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Programs for Siblings of Children With Autism

by C.O. Ryan

Autistic children understandably need a great deal of support for their social and emotional needs, education and development. But their siblings also need support. They need to understand what autism is, why an autistic sibling acts the way he does and how he sees the world. They also need support for how autism affects their own lives. There are a number of helpful programs and resources designed to help children deal with the challenges of having an autistic sibling.

The Sibling Support Project: SibKids

Created by the Sibling Support Project, SibKids is a Yahoo group for siblings of children with special needs, including autism. It's a free online service that offers children around the world a chance to meet other kids who are dealing with similar issues, such as understanding their sibling's social and emotional needs, as well as their own. It's a safe, positive way for the siblings of autistic children to make new friends and find social and emotional support.

SibShops

SibShops is another helpful program from the Sibling Support Project. These workshops offer the siblings of special needs children a day to play games, make new friends and realize that they're not alone in the challenges they face. Discussion centers on "the good and not-so-good parts of having a sib with special needs," while celebrating the many gifts that siblings of special needs people have given the world. Most SibShops are for children aged 8 to 13.

The Autism Society and the Autism Science Foundation

The Autism Society and the Autism Science Foundation both offer helpful information resources for the parents of autistic children, including how to help their non-autistic children adjust to their sibling's behavior. Both websites offer practical guidance for parents wanting to be supportive of their autistic child's siblings. They offer advice on topics such as helping a child who feels embarrassed when her friends see her sibling's behavior, helping her deal with her sibling's uncontrolled behavior, and helping her deal with her worries about her sibling's future.

Autism Speaks: A Sibling's Guide to Autism

The organization Autism Speaks offers special tool kits to help the families and friends of a loved one with autism. "A Sibling's Guide to Autism" is an interactive workbook for children aged 6 to 12, and is designed for children to read with their parents. This guide helps children get in touch with how they feel about having an autistic sibling, as well as provides ways they can be supportive of them.

The Autism Support Network

The Autism Support Network is another online resource with helpful programs for the siblings of autistic children. It offers a free online support community for both parents and siblings to ask questions, meet others dealing with autism, and get more information on how to cope with the challenges of autism. Online support includes live chat rooms and special groups, such as Coping/Daily Challenges, Asperger Circle, Therapies and Education.

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