Tips on How Having a Sibling with Autism has Changed my Life for the Better
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We all go through events in our lives that lead us to make decisions and take us down different paths that affect our life. Well, today I want to share how growing up with my brother has changed my life for the better and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Autism can be scary…but it doesn’t have to be
I think many people hear the word Autism and they think socially awkward, aggressive, weird, etc…We don’t have to think that way if we get to know the person for who they are and not what society tells us to believe.
My brother was born when I was 13 years old and I loved growing up with a baby brother. It was so much fun to see him grow up and have opportunities to play with him. I remember going out into public places with him and getting weird looks from strangers like he was my child, but that didn’t stop me from going places with him. He was my little brother and I loved him so much.
I remember going off to college and that was the year when he was starting kindergarten and the year he was diagnosed with Autism. My mom would tell me how hard that first year of school was for the both of them with her being the special education teacher not being able to help her own son and how much anxiety he was having at school. After that year was when my mom decided she needed to do what she felt was best and homeschool my brother.
Growing up along side my brother has taught me many valuable life lessons and has lead me down different paths in my life that I probably wouldn’t be down today if not for him. He was my inspiration for choosing my career path of occupational therapy and for starting this blog! He has taught me more about compassion and nurture along with my mom more than anyone else ever has. He helps me be a better person by helping me think outside of the box to learn to help other individuals as well. He has helped teach me so many life lessons along the way and I want to share them all with you!
My Number One Tip: Love your Brother or Sister for Who They Are
I feel like society tells us so many times that if we aren’t “normal” we don’t fit it and we need to “change”. I am telling you that is wrong to believe and that we need to learn to love and accept our loved ones for who they are as individuals and not what society tells us to believe. Think about people that have stood out in our society…were they people that fit in? Or were they people that stood out and had unique and amazing talents? The people that stand out to me are the ones who go against the crowd to stand out and be different. Don’t let the world tell you how you or your sibling needs to be, make the world a better place and help them learn to make the world work for them.
Learn to embrace their differences and their strengths. Help them identify their strengths in their lives and see themselves through a positive lens. I feel like so many times Autism is seen as bad…and this can have a huge impact on someone’s self esteem. Make sure you are always talking about Autism in a positive light and talking positive with your sibling and family as well. This can have a HUGE impact.
Don’t Try to Change Them
This statement goes along with the one above, but I wanted to make sure I hit this hard…Every person is unique and has strengths and weaknesses. We all have skills that we are good at and others that we could use more practice with. Your Sibling is going to be the same way, if they have something that is more difficult for them help them with that skill, but don’t change who they are because they can’t do something as well. For example, if going out to public places is hard for your brother or sister, find a way to make that easier for your sibling by going somewhere that you know they really enjoy. My brother does not like going out to eat at restaurants, but he was super motivated to go to Dave and Buster’s. We were able to go to that restaurant because it was something he wanted to do and was motivated to do it.
A strength of my brother is that he is very smart with science and technology. He is very good with computers and that is why I have been learning the blogging world for him to be able to teach this skill to him when he gets older as a way for him to make an income. As his sister I feel that I need to use my strengths of (patience and learning) to help my brother out when he transitions into adulthood to help make life a little easier for him.
Treat them as an Equal
This may seem like common sense to some, but always make sure you treat your sibling like you treat your other siblings as well. It is okay to joke around with them, play with them, or even get upset with them. These are normal emotions to have with all family members.
Involve Them in Activities with You
Don’t leave someone out just because you think they won’t like the activity or it might be too hard for them. Always ask them if they would like to join you in something, you never know what they may say.
I also want to say too, don’t force your brother or sister to do something with you if they really don’t like it or don’t want to do it. Growing up, I knew my brother really did not like movie theaters or going to restaurants. I always asked him if he wanted to go with me, but I would never force him to do something if it upset him.
Teach them Skills
Being the older sister, I kind of also took on that motherly role as well with me brother. I wanted to protect him from harm. If we went to the playground when he was little and had a hard time playing with the other kids I would look out for him. I would be the one playing on the jungle gym with him and going down the slides. I wouldn’t let the other kids bother him or bother me either.
Growing up with my brother when I was younger I loved being able to teach him new play skills or go swimming with him and try to help him learn how to swim. Now that we are both older my mom and I are both trying to learn to teach him life skills to help him be more independent as he transitions into adulthood. I know I look to my brother for teaching me new skills on the computer and through different video games he is playing and he looks up to me to help teach him different skills as well. Be there for each other and be a positive role model for each other. Take the time to help one another and teach them something you are learning.
Most of All Be a Big or Little Sibling to Them
Love each of your family members for the unique person that they are. Learn to love their quirks and be there for them. Protect and guide them in this journey through life. If they ask for your help, be there for them. You don’t have to make the big gestures, just do the little day by day things together that make such a big difference. If you are an older sibling like me, take time to call or visit your younger brother or sister because seeing you can bring your little sibling so much joy.
Growing up alongside my brother has changed me for the better because it has taught me to be the person I am today. I have learned to love each person for their unique abilities and strengths and to not let the world define who you need to be. My life choices have been chosen because of my brother and mother and I have them to thank for the person I have become. I hope that if you have a sibling with Autism, they can have such a positive experience on you as my brother has had on me in my life.
If you have a sibling with Autism, whether they are younger or older, what are some tips they have taught you in your life? I would love to learn from other siblings as well! Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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Are you looking for other amazing tips and advice from Special Needs Parents? Check out the other posts below for GREAT tips and advice to help you feel less overwhelmed.
The Best Montessori Tips for Families with Special Needs | Every Star is Different
Advice for Monitoring & Managing Anxiety in Autistic Children & Teens | My Home Truths
Advice for Parents of Children with Special Needs | The Chaos and The Clutter
What Autistics Wish You Knew About Your Child | This Outnumbered Mama
Ways to Help a Special Needs Child Learn | Life Over C’s
The One Thing I Wish Someone Had Told Me After My Daughter’s Diagnosis | Kori at Home
2 Things Every Hyperlexia Parent Should Know | And Next Comes L
The Best Self Care for Single Moms of Special Needs Children| Finding the Golden Gleam
7 Tips for Taking a Vacation with a Teenager with Autism
*This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but will greatly help our family. Please see our disclosure for further information.
This past weekend I was able to go on a little vacation to Kansas City with my brother, mom, and husband. We left Thursday evening and were able to come back Sunday afternoon. This was a nice little get away for our family to spend some quality time together. As a family, we have learned over the years some tips and strategies to help my brother have success and fun while on vacation. As many of you know, a new experience can be difficult for a child or teenager with autism to handle.
Here are some tricks that we have learned over the years to help create a fun and safe experience for my brother while on vacation.
- Always learn to be patient. I feel this is key in all areas of our lives, but it still stays true on a vacation. When going on a vacation, we get out of our normal every day routine and there are going to be unexpected events. This can be difficult for my brother to handle when he doesn’t know what could happen next. We always try to be patient in every new situation to give my brother time to process each situation.
- Pack food we know he likes. My brother is still a picky eater, but he has gotten so much better at the willingness to try more foods. It is very difficult for us to go to a restaurant together and sit down to have a meal even today. My mom does a wonderful job of packing foods and snacks that she knows he will like so that when we get to the hotel we don’t have to go and find a grocery store or a specific fast food restaurant that he will only eat at.
- Do your research before you go and find activities you know your child will enjoy. I know this one may seem a little obvious, but do some research before you go to make sure there is a special activity that your child/teenager will really look forward to when you go. We want to make sure the trip will be exciting and fun for everyone! For our trip this weekend, my brother was super excited to go to Dave and Buster’s! He had never been to one before and was so excited to go! He was the one that actually did the research beforehand and found out we were staying close by. He did his own research and sought out an activity that he knew he really wanted to do. In fact, we went two days 🙂
- Let your teenager have some choices and say in what they want to do. My mom has always been great at this, she does her best to make sure we can all try to do something we want to do on the trip. She gives my brother choices every day of the trip to let my brother do what he wants to do. If we are trying to do something as a family where he doesn’t have a choice, then we just tell him we are going to go do this and it will be so much fun! Let’s go! In some instances, during the day he doesn’t always have a choice, but when he can we make sure to give him a choice so he can choose what he wants to do.
- Make sure you have some down time to rest. A vacation is usually fast paced and exciting, but our family always makes sure we make time to rest back at the hotel. My brother loves just having downtime to play on his iPad or to get on his computer. We make sure he has this during his day to help regulate his sensory system. Make sure you don’t forget what types of activities help to regulate your child while on vacation.Make sure you find ways to incorporate that throughout your vacation to allow your child to be their best!
- Try to keep to a typical sleeping routine. My mom and brother are night owls, and I am not one any longer 🙁 Now, with my work schedule I usually try to go to bed earlier. I know that my mom does her best to try to keep my brother on his regular sleeping schedule to help him have enough energy to enjoy the next day’s activities.
- We always try to pack some extra clothes, activities, and a pillow. Our family is one of those families that always brings too much, but we have learned that sometimes it is better to have too much than not the right stuff for your child. My mom does a great job of packing some extra clothes or outfits for my brother incase something were to happen and he wouldn’t like an outfit one day or it got dirty. She also does a great job of packing activities she know he likes. For example she packed some of his favorite things right now to help with the drive and waiting times in the hotel. She packed his fidget spinner, headphones, iPad, and putty. She also does a great job of bringing an extra pillow so that he will have something we know he likes when he goes to sleep. Not every hotel has great pillows and beds, but at least this way we know he has a pillow he likes.
Do you have any tips and strategies that have worked well for your family when you go on a vacation with your child or teenager? We would love to hear your tips in the comments below! We can always learn more to best be able to help my brother!
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!
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Sensory Strategies to Improve Independence with Dressing
Every person has different sensory preferences in our everyday lives. Some of us like a very calm environment, warm baths, listening to music, soft textures, or to eat sweet foods. We even have sensory preferences when it comes to dressing. I know I enjoy wearing yoga pants and a loose fitting shirt over dress pants and a dress shirt. My brother also prefers to wear clothes that are soft and loose fitting. As a family, we know that getting dressed every day can be a big chore and we want to help you find sensory strategies to help make the every day task of getting dressed easier for your child/teenager with Autism easier for every one.
Here are some sensory strategies we have found helpful with my brother when it comes to clothing textures:
There are various clothing textures that can bother children when it comes to dressing.
Seams in clothes, some children dislike the feeling of seams
Try finding clothes that are seamless
- Seamless Socks:
- Tank tops:
Texture of the clothes (cotton, wool, or spandex)
- Figure out what types of textures of clothes your child likes and stick with that so that they can feel safe and become less anxious with dressing.
Binding in the clothes (elastic waist bands, overlapping clothes)
- Try finding clothes that will not bind or wrinkle
Loose Clothes or Tight Clothes
- Some children do not like the feeling of loose clothes and may prefer tighter clothes and vice versa.
- See if you can find clothes that are tighter such as compression shirts or under armor shirts
Stiff Clothing (like jeans)
- Some children have a very hard time being able to wear jeans. Try to find pants that they enjoy wearing. If they need to wear jeans for an occasion then try to find jeans with a soft/stretchy texture.
- You could try these stretchy elastic waist jeans
Some children can be bothered by clothing that could touch the child’s head. Be aware of this with your child and notice if hats really bother them.
Shoes can be something that your child might have a hard time with. Some kids prefer closed toes shoes or open toe shoes. Try to find shoes that allow your child to be independent with dressing. If they become frustrated with tying their shoes try elastic shoe laces or velcro shoes. Maybe your child would like light up shoes for fun! Try to find shoes that are comfortable for your child that they can be successful with in dressing.
Weight of the clothing (heavy clothes vs. light clothes). Pay attention to the time of year is your child more bothered by heavy winter clothes or light summer clothes? Is there a way you can take away layers or add layers in textures of clothes that your child still prefers?
When children are bothered by the feeling of their clothes they may constantly tag or pull at their clothes. They may have difficulty needing to change clothes through out the day such as for swimming lessons or after getting dirty. If you child does become bothered by changing clothes, try to limit the number of times they will need to change their clothes. Also shopping for new clothes may cause a lot of stress. See if you can do more shopping online where they have free returns so you don’t have to cause too much stress for your family.
Children can also have visual and auditory preferences with clothing and this is something to consider.
If your child becomes very irritated by the clothing texture, see if you can find textures of clothes that they are more comfortable in. Don’t force them to wear clothes that they really dislike wearing.
If you find a certain texture of clothing that your child/teenager is more likely to wear such as a loose fitting shirt that is cotton, when they need to find clothes for a different occasion such as a wedding, try to find a dress shirt made out of cotton that is a little looser feeling.
I know it may feel super time consuming trying to find clothes that are similar in feeling for different occasions, but once you are able to find something to help your child be successful and more independent with dressing and have less meltdowns with the dressing process, this can make your family’s life a lot easier.
- Find the texture of clothes that your child prefers and avoid ones that your child really does not like
- If they need to wear a certain type of fabric they do not like, try having them wear a clothing texture they do like under the clothes so their body does not have to feel the texture they don’t like.
- If needed, the child can wear clothing inside out so they do not feel the seams.
- Try warming up the clothes in the dryer before needing to get dressed if your child prefers warm feelings.
- You may try washing clothes multiple times to make if more soft.
- Set up the environment for success by setting out the clothes for them or making sure they are easily accessible in their room for them to get dressed more independently.
- You can also try labeling the dresser drawers or organizing their closet with specific types of clothing in certain areas to make it easier for them to find the different types of clothes.
- Use hooks or hangers at eye level for the child to be able to visually see all of the items.
- Provide a visual checklist of each step of dressing to help the child visually see how to get dressed.
- Provide a rewards chart with stickers for your child to visually see a reward they can work towards with getting dressed independently every day.
- If your child likes music, try playing music while getting dressed.
- Make up a silly song about getting dressed and sing it together while your child is getting dressed.
- Use a mirror to help your child visually see how they are getting dressed.
- You can model the behavior you want with them when it comes to getting dressed so they can visually see how to put that item of clothing on.
- Allow for extra time in the morning and night to allow your child to practice each skill and become more independent. That way you don’t feel so rushed. If it is hard to have extra time in the morning, make it a priority to practice the dressed skills at night when you aren’t feeling rushed to leave in the morning.
- Before getting dressed in the morning or before bed, talk about the dressing process and tell them the exact steps that need to be accomplished so they know the routine.
- Try calming activities before getting dressed with a massage
- Complete deep pressure or heavy work activities before getting dressed such as squeezes, jumping on the trampoline, crab walk, or bear crawl.
If your family is still struggling to with dressing, please contact your local occupational therapist and they will be able to provide you with specific strategies for your child and family.
Please let me know if there are certain types of clothes that work well for your child or teenager and I would love to add them to the list to help provide a comprehensive dressing resource for families! Please leave a comment about them below!
Are you feeling overwhelmed? Are you looking for Resources to help your family find information about Autism? We have created an amazing FREEBIE with over 180+ Autism and Special Needs Resources just for you!
Teaching Personal Hygiene Self-Care Tasks
As you may know our family is working hard to teach my teenage brother with autism to be independent with every day tasks and some of those skills include personal hygiene self care tasks. My mom, really wanted to know where he stood with how much he could do on his own and how much he was needing help from her at home. So, we created these charts with the steps broken down for each task so we could monitor how much assistance he was needing with each skill. Then my mom could learn which steps he was needing the most help with and we could brainstorm ideas on ways he could do those steps more independently.
Here is a sample of 3 of the task analysis charts for you to preview! If you would like to download all for FREE please provide me with your name and email address below! Tasks you will receive: showering, bathing, brushing teeth, washing face, toileting routine for boys, girls, and bowel movement, and brushing hair!
For example, he was learning to wash his face every day with a new acne soap to help him with his skin. In the beginning my mom had to do each step for him because he hated to get his face wet with water and he was afraid to get soap in his eyes. One way we helped him with this fear was by having a dry towel within arms reach that he could get to if he felt like he was going to get water or soap in his eyes. This helped to calm him so that he was more willing to complete the task. Then each day my mom would try one simple step for him to try such as getting his hands wet and just touching this face and then gradually working to having him getting this face wet himself. This was a very slow process and we were very patient with him, but over time and with lots of repetition he was able to do this skill pretty much all by himself. Now my mom just stands by and watches incase he needs something and plus this helps with his fear as well.
As a family, we know that these skills can be difficult to learn and take lots of time and repetition to help our children learn to do these skills independently. We also know that there has to be somewhat of an intrinsic motivation for the child to want to be independent with the skill. For my brother, he was motivated to learn these skills to help his skin feel and look better and he had mentioned that he wanted to get married one day 🙂 So we had a conversation about how if you want to get a girlfriend you will want to smell nice for her. These were ideas were intrinsically motivating for him so he was more willing to practice this skill as well.
Think about your families life and dynamic? What is important to your child? Have they mentioned anything about friends or how their body feels? Maybe that could be an idea to go with to help motivate them to learn this skill. Or do they have someone they look up to that could talk to them about the importance of keeping our bodies clean and healthy?
Let me know in the comments below if there are any strategies you have used to help your teenager with autism be more motivated to learn the personal hygiene skills?
Are you looking for more Autism Resources? Check out our post with over 180+ Autism and Special Needs Resources to help you feel less overwhelmed! It is an amazing FREE download!!
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Sensory Processing Books
My family and I wanted to combine a list of various sensory processing books that we have gone to for resources to learn how to best help my brother and the kids that we have worked with. The sensory system and world is very complex and can be difficult to understand when we can’t feel what the other person is feeling or going through. We wanted to learn as much as we could to best be able to help our brother with his day to day activities and to help keep him in a calm state where he can best learn. We have found these books to be excellent resources and we hope you will too!
The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz
The Out-of-Sync Child Grows Up: Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder in the Adolescent and Young Adult Years by Carol Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller
The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Kranowitz
Raising a Sensory Smart Child: the Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues, Revised Edition by Lindsey Biel, Nancy Peske & Temple Grandin
Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals: A Practical Daily Use Handbook for Parents and Teachers by Angie Voss
The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene (this is a behavior book with very good reviews)
Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Lucy Jane Miller
We hope that you have found this list to be helpful for your own learning purposes to best be able to help your loved ones. We want to be here to help you and provide you with support and encouragement. Please let us know which books you have found helpful or if you have another book you would like to add to the list!
Are you feeling overwhelmed with various information about Autism or having a hard time find good resources? This post is part of our FREE resource that we have created with tons of information and Autism and Special Needs Resources! You will be able to find tons of information such as websites, blogs, podcasts, books, support groups, transition to adulthood resources and MORE! If you would like to download this FREE resource please provide your name and email address in the boxes below!
Please let us know in the comments below what you think about the resources and if there is anything you are struggling with as a parent with your child with Autism currently? We would love to provide you with resources and encouragement!
Are you looking for more books about Autism and children with disabilities?
Check out our post about 21 Books to Help you Better Understand Autism. and 13 Children’s Books About Disabilities
Lastly, check out our post on 5 Ways to Better Understand Autism for more information
*This page contains affiliate links, there is no extra cost to you, but will greatly help our family. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
21 Books to Help you Better Understand Autism
Our family has read many books over the years to help us better understand Autism and various perspectives to help us better be able to help my brother through his journey through life. We wanted to create a resource with various books that we have found helpful and highly recommended.
The Reason I jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen Year old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida
The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism by Kristine Barnett
NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes you Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition by Ellen Notbohm
Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism by Barry M. Prizant
In a Different Key: the Story of Autism by John Donvan & Caren Zucker
Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism by Arthur & Carly Fleishmann
A Parent’s Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder: How to Meet the Challenges and Help your Child Thrive by Sally Ozonoff, Geraldine Dawson, & James C. McPartland
The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy by Priscilla Gilman
Autism Every Day: Over 150 Strategies Lived and Learned by a Professional Autism Consultant with 3 Sons on the Spectrum by Alyson Beytien
Somewhere Over the Sea: A Father’s Letter to his Autistic Son by Halfdan W. Freihow
The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed by Temple Grandin
Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism by Chantal Sicile-Kira
The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom
Kids Beyond Limits: The Anat Baniel Method for Awakening the Brain and Transforming the Life of your Child with Special Needs by Anat Baniel
The Social Skills Picture Book: Teaching Play, Emotion, and Communication to Children with Autism by Jed Baker
The Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond by Jed Baker
I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism by Pat Thomas
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs: An Autism Spectrum Guide to the Confusing World of Idioms, Metaphors, and Everyday Expressions by Michael Barton
Motivate to Communicate!: 300 Games and Activities for your Child with Autism by Simone Griffin
All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism by Shaina Rudolph & Danielle Royer
We wanted to create a comprehensive list that can provide you with a wide variety of options to help you learn more Autism and learn the world through their perspective and eyes. Our family has loved getting to read these books and we hope you will too. Please share with us books that you have enjoyed and if there are any that you feel should be added!
Has your child just received the Autism Diagnosis? Are you feeling overwhelmed with all of the information? We wanted to create a comprehensive FREE resource for you with tons of Autism and Special Needs Resources. This blog post is part of our resource where we provide you with information on tons of areas such as websites, books, podcasts, blogs, support groups, transitions into adulthood and MORE! If you would like this FREE download please provide us with your name and email address below to grab your FREE copy!
Please reach out to us if you have any questions or areas that we can help you with! We are here to support you!