Studies investigating the adjustment and wellbeing of children who have a brother or sister with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) report mixed findings. At present there is limited empirical, exploratory research on the experiences and perceptions of siblings of children with special needs, much less with siblings of children with autism. Moreover there is a distinct lack of qualitative exploratory research with siblings of children with autism during middle-childhood.
The aim of this study was to explore the experiences and perceptions of siblings living and growing up with a brother with ASD.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine typically developing siblings in middle-childhood (ages 8 to 12) who had a brother with ASD. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).
The analysis yielded five main themes: siblings’ perceptions of the impact of their brother's condition on their lives, siblings' perceptions of the attitudes of others and the influence these attitudes have on them, siblings' tolerance and acceptance towards their brothers with ASD, positive attitudes and experiences of the sibling participants' lives with their brothers, and sources of support for siblings.
Implications for future research and practice with siblings of children with ASD will be discussed, including the importance of these exploratory findings in informing future experimental research and the development of supports for siblings of children with ASD.