Autism, a neurobiological developmental disorder, now strikes about 1 in 88 children in America, disproportionately affecting one in 54 boys, vs. one in 252 girls. Among all child disabilities, autism is one of the most puzzling because its causes are still widely unknown.

While autism is a challenge for the individual so diagnosed with it, the disorder also adversely affects your entire family as you help your loved one cope with it. Since autism generally impairs an individual’s ability to communicate, interact socially, or behave appropriately, this combination of struggles represents an equally difficult challenge for you and your child’s siblings alike.

How Child Disabilities Affect Families

When autism is diagnosed in a family, it occasionally places a strain on relationships, even to the point of contributing to the dissolution of marriages; some reports revealed nearly 25 percent of marriages end in divorce due to the burden of autism. The initial diagnosis of autism may produce feelings ranging from shock and disbelief, to denial, to fear. Parents often speculate if something in their genetic composition caused the disorder. Parents and families wonder how the autism diagnosis will affect their family unit and what kind of future their autistic child will have. – See more at:

How Siblings Can Support an Autistic Sibling

Siblings of those who have child disabilities such as autism find themselves in a unique position within the family dynamic and may need assistance of others, not just parents, but perhaps even social service professionals, in learning how to cope with their role. If need be, siblings can attend support groups to learn coping skills. Autism schools, counseling centers  and pediatric specialists may be able to offer resources for this type of assistance.

Because of having a sibling that may be considered “different” than friends’ siblings, these children often find themselves having to defend their sibling because many people usually don’t understand an autistic child’s behavior or inability to communicate or interact socially. Most siblings will naturally watch over especially younger siblings, but when a sibling is autistic, his siblings often need to be even more supportive in helping other people–including adults–understand why he behaves the way he does.

Siblings also have to be patient and understanding at home because parents must devote more attention to their autistic child than to them, since they have no disabilities. All children, especially when they’re younger, crave attention, but siblings who have an autistic sibling need to have an adult take the time to explain to them that they have to be supportive in realizing their sibling, whether older or younger, requires more attention from parents because of his disabilities.

Siblings also have to learn to support their autistic sibling’s inability to interact in “normal” conversation and play, and find other ways to include him rather than leaving him out. They also have to understand that when their autistic sibling sometimes becomes moody or physically aggressive, it is typically because of the frustration of his child disabilities, not because he doesn’t love them or want to be around them.

Siblings of an autistic sibling, especially as they get older, can also be supportive in taking on the role of a “teacher” as they patiently assist him with daily living skills.