Consistant parenting of autistic and neurotypical siblings can be tricky! Navigating the special needs of the autistic sibling means that sometimes its easy for other siblings to get kind of… lost.
As much as we try, consistant parenting is not always possible when you are held to ransom by the threat of meltdowns. For the sake of world peace in the home sometimes it is often easier to let the behaviour of the autistic child slide from time to time.
We got away with it for a few years, but now everyone is a little older the inconsistencies are harder to hide. "Why is he not in trouble, but I would be?" the neurotypical sibling cries (‘cause he will have a meltdown and I cant deal with it right now!)
"Why doesn’t he have to do that too?" (cause he actually can't not won’t....oh and he will have a meltdown and I cant deal with it right now.)
"Why can't he put his rubbish in the bin too?" ('cause he has smell sensory issues) "He’s faking and you are falling for it! " (even if he is .... did I mention he will have a meltdown and I cant deal with it right now!)
Even though we have been very open and informative about our sons Autism, it can still be can be a hard concept for the siblings to grasp when the child presents as normal on the outside.
What works In our house is to have to have slightly different sets of rules but still the same work load so tasks become a teamwork situation. My son puts everyone’s rubbish on the bench, the neurotypical siblings put in in all the bin. That way, no meltdowns and the others feel like its kind of fair.
Below are some other tips I have found useful for making sure the neurotypical siblings needs don't get forgotten.
Nurture their interests
I think the biggest tip I can give anybody is to pay attention to them and keep them up-to-date on what’s going on, Remind them that just because the autistic child gets attention, it’s not because we love them any more. Support their other relationships so they get breaks from the home dynamic, therefore less likely to become fatigued by it.
One on one time
...especially away from the home. I think this is important in any family with multiple siblings, autistic or not. It gives the kids a feeling of importance, and provides quality time with a parent that they don't have to compete for.
Remember your child with autism isn't a 'lesson' to his siblings
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning: Don’t use your child who has autism to prove various points to your neurotypical child.
Don’t put too much pressure on them
Those who have siblings on the spectrum can grow up a bit faster than their peers. They have to. It isn’t good or bad it just is what it is. That being said try not to burden them with responsibilities that are beyond their age, its not fair and it can lead to resentment.
Find some activities you can all do
As well as one on one it is equally important to find some activities that you all can do together. This not only gives the family time together, but it nurtures sibling relationships.
Its tricky to parent consistently at the best of times. So good luck, you’re going to need it!