Finding Support for the Siblings of Children with Autism

Finding Support for the Siblings of Children with Autism

Siblings of children with autism are in a unique position and may not share their brothers’ or sisters’ social cognitive challenges. Yet, in many ways, they have special needs of their own.

People who have siblings with autism are faced with overwhelming challenges, responsibilities, and emotions when addressing their siblings’ needs and usually well before they’re able to develop appropriate coping strategies their parents may use. As a result, we need to support siblings to ensure they’re informed, understood, and respected while they’re learning how to be compassionate advocates for their siblings on the spectrum.

Of all the family members touched by ASD, siblings usually have the longest relationship with an affected brother or sister across their lifespan. These future advocates, potential caretakers, and lifelong friends require more support and attention. There are many support resources available to not only validate siblings’ feelings and provide a sense of comfort but also offer practical and age-appropriate guidance on how to address some of the difficulties they’re likely to experience.

As a family-centered accredited provider of comprehensive ABA therapy services, The Behavior Exchange can provide each family member the support they need.

Here are some tips to support the emotional well-being of siblings of all ages:

Set aside time just for siblings.

Parents may not realize how much of their time and energy is devoted to their child with special needs, at the expense of other children in the family. Setting aside one-on-one time with siblings to do things they enjoy helps build strong bonds and a positive self-image. Take advantage of Parent’s Night Out at The Behavior Exchange and enjoy quality time with your neurotypical child.

Foster strong communication skills.

Communication is essential for strong relationships. Siblings of children with autism may have difficulty expressing their feelings and they may feel too ashamed or embarrassed to tell their parents that the sibling is upsetting them. The failure to communicate and resolve the issue may lead to resentment.

Encourage the siblings to share their concerns and feelings with you without judgement. Use observations to facilitate the discussion. For instance, you might say, “I notice that Jonah didn’t want to play trucks with you. That must have been upsetting.” Encouraging the sibling to communicate can help them understand that these feelings are normal. Ongoing communication also provides you with opportunities to resolve minor problems before they escalate into major meltdowns.

It’s OK to be angry.

Even the most loving and understanding of siblings will sometimes feel mad, humiliated, or resentful of a brother or sister with special needs. The desire to have a “normal” family that looks like any other is a natural part of child development. So are sibling rivalries and arguments!

As parents, we often emphasize the positive to paint our children with autism in the rosiest light and can feel extra-protective when sibling quarrels flare-up. It may seem as though giving your “sib” space to openly vent their frustration will encourage negative feelings, making matters worse. However, these difficult conversations can be great opportunities to educate siblings about why and how autism affects behavior, helping them to build compassion and empathy.

Your acknowledgment that life with autism is sometimes difficult – for your child and you – will help your “sib” to feel supported rather than guilty for their emotions.

Make sure others acknowledge your typically-developing child.

A child with autism may be the first thing well-meaning friends, teachers, and neighbors ask parents about. Siblings may come to feel less interesting or important to those in the family’s periphery, simply because their interests and activities are more predictable. Young children may wonder why therapists visit their homes, offering toys, games, and special attention to their brother or sister.

As siblings grow older, they may resent being left out of conversations about their brother’s or sister’s progress, or their plans for the future; after all, their own lives may be impacted by the decisions a sibling’s support team has made! Ensuring siblings receive a special acknowledgment by those involved with your family can go a long way toward helping them feel positive about themselves and their role.

Find a sibling support program.

As the autism community has grown, so have opportunities for brothers and sisters to connect and make friends with others who have “been there.” Just as parents often find that the most meaningful support comes from other families who share similar experiences, children too can benefit tremendously from having a safe space to share their feelings with other siblings.

The Behavior Exchange can help you find in-person and virtual support programs for your neurotypical child. A quick internet search can also lead you to great resources for parents and autistic siblings of all ages, like the “Autism Sibling Support” guides from the Organization for Autism Research (OAR).

Young Sibling Support
Teen Sibling Support
Parent Support 

Contact The Behavior Exchange to learn more about how comprehensive ABA therapy services can change the life of your child and your entire family. We are here to help your child and family reach their full and meaningful potential.

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Alina grew up in a military household and had the opportunity to live in many different places from Okinawa, Japan and San Diego, California, to Michigan and Texas. Her experience connecting with new people and adapting to new environments and situations was perfect for a future HR leader.

She began her career as an HR Manager for Target and has since gone on to build an HR department for iFLY Indoor Skydiving, headquartered in Austin, TX, and restructure the HR department at Dallam Hartley Counties Hospital District in West Texas. Most recently, Alina served as the HR Business Partner at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Her HR specialties include Employee Relations, Performance Management, Organizational Design, and Employee Engagement, and she holds a certification in Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR) from the Society for Human Resource Management.

Alina moved to the Dallas area in 2020 with her husband who’s a high school football coach, their two girls Kiyomi and Ava, and a Cavalier King Charles named Bella. In her spare time, Alina has fun using her aesthetician license doing make up for bridal parties, proms, and special events.

Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

As Supervisor of Technology, Marvin is charged with the creation of strategic IT initiatives that align with the mission, culture and long-term goals of The Behavior Exchange. He works closely with Directors, BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts), RBTs (Registered Behavior Therapists), and administrative staff to deliver innovative technologies and services that enhance teaching, learning, research, and client activities.

Marvin’s commitment to the success of The Behavior Exchange and its clients has resulted in improved data collection, analysis, mobile device management, and cloud-based file management infrastructure. Marvin graduated form the University of Texas in San Antonio with a BA in Psychology 2004. After graduating, Marvin wanted to give back to his community by dedicating his time commitment to provide a civil service. Marvin for which he commited 8 years to be a probation officer in Bexar County Tx. When the opportunity to join The Behavior Exchange arose Marvin jumped at the chance to continue to provide services for those in need and to work for an amazing organization and cause.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.