In our latest blog a member of Autism East Midlands in-house clinical team shares their experience of growing up with a sibling with additional needs.
Growing up with a sibling with additional needs is a unique experience; the adaptations that become part of daily life are something that I hadn’t really considered until I started working at Autism East Midlands. My brother is 18 months older than me, but due to his physical and intellectual disabilities, for the majority of my life I will have reached typical milestones ahead of him. My parents have always supported us to develop strong relationships as a family and have encouraged us to engage in activities which support us to meet peers with similar experiences.
In February 2018, I was asked to attend an adult sibling’s group facilitator training course so that I could facilitate an Adult siblings group for Autism East Midlands. Part of the criteria of attending this course was that you were the sibling of someone with a life-long learning disability or autism. During this day I became aware that I hadn’t previously recognised just how much being a sibling contributed to my identity. It made me consider all of the adaptations that as a family and personally as a sister we made growing up. I was able to reflect on the guilt that I sometimes feel about being able to have experiences that my brother hasn’t had and is unlikely to have going forward but it also highlighted how rich my life is because I have grown up alongside such a wonderful person.
Attending the training and subsequently supporting children’s siblings groups at Autism East Midlands highlighted the importance of circles of support for siblings who have had similar experiences. The support that Autism East Midlands sibling groups offer to siblings of children with autism would have been invaluable for me and my siblings whilst we were growing up.
My brother has taught me lots of important things. He has taught me that a little bit of kindness goes a long way to making someone feel included and valued. He has taught me to celebrate all successes and I think it is fair to say that he continues to shape my career path of working in intellectual and developmental disability services.