The brothers and sisters of children with autism

A groundbreaking study into the experiences of attending a group which supports brothers and sisters of children with autism is being presented at the Society's Division of Educational Psychology Annual Professional Development Event in Stratford-Upon-Avon today. The experiences of autism support group leaders were also examined for the first time in the UK.

The research was carried out by Society member Dr Jennifer Greene of Southwark Council in London. It looked at support group leaders’ experiences of running autism support groups and siblings’ own experiences of the groups. Semi structured interviews took place with both (11 siblings from two different groups and 8 group leaders running groups throughout the UK). The research found that the siblings were a vulnerable group needing support and that there appeared to be more benefits from attending longer-term groups than one-day groups.

Dr Greene said: “The future of support groups for siblings of children with autism relies on them becoming embedded into organisation’s structures and policies.

“This research provides evidence that the whole family needs support, not simply support for the diagnosed child and their parents.”

When discussing their experiences of living with brothers and sisters with autism, the children reported both positive and difficult outcomes. Their reflections on the support groups however were overwhelmingly positive, particularly as it helped the siblings to have fun, make friends, discuss feelings, and learn more about autism and new coping strategies.