For most families, this past year has meant spending more time together which can be enriching. But, this may also mean more challenges for brothers and sisters of a child who has additional needs.

For this term’s Coffee and Chat Sessions, the Communication, Learning and Autism Support Service (CLASS+) teamed up with the Sibling Service to highlight helpful tips, advice and resources for parents and carers to use for siblings.

The Sibling Service, also known as the Sibs Service, helps provide breaks and activities for siblings of disabled children aged 6 to 17 years old in East Sussex.

During the session, the Sibs Service and CLASS+ team were able to dive deeper into the various concerns around supporting siblings, including understanding difference and having more 1-to-1 time for the sibling.

Supporting positive relationships between siblings: 

It is common for siblings to not fully understand the differences between them and their brother or sister, especially if they are young.

This can occasionally lead the sibling to mimic the negative behaviour of their brother or sister with autism and make it difficult for the parent or carer to respond differently to each child.

Here are some tips to try for supporting positive relationships between siblings:

  • Explore celebrating and supporting sibling understanding of their differences through All About Me activities. These can be done for all the children in the family. You can also check out All About Me — What I Like Doing activity.
  • Reading stories and watching videos can be a great tool for siblings to gain a better understanding. Check out this Sesame Street video for younger siblings.
  • Encourage them to do activities they both enjoy together, for example riding their scooters, baking, or sharing a favourite book.

Here are some helpful resources to help siblings understand differences:

Creating more 1-to-1 time for the sibling:

Creating special time for the sibling of a child who has an additional need can be so important in validating how their experiences and feelings are important. It can also be a great way to improve their confidence and self-esteem as a member of the family.

  • Create a special box full of activities, books, treats, etc. for the sibling and the parent and carer to do together.
  • Alternatively, you can also create a special box full of activities, books, treats, etc. for the sibling to interact with while the parent or carer is with their brother or sister.
  • Identify specific 1-to-1 time with the sibling that is separate and independent from their brother and sister, even if it is a short amount of time. By creating this time with the sibling, they can have dedicated time with their parent or carer which should help ease their need to compete for attention and reduce feelings of being left out.

Check out more ideas on how to make special time for siblings of autistic children from Raising Children Network.

Another great resource for siblings is this tip sheet for brothers and sisters from Ambitious About Autism.

Get in touch with the Sibs Service to find out more information about how to get your child or young person involved.

Make sure to keep an eye out on our Facebook page @CLASSPlusEastSussex for more resources, advice and tips from our team. The CLASS+ team will also be sharing information and links for their next workshops and coffee and chat Sessions on the Facebook page.

For further advice and support, you can contact the CLASS+ Advice Line on Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 01273 336887 or you can call SENDIASS on Mondays to Fridays from 9.30am to 2.30pm on 01273 77228


By Danielle Quijada