In my opinion, having a sibling with autism is like receiving a gift that you get to put together, but the instructions are in a different language. So you have to learn as you go. Some pieces fit together-like ways to make your sibling laugh, try new foods, or end a tantrum. Other pieces are like trying to fit a square into a circle. They just don’t work.
Many times you feel as if every little thing you say or do sets off different emotions with your sibling, but I have learned easy ways to avoid meltdowns as much as possible and help my brother enjoy interacting with me, his family and friends. Sometimes it can be as simple as letting him decompress after a long day at school and saying everything quietly and nicely, rather than yelling with friends or other siblings. (Which I sometimes do on accident and believe me I almost always regret it.) I often try to involve my brother in activities we can enjoy together like when he is upset I turn on some music that he likes and we dance. When he’s already happy we play games such as chasing him around until we get tired of running in circles, or playing hide and seek.
I don’t know if any of you out there have the same problems I do but to me one of the hardest things to do is explain to someone uneducated about autism why your sibling acts the way he or she does. I get many questions like, “Why does your brother flap his arms and walk on his toes?” or “Why won’t your brother talk?” Well, I could go into great detail and bore them with the whole “When he was little he was sick and the doctors gave him too many vaccines when his immune system was down.” But I usually keep it simple with, “My brother is recovering from autism, which makes him more sensitive to things we simply brush off and aren’t affected by.” (Such as an ambulance’s siren sounding, or a train blowing its horn in the distance).
If you have a sibling with autism, you know how much of a pain and a blessing they can be at the same time. And it takes a while but as you go you learn what your sibling does is normal to them and you learn the things they do when they are hungry or tired or sick.
Some things you can do when your sibling is upset would be just trying to avoid whatever is making them that way. Like if your sibling is upset by loud noises, keep loud movies or songs turned down. A good way to keep your sibling happy after a tantrum is doing whatever they like to do no matter how boring it is to you, like playing hide and seek when they scream out where they are going to hide before they go hide there.
I hope some of this is useful to those siblings of children with autism. I hope some of the things I use to help with my brother help with your situations too. Don’t be embarrassed when your sibling is “different” in public. I love my brother and it’s just how he is. I hope that others are just as proud and supportive of their siblings with autism as I am of my brother.