The Younger Sibling, Autism’s Worst Nightmare

I’ve talked to people who tell me that they wish their ‘normal’ child would have more understanding when it comes to their Autistic sibling… my answer to that is… if they didn’t get on each other’s nerves, they wouldn’t be brother or sister. It’s like a law.

But I do understand what they mean, I live it every day… in my case, there can’t be any understanding because Cameron’s younger brother is only 2… yes, the terrible twos!!

Right now we have 2 issues on our hands when it comes to brotherly love…  one is Cameron’s personal space when he’s overwhelmed and the other is Cameron’s return home from school.

Cameron’s personal space is important to him, as it is for most people but more so for someone with Autism. Cameron will literally separate himself from people and play on his own, quietly, in an empty room for a good 15-30 minutes until the feeling of anxiety goes away and he’ll rejoin the people. He does this entirely on his own, when he needs it. However, tell this to a 2 year old and you might as well talk to a wall. His little brother Tyler will follow him and continue to push and push and push. We bought a little tent, not so much for camping but for just playing in and Cameron likes to hide himself away in it.. he even flips it forward so that the entrance to the tent is on the floor. This means there’s no way in or out.

Well, his little brother doesn’t like that at all because now he’s being excluded from something fun and he freaks out… fighting ensues.

The second primary reason for issues is when Cameron returns home from school. You see, at 2 years old, poor Tyler essentially stays home on his own most of the time to play games and do things with his mother. Sometimes he has friends over, or goes places, but a lot of times he’s on his own. And so when his big brother Cameron comes home from school at 3pm, he latches on for fun and games.

The problem with this is that Cameron is returning home from an already overwhelming day of learning and socializing. He returns home and would love nothing more than to grab a couple of familiar toys and play quietly, calming himself down but his little brother immediately glues himself to his side and tries to play with him.

Cameron typically responds by telling him he’s a bad baby, that he’s going to have a time out… you know, anything and everything that we’ve ever said in his life to tell him that he’s done something wrong. This causes Tyler to react by screaming and it escalates from there.

The best we can do in these cases is explain to them, each and every single time, why they’re behaving the way they are and what they should be doing to be nice to each other. At first it’s like talking klingon to a bunny rabbit… but over time they let it sink in a little.

In our case, Cameron is willing to give a little and play with his baby brother for a few minutes to make him happy before he finally has enough and leaves.

There’s only one thing I can tell you that makes any sense about it all…  some day, some how, they will look back on these times with fondness… although it may be 40 years from now. But in the end, Autism or not, the fights and bickering is pretty much to be expected. They’re siblings.

Just remember to put your ‘extra patience’ hat on and do your best to either let them settle it or solve it for them… just as any parent would.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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2 Responses to The Younger Sibling, Autism’s Worst Nightmare

  1. Sean Shapcott June 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm #

    Great post Stuart. I really enjoy reading your blogs and it was great meeting Cameron and Natalie today 🙂

  2. JoyMama July 7, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    We’ve got the opposite situation — an older neurotypical sib — but yes, there’s a worst-nightmare component that way too. Argghh.

    Nice blog! And what a gorgeous photo of Cameron in the sidebar.

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