9 tips for children whose siblings have autism

Sam and Poppy are 13 year old twins (Image: Tess Rushin)

On World Autism Awareness Day, writer Tess Rushin explains why siblings themselves are the best ones to give advice

I was talking to one of my 13-year-old twins the other day.  We got onto the subject of being a sibling of an autistic child.

Sam and Poppy are 13-year-old twins.  Poppy is autistic.  Sam is neurotypical.

When the twins were very young, it became clear to us that Poppy's development was delayed in comparison to her twin brother, Sam.

Nevertheless, she attended nursery with him and the early years setting at their first school.

When it was time to move into year 1, Poppy had been diagnosed with autism and it was at that time when we decided to make the heartbreaking decision to send Poppy to another school.

My dreams of the twins growing up together at the same school were dashed.

However, it was absolutely the right decision and Sam and Poppy flourished in their individual environments.

Since that early date, the twins have been on two completely different journeys.

There's a poem entitled 'Welcome to Holland' that many parents relate to when struggling with the issues affecting their child's disability.

The poem likens the pregnancy journey as a trip to Italy, however when the child is born, or somewhere along the journey, the parents end up in Holland.  You weren't expecting to arrive there and have to adjust to living there.

There are highs and lows along the way, with unexpected twists and turns that you weren't expecting to encounter.

This poem has helped me a lot on our journey.  I know it doesn't suit everyone but at the time, for me, it put a very confusing world into perspective.

You'll notice that all of this was helping me - not Poppy's twin sibling.

Because the emphasis is so much on the disabled child, siblings sometimes get overlooked.

In our case, Sam has managed to find his way and, in a lot of cases, see the positives.

After all, it is only society that makes the child disabled.

To have a twin sibling with a disability can be challenging.  Initially when they are growing up, they wonder why their twin doesn't do the same as them. 

Then, as they get older, they wonder why society makes it harder for them, when they should be making it easier.

Sam and I agreed that it would be a good idea to put together a guide to having an autistic sibling.\

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