Article first published as Autism and Siblings on Technorati.
It seems these days everyone is looking for fault in the behavior of children. I hear complaints about "learned" behaviors, mimicking, and lamenting that the behaviors are difficult to "undo" in the best of families. I hear it even more so with my son, who, as part of his Autism, vents his frustration and excitement by head-butting. As such, I get complaints about potentially hurting others, or even worse, others mimicking his behavior.
I can understand how frustrating it is when your child starts to behave in a way that is deemed socially unacceptable. It's a constant vigil for most parents of children on the Spectrum as they try to help their children overcome these behaviors to better assist them in their social development. But nothing is more frustrating than having a sibling mimic the older child with Autism.
My youngest of two boys is almost 3, and therefore is about the right age to start to see signs of the Spectrum. He has some signs, such as avoiding eye contact, ignoring his name when called, and seems to be between 6 months to a year behind in his speech development. He also head-buts when frustrated or excited. The problem is, we can't tell if this is a learned behavior from his older brother, or if it is a genuine sign of Autism.
If it is Autism, then he most likely will fall under the Asperger's syndrome umbrella, and will be very high functioning. But he seems to be so high functioning that he may not have Autism at all, which merely adds to the conundrum. The only real solution is to have him tested by a specialist to be certain one way or another. The numbers don't look to be in his favor, with recent reports showing siblings of older children on the Spectrum are more likely to be on the spectrum themselves. Not that it will change much, other than give him a head start with preschool Applied Behavior Analysis (and his brother's preschool teacher will get him, which will thrill her).
The thing is, another diagnosis in the family doesn't have the same impact as the first diagnosis. We have since learned a lot about the Autism Spectrum, developed a routine that caters to the spectrum while still demanding appropriate social behaviors, and in general have a good knowledge of what is needed. Basically, as we have already been through this once, we are prepared the second time around. The question is, are we prepared for a neuro-typical child?