6 Ways to Support a Sister of a Child with Autism: A Special Giveaway!

written by Kelly Langston | Autism Awareness

September 7, 2011

Boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. (http://goo.gl/cZWVI).

That creates a common situation where there is a neurotypical daughter, a sibling of an autistic brother. My own family is an example of this situation.

On many occasions I hear from parents who worry that the majority of their attention goes to a child with autism while their other child, the autism sibling, receives less attention than they might need. To be honest, sometimes this is a necessity. Often, sisters of a child with autism are phenomenal girls, compassionate, strong, capable and loving.  But they still have a need to feel special, honored, loved uniquely for who they are.

That’s why I have asked Lynn Cowell to guest post today.  Lynn has been ministering to teen girls for 10 years, and has recently authored a book written to teen girls, His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You. I asked Lynn if she would be willing to share some her insight about how a parent might honor their daughters, the siblings of another child with autism.  Lynn responded in minutes.  As she says, ministering to teen girls is her passion.

As a special giveaway, I am giving away a signed copy of Lynn’s amazing book.   Just leave a comment to enter and I’ll announce the winner on Monday morning, September 12th.

And now for Lynn’s guest post:

Six Ways to Build a Bridge to Your Girl’s Heart

Boys … how are they typically described? Rambunctious, loud, messy, insensitive. Then there are our girls. So often they are compassionate, strong, capable, even at times the backbone and heartbeat of our families.

Unlike you, I do not have a child who has autism, but my first born son did come with his own unique packaging. This has put my two daughters in places where they have had to step up and mature faster than I would have desired. Yes, God has used this to make them strong.  As their mom, though, I want to be aware of my girls needs. They need to be told they are beautiful. They need to be reminded consistently that they are loved. Like a plant in the hot Carolina summer sun, they need to be poured into on a daily basis so that they flourish and blossom.

This is no easy task, especially when we have another child who needs are much more apparent. Yet, friend, we cannot mistake the quiet stability of our girls as their lack of need. They need us to build a bridge to their heart; connecting our heart to theirs.

Here are six ways that you can build a bridge to your daughter’s heart:

  1. Be informed.

    Be informed about what is happening in your girl’s world. What things make her anxious? A friendship? You know many times relationships with girls can be more complicated than boys! For over ten years I have been mentoring, speaking and writing to teen girls. Girls carry a lot of anxiety. They need to know being needy isn’t bad; that’s where God comes in! Much anxiety can be alleviated by simply by talking. Know your girl’s heart. When you do this, you say to your girl, “I care enough about you to learn your world.” 

  2. Be approachable.

    Often what our girls need most from us is a safe place to talk. Recently, my daughter Madi was telling me about a friendship problem. I asked her, “Would you like me to just listen or do you want advice?” She said, “Just listen.”

    An approachable parent responds instead of reacts. We should be thermostats instead of thermometers. Thermometers tell us the temperature of the house, a thermostat sets it. By responding instead of reacting we are setting the temperature of a safe place to be yourself and be heard. 

  3. Be available.

    Slowing down is important so we can be there for our children. Different kids will be more vulnerable and open at different times. Think over your life and your schedule. How can you arrange things so that you can be available to your daughter to hear about her world, her heart and the things she is going through in her mind?

  4. Be vulnerable.

    Pouring into teen girls has been one of the Lord’s greatest gifts to me. These girls would say, “I wish I could talk to my mom like I can talk to you.” Or, “I wish my mom would tell me things about when she was growing up.” It is important to share with our girls the things we struggled with when we were their age. Of course, we need to do so as the Holy Spirit directs us and as it appropriate for their age, but our kids need to hear from us our struggles, our victories and our falls. When your child is struggling have you shared some of your stories with her? Does your child realize that you, too, struggle? 

  5. Be her discipler.
    This is our chance to share with our girls what the Lord has done for us by going through His word with them. This can take place in two ways: informally and formally. Informally, I look for opportunities to tell my kids what Jesus is doing in my life. In the car, going for a walk or having a snack, I share how the Word helps solve problems.

    Formally, when my kids are eating their breakfast, I read God’s Word to them. I also have a small group for my youngest daughter and five of her ninth grade friends. Every other week we get together to do a Bible study and learn more about Jesus and his love for them. By following a formal format, I am reassured that we will have a pre-set time to read and study His Word together. 

  6. Be willing to speak truth. 

    When your girl is looking in the mirror and lamenting over that zit on her forehead, remind her that Jesus says in Psalm 45:11: “The king is enthralled by your beauty.” When she feels rejected because everyone else has a boyfriend and she doesn’t, speak that truth “I am my lover’s and he is mine!” (Song of Solomon 2:16). When she wishes for a bigger chest and a smaller waist, speak to her, “You are altogether beautiful my darling and there is no blemish in you.” Your girl needs to know that the love she needs can never come from a guy – they just don’t have what it take; but Jesus has all she needs and then some!  

Remember:

You are the vessel, my friend, that the Lord can use pour the truth of unconditional love into your girl. Fill up and then pour out!

Lynn Cowell, Author of His Revolutionary LoveLynn Cowell is a speaker and writer with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of 24 years and her three teenage children. She has just released of her first book “His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You”; a study for young women. She loves sushi, well worn sweatshirts and anything that combines chocolate and peanut butter. You can access free resources for you and your girl at www.LynnCowell.com.

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Kelly Langston Owner
Kelly Langston sees prayer move mountains... and she writes about it. Author and prayer enthusiast, inspires through her writing, combining faith, storytelling, and transformative prayer to encourage deeper a rich spiritual connection with the Father. Having authored four non-fiction books and a series of "God Speaks" digital journals, she guides readers towards intimate conversations with God and recognizes the impact of prayer on our world.

  • I have an 18 year old daughter and a 7 year old daughter with autism.  My 18 year old just left for college, and it has been very hard for her to leave her younger sister!!  She is very motherly towards her little sister, and very protective of her!  My little girl sings a song called “She’s My Sister” that she learned off of Barney the Dinosaur, and it is so sweet every time she sings it, it brings tears to mine and my daughter’s eye’s!

  • I Have a & year old Daughter with Autism and  13 year old who also has many traits but hasent been diagnosed. The girls get on very well for the most part, but as I have a teenage son also , the 13 yr old tends to get over looked and feels shes missing out. Of course we love them all equally but its definately a long hard road and hard to spread ourselves around. Often its only me as my Hubby works away so life can be busy….one day at a time.

  • My 8 year old son has a dual diagnosis of autism and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  His 14 year old big sister has been becoming much more sensitive to him and his diagnoses.  It’s been a whirlwind ride for her – good days; bad days; to the days she wishes he wasn’t around.  Thankfully, there are more good days than the others.  Watching her maturing has been a blessing. 

    Susan

  • I have a teenage daughter and pre-teen girl/boy twins. My younger daughter has autism. (Don’t assume all teen girls who have sibs w/ autism have *brothers* w/ autism.)

    I’d love to win this book for her.

  • My only daughter, Lexi, is almost 14 and the only sister with 3 younger brothers. My middle son, Joshua, is 9 and not only has autism, but Down syndrome as well. He has a unique bond with Lexi. She and her other siblings are homeschooled and she gets him off the bus everyday. She tells me she wants him to live with her when she grows up. She asks to tuck him into bed and night and she prays over him. She is his defender, teacher, big sister and  first friend. She is his voice.

    • Oh Vicki! What a blessed mom you are to have such a precious girl in Lexi! My husband and I have recently started telling our youngest she is an advocate. I don’t know how Jesus will use that in her future, but we are trying to speak truth to her often about the wonderful trait God has given her!

  • My daughter has a younger brother with PDD-NOS and ADHD…and she is amazing. I know God has equipped her to be a sister of Autism, and I would LOVE to be able to encourage her with this book on her journey!!

  • I have a six year old son with Asperger’s and many other disorders; his sister is 13 months younger than he is.  It is exhausting.  She receives the blunt of his melt downs so I am constantly being her protector.  Several months ago she started acting out; she was being neglected.  Not harmfully neglected, but the needs you speak of weren’t being met.  I am thankful the Lord showed me in my quiet times what was lacking so she can receive the love and assurance she desperately needs!  My son is being homeschooled now, while my daughter is in public schools.  Again, I began seeing tinges of jealousy so have made sure when she gets home she gets extra time.  I’m sure these challenges with change as each child changes.  Thankful for a Savior that loves my children more than I can even imagine.

  • I have a 22 year old son with autism and he has 2 sisters, one is 17 and one is 15. My 15 year old is struggling in school and being overweight. We think she may have a condition that causes extreme weight gain. This book sounds perfect for her. My 17 year old is a type 1 diabetic and the 15 year old is ADD. Lots of sruggles for my kids, but they are awesome & all love the Lord!!

  • Thank you for sharing. 
    We have 3 kids and the middle one has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.  We too worry, with all the attention given to one, that our other two will have anger towards us.  Ben is 11 and Gabe will be 10 this month and Addie is 8.  They are all so close in age it is somethimes hard to slow down and tend to all their needs at once. So often, if not always, it is Gabe that gets his needs met.  Thanks again for  sharing! Can not wait to read the book.

    • Margaret, I know there are days when it feels that one child gets it all. I remember the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” I have one who is much more talkative than the other and it is so easy to spend time with her because she talks. I guess that is one reason I have enjoyed going through “His Revolutionary Love” this summer with my quiet one. The book is filled with questions that we talk about and it brings out conversations that may have never taken place otherwise! 

  • This is such great timing for my family!  We have a 10 year old daughter and a 3.5 year old son who is struggling with many symptoms of autism.  Tomorrow is our long awaited evaluation day by an autism center here in MN.  SO many times, our daughter is told, “sorry, but that’s not going to work with Joey”, or she hears his nasty words of frustration taken out on her.  LOVE this link and will be looking for your book- although one in my mailbox would be TERRIFIC!

    • Mary, I cannot imagine the frustration you feel each time you deliver the words, “sorry, but that’s not going to work with Joey”. I know that your heart is to crave out special times with your girl, just the two of you, and believe that the Lord will help you to find those times!

  • My son is autistic, and he is a 14 year old boy with a big sister who is 17. My daughter often does complain that we treat him differently than her. He does need more attention but I am realizing that she does too. I don’t worry about her education like I worry about his. I don’t check to be sure that she has everything she needs because she is more self sufficient. But I know that she needs me to pay attention to her and to let her know that I love her just as much and that I am proud of the young woman of God that she has become. Sometimes I forget to tell her that and sometimes God reminds me that I have TWO special children in my life and that they are both an image and a reflection of Him!
    Cheryl Reels

  • I have a 14 year old son with Aspergers; 12 year old 9 year old and 1 year old Daughters that have to deal with my son on a daily basis.  My son can irritate my daughters to the point that I get migraines and run away from home because he does not stop irritating them and it’s a difficult situation to be in when sometimes you don’t understand him yourself as well.  I really need a copy of this book so that i can hopefully understand his situation and help my daughters with his situation also.  I am begging for help!

    • It’s often hard to get into our ASD kid’s mind to understand what they are thinking or why they are acting as they do. I pray for wisdom to understand, the promise of God, but sometimes I forget. Are you able to get away (you said “run away”) to take a break for yourself?

  • I have an almost 12 year old daughter, a 8 year old boy with Autism and recently my 4 year old was diagnosed Autistic as well. It has been quite the journey. The boys just started in home intensive therapy. My littlest has no words at all. My 8 year old does a lot of repetitive talk, not quite dialoging yet. We have had to completely put our life on hold. And I feel so bad because my daughter is such a great help. But she also gets a lot put on her. She is very mature for her age and loves her brothers and is very protective over them. She will be great working with kids someday. I feel so terrible sometimes because she gets the grunt or frustration of us too much. I’m trying so hard to raise her right in the Lord. But we have not been able to do anything as a family or go anywhere like on a trip as a family because it would be WAY too hard to. We need extra people with us if were to do something like that. I feel bad that we always have to put the boys first. I want her to know how special she is too. And I feel like if I don’t step it up there will be this disconnect. I want to get into her life more, but there is always the boys that I have to tend to….sigh… 

  • My daughter is the older sibling of an autistic brother.  She is great with him 98% of the time.  That other 2% of the time, she just gets frustrated and loses patience.  She is also extremely independent.  As a result, she does not get, nor does she always want, as much attention from us.  As she gets older, she needs more attention though.  I would be thrilled to have this book to help us navigate the upcoming teen years with her.

  • I have a thirteen year old daughter and an eight year old daughter, their sister Karyss is ten and has autism. I wish I had could tell an ooey-  gooey story of how much they adore and cherish her, I know they do in their own ways (afterall they ARE still siblings), but they are  not lovey-dovey with her. Sometimes I wish this were different but it is what it is. When I  think about it, they are treating her like she has no Autism. (To them she is just their sister and what she does or how she acts is “just Karyss”) She was diagnosed at seven, so it’s only been a few years that we have known. My husband and I actually prefer that they don’t give her special treatment. We do ask that they treat her with understanding. Like normal siblings they argue and fight at times, but there are more moments where we catch them all playing like best friends (playing games she understands). If anyone badgers Karyss, her older sister sets them straight. Afterall, it’s okay if THEY mess with their sister…it’s not okay if anybody else does. She is “just Karyss” to us, the Pickinpaugh family would not be complete without her.

    • I lover the name “Karyss.” I remember hearing my son and daughter argue, and strangely it was like music to my ears to think that they were acting like “typical” brothers and sisters do. Life, with autism or without, includes all of this, doesn’t it?

  • I have a 12 year old daughter (the baby of the family) and her oldest brother has autism, he is 18 and takes sooooooo much of our time, I try to spread my love but there is only one of me.  He is mentally about like a 2 year old @ 220 lb and 6 ft tall, I have my hands full !  GOD IS GOOD! (let’s not forget I have a 15 year old son in the middle, love him too!!)

  • I have an 11 year old son with autism and he has a seven year old sister as well as a 16 year old brother. My daughter is extremely needy during the times my son needs me most. It is so hard to keep my patience with her because if feel as though she should understand his disability and she should be more independent where capable. I feel so guilty after a big fiasco of homework time! It’s hard for everyone and my son doesn’t notice how much extra time he requires. So, he will go out to play and my daughter may be in tears. Vicious cycle!

    Karen Walters
    Ptkwalters@consolidated.net

  • We have a twenty year old daughter and a 6 year old son with autism and our daughter is wonderful with the six year old Thank The Lord!!!! great post thank you…

  • I love both of my children equally but having one neurotypical younger child and a developmentally delayed older child makes the two of them seem like twins. Sometimes I see the stressed look in my daughter’s eyes. She’s trying to figure out her place in the world; she’s only 1. Thank you for thinking about special needs families. 🙂

  • Thank you, Lynn, for your words of encouragement and wisdom as we try to raise daughters and children that will be a light in the darkness, a people, holy unto Him.

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