Autism affects the entire family and, in turn, the family system affects outcomes for individuals with autism. Typically developing siblings are part of that family system. The sibling relationship can be strained when one sibling has autism. Siblings of children with autism present with their own adjustment and skill needs. Improving sibling adjustment and the sibling relationship may result in increases in learning opportunities for children with ASD and siblings who play a more significant role in caregiving and advocacy across the lifespan, all of which may improve quality of life for the entire family.
Building on more than 3 years of research developing the Support and Skills Program (SSP) for siblings of children with autism, we will compare the effects of a sibling support group to an attention only control group and examine a booster program to facilitate maintenance of changes in sibling adjustment and the sibling relationship. At the SSP, children with autism receive one to one instruction while siblings participate in a support group and then all children engage in supported recreation activities. Siblings are a largely underserved group or a group served without empirical evidence for the intervention services provided. Siblings can be valuable and effective change agents in the lives of individuals with autism. This research focuses on improving the sibling relationship to achieve these critical outcomes.