How do I help my other children cope with one son’s autism diagnosis?

Hi, Dr. Manny.  I have three boys ages 5,7 and 9.  My youngest was diagnosed with autism at an early age.  He struggles with relationships and doesn’t process situations very well.  This has been a big cause of stress in our family as our youngest requires extra attention, and his behavior, which would not be acceptable from our other two sons, often gets excused because of his diagnosis.  He gets angry often, which can lead to my older boys being emotionally hurt by his words and tones, which he doesn’t understand.  How do we make sure that we don’t overlook our other two sons because of one child who requires more attention and forgiveness? – April

April, I understand your dilemna.  I myself, as you may know, have one son who has autism, and he also has two other siblings.  There are moments from time to time where my other kids do not understand all the attention we pay to my son.  However, I have been able to improve the dynamic with a few changes.  First, as your son gets a little bit older, you have to create expectations where your son will have to modify his behavior to be more appropriate because if you don’t do that, he will not develop a sense of maturity and responsibility.  I know it’s hard, but you have to try.  With the siblings, on the other hand, you need to get them involved in understanding what exactly autism is.  Help them realize that this is a relationship they will have with their brother for long time so they have to develop more tolerance.  This must be an ongoing discussion in your home.  Eventually, as all the kids mature, you will see how it all comes together.