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How Do I Explain Autism to Siblings?



Do you have any suggestions for resources for info on Asperger's? I have found quite a bit on the internet about Autism but not as much about Asperger's and I believe the two are very different. I think I am ready more for books -- probably have gleaned what I can from the Internet and ready to move on. Do you have a simple explanation of what it is that I could use to tell to his older brother?


Telling a sibling about a disability can often be easier than you may predict. Often the sibling is already aware of the things that make the child with Asperger's Syndrome different. Talking about those things openly and knowing the name of the disorder is often a relief for many siblings. Knowing that other children face the same challenges as their brother or sister and that there are professionals who can help these children is also something that can help. Sometimes just understanding the "label" can help the sibling increase in patience and empathy.

When talking about the diagnosis, it is useful to frame it in the context of the strengths and weaknesses we all have, and the set of strengths and weaknesses your son with Asperger Syndrome has. Understanding that we all face challenges, just in different areas and to different degrees, can help the sibling understand. Talking about how your two children are similar and how your child with Asperger Syndrome is NOT different may also be helpful.

Here are further resources that may be of assistance.

A general, but very good resource:

Attwood, Tony. (1998). Asperger's Syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, PA. (www.jkp.com)


More specifically, you may find assistance in developing an appropriate educational environment (and IEP) with some of the following resources:

Kay, Kiesa (ed.) (2000). Uniquely Gifted: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice-Exceptional Student. Avocus Publishing, NH.

Wagner, Sheila (2002). Inclusive Programming for Middle School Students with Autism/Asperger's Syndrome. Future Horizons, Arlington, TX. (www.FutureHorizons-autism.com)

Wagner, Sheila (1999). Inclusive Programming for Elementary Students with Autism, Future Horizons, Arlington, TX. (www.FutureHorizons-autism.com)

Smith Myles, Brenda and Adreon, Diana (2001). Practical Solutions for school success. Autism Asperger Publishing Co, Kansas. (www.asperger.net)

Bolick, Teresa (2001). Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Helping preteens and teens get ready for the real world. Fair Winds Press, MA.


Social/Emotional skills:

Moyes, Rebecca (2001). Incorporating Social Goals in the Classroom: A guide for teachers and parents of children with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, PA. (www.jkp.com)

Goldstein, Arnold (1979). Skill-streaming the adolescent: A structured learning approach to teaching prosocial skills. Research PR Pub.

Smith Myles, Brenda and Southwick, Jack. (1999). Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments: practical solutions for tantrums, rage and meltdowns. Autism Asperger Publishing Co, Kansas. (www.asperger.net)

Baker, Jed (2003). Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Asperger Syndrome and Social-Communication Problems. Autism Asperger Publishing Co., KS.


Some websites:

This website is an on-line resource for Asperger's Syndrome information: MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger's Syndrome

A video of the day in the life of a student with Asperger syndrome: www.whatsitlike.cjb.net/

For more information:

Go to the Autism health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jacqueline Wynn, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Director, Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University