Being the sibling of an ASD child is a tough gig I reckon. There's the meltdowns to deal with. The odd mannerisms. The lack of reciprocal play in many cases. Then there's all the attention their brother/sister gets, not just from parents, but all the professionals coming in and out of their lives. Many families are socially isolated by the difficult behaviours most ASD kids display when out and over stimulated. This adversely impacts the sibling bystanders.
Many must find themselves acting as school playground bouncers in an effort to thwart bullies who often target ASD kids. Others, perhaps less robust or as a consequence of age, forced to ignore their family member's social difficulties in order to avoid teasing by proxy.
My NT daughter always wanted a brother. A playmate. When we announced to her we were expecting a boy she shrugged as if to say, well of course, I knew that. When he arrived she was disappointed that he didn't do much. Except cry and demand copious amounts of attention. Eventually he became mobile and our daughter took this as a signal he would now be ready for fun and games. Of course he wasn't that interested in her, much to Ali's chagrin. But with the irrepressible spirit only a five year old can muster she persisted. She badgered, hassled, pestered. Relentlessly and ignorantly she slowly engaged Harri in play. And now at two and (just turned) six they are great mates. He loves to climb onto her bed while she tries to sleep in the mornings. Jumping all over her and giggling. She takes it well despite the odd kick to the head while he scrambles up.
I know that some of Harri's improvement in this respect is due to the natural process that comes with growing older, but I don't doubt the influence his sister has had on drawing him out. In fact it has been enormous. I am so thankful for her persistence in the face of constant rejection. Her good grace in making so many allowances when he does not take turns, when he destroys her block tower, lego building, or Thomas train tracks. Her good humour and resilience have been a blessing for Harri and subsequently the whole family.
It is easy to become focused on your disabled child to the point of tunnel vision. It can take a conscious effort to ensure you are spreading your attention widely enough so other children do not feel forgotten. I have not bothered as yet to discuss Harri's diagnosis with Ali. I would not expect her at six to comprehend such a complex disorder. But more importantly I don't think it would matter to her. He is her lovely, quirky, little brother. The brother she waited for and is finally enjoying. Seeing the loving bond they share eases my anxiety about Harri's life after his father and I have shuffled off our mortal coil.
I am coming to believe more each day that although early therapeutic intervention is essential to maximise a positive outcome for ASD kids. A loving family with happy siblings (NT or otherwise) is a poweful therapeutic tool in itself. So thanks and kudos to all those brothers and sisters living with an Autistic sibling. You are remarkable healers.