Claire Smith, 18, of Rockville, whose 15-year-old brother is autistic, describes it this way: “I try to make sure that they don’t have to handle me. As much as possible, I try to stay out of trouble. . . . I try to not be the one they have to worry about . . . to be responsible and patient and take stuff off their hands whenever I possibly can.”

via Autism can have large effects, good and bad, on a disabled child’s siblings – The Washington Post.

This was definitely the effect on Rob’s older sister, Joy. I regret very much that so often I expected her–indeed, relied upon her–to be the responsible one. I think this was somewhat unconscious, though, on our parts: we were proud of her maturity, her intelligence, her capability, for her own sake and on her own merits; but we also liked having something positive to say when asked about the kids. So much of the news about Rob was bad news, especially in the years when he was between 10 and 16–just the years when Joy was blooming in high school and college–and so I think she sometimes felt that we only valued her for those things. Which was not true at all. And sometimes we were very overwhelmed, so that I was not as available for her emotionally as I could have been. But I wanted to be. It is one of the things I regret the most now, in retrospect.

She realizes that now, of course, and she did then too, on some level. I tried to make sure I got time alone with just her (my husband and I each took her on “dates”); I tried to let her vent about her frustrations with her brother without judging her; and I tried to ensure that she got adequate time with friends and got to pursue her own interests.

The psychologist in this study says that the main thing that predicts how well siblings do with an autistic sibling depends upon the reactions of the parents. So do what you need to do to get support. Seek counseling, use respite, take antidepressants or anxiety medication if you need to. Take care of yourselves so you can then take care of your kids.