A mother of a 6 year old son with autism wanted help preparing her son to be a big brother. Lots of therapy and sticking to a routine have really helped her first son cope and manage life fairly well at home, at school and in the community. The mom, pregnant and due in 4 months, is afraid that the new addition to their family may cause her son with autism to relapse. She is the inspiration for this Autism Social Story: Preparing to be a big brother.
Like all moms with children on the autism spectrum, she likes to control of the environment and the situations surrounding her son as much as possible. Of course, there are times beyond her control because life is often unpredictable. She knows that a baby’s wants, needs and mood are unpredictable, so she wants to prepare her son for this new experience by using social stories. She has used social stories successfully in the past.
Here are some tips to prepare a child with autism to be a big brother or sister.
Use the picture story below to start preparing your child for a successful transition.
During the time leading up to the new arrival, we recommend that you read the social picture story every day at the same time of day.
Customize the picture story by adding or eliminating elements. Make it relevant for your child. Put pictures in of yourself or your child. We will send you a free Powerpoint version of this social story so that you can customize it.
Introduce you child to babies. If you have friends with young babies, introduce your child to them and tell your child that you are having a baby soon.
Have a signal
If your child can communicate, have a verbal or a gesture signal that indicates that your son / daughter needs a break from his brother or sister.
Make sure your child with autism gets the rest he/she needs, even if you are not sleeping much.
Tired children are more prone to meltdowns.
Prepare a schedule for day.
Children on the autism spectrum often benefit from a clear schedule of the day.
Let your child know what is happening for example tell him / her that the baby is going to wake up soon and will need to be changed and feed.
Babies are not always predictable, but try to get into a routine for both children.
This can be a stressful time for someone with autism because they do not know what to expect and because schedules can fluctuate to meet the needs of the baby. This is especially true if the child with autism was use to being the only child.
Use picture schedules.
Pictures schedules outline the day visually for the child with autism.
If your child has a meltdown, don’t take it personally. Focus on your children and don’t worry about explaining the issue to other people. Here’s a good guide to dealing with autism-induced anxiety in children.
Many people do not understand autism, so If you want, you can give the offended person a card that explains autism.
The Kidmunication Point
Some experiences prove challenging for children with autism. A new baby brother or sister is certainly one because of the sensory stimuli of crying babies, the unpredictability of schedules with babies and the social adjustments he / she will need to make.
Pam Drennen MS CCC-SLP is the VP Director of Clinical Services Speech at Kidmunicate. Pam has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Pam provides evaluation and treatment for a variety of speech/language and communication disorders. She has experience working with children with hearing loss, autism, Down Syndrome, a cleft palate, developmental delays, Apraxia of speech, auditory processing disorders, fluency disorders, oral motor/feeding issues as well as children with augmentative/alternative needs.
Pam is a member of the American Speech and Language Hearing Association.