8. Spend one on one time with your forgotten one. Focus just as much of your attention on them!
  9. Don’t forget to nurture and encourage the sibling of your diagnosed child.

I encourage you to take this food for thought and incorporate some changes into your routine. I am speaking from a professional and personal standpoint. This article is not meant to detract from your struggles as a family with a high-needs child. My aim is to create connections among family members.

Sincerely and Passionately,

Tara Zeller, MS, BCBA ~The AppleTree Connection – We provide parents, teachers, and caregivers with the tools to create lasting behavior change~

Read Original Post on AppleTree Connection by Tara Zeller, MS, BCBA