Locked in the Shadow of Autism: A Sibling’s Struggle

Sad little girl with teddy bear on light background

Growing up in a household with an autistic sibling can be a challenging experience.

The responsibilities that come with caring for a loved one who is non-verbal, destructive, and violent can be overwhelming.

One social media poster (OP) detailed her reality and challenges, while growing up in the shadow of an autistic sibling.

In the post, OP, whose sister is severely autistic, shared her frustrations with being constantly treated as primarily a caregiver for her sibling, denying OP’s existence as a person.

Tough Childhood

To justify this point, OP shared multiple instances from her life.

For example, OP had to move to the basement at the age of seven to accommodate OP’s sister’s needs.

Similarly, the sister destroyed all of OP’s toys on another occasion, but their parents did nothing about it.

At 14, OP’s sister destroyed a MacBook the school gave OP, but their parents blamed OP for it.

OP also cannot make plans with friends as she is always required to care for her sister. If she refuses to help, OP is grounded and punished.

OP also shared a recent incident where she was chosen to give a speech at a school event, and OP’s parents promised to be there. However, they never showed up, because they were busy with OP’s sister.

She mentioned that she felt like nothing more than a “slave” to her parents. Her father even joked about OP being a caretaker for her sister for the rest of her life.

OP also recalls,

“While talking about colleges with my father, he joked that I should get a degree that pays well so when they’re gone, I can take care of my sister.”

The Debate

The post generated a lot of debate on the social media platform, with some commenters sympathizing with the OP’s situation and others criticizing the parents for placing such a burden on their child.

JayConz was one of the first to respond to the post. The user was quick to point out that OP’s feelings were valid and understandable.

The user emphasized that OP had not signed up to be a full-time caregiver and that it was unfair for their parents to expect them to be one.

“These are perfectly legitimate and understandable feelings. You have done nothing to sign up for taking care of another human being (it’s not like she’s your kid), and that was wrong of your dad to “joke” about, because it sounds like he probably is really thinking along those lines.

“Be honest with your parents about how you feel – make it clear that it’s insane that you’re expected to be a full-time babysitter.”

Another commenter, Bvhjvfghbvvggddf, shared their own experience of having a severely autistic cousin who required the same level of assistance as the OP’s sister.

“My parents have become caretakers for my autistic cousin whose parents are both deceased. Same level of assistance required as he is non verbal and cannot do anything for himself.

“Parents have told me and my sister that he will never be our problem even after they are gone, he will be set up with care because it’s not fair to put that responsibility on us. Talk to your parents. I agree that it should not be your responsibility.”

YoungDiscord criticized OP’s father for his insensitive joke about the OP getting a degree that pays well so they could take care of their sister after their parents are gone.

“[Her] dad did the “joking, not joking” thing.

“He says it for real and gets mad if you take it as a joke, but if OP calls him out on it then “relax, it was just a joke.

“My mum does this, and it really pisses me off… you’re either joking or not, don’t be a coward, pick one.”

Theperrywinkle05 placed the blame on the parents for mishandling the situation and have been grossly unfair with her.

Furthermore, the user sympathized with the OP’s frustration and expressed their disappointment in the parents for not doing more to address the issue in the comment.

“Honestly, I agree, and I understand OP’s feelings. I would probably have cracked long before them if I was in the same situation.

“They need to stop treating your little sister like a pet, and you like her caretaker. They are grossly mishandling the situation. What a shame.”

One of the most poignant comments came from mainfingertopwise, who said:

“OP is a kid, too. That childhood is not coming back.”

The user emphasized that childhood was a time that would never come back and that the OP deserved to enjoy their teenage years without the burden of being a full-time caregiver.

Lastly, another user, Taymoe91, echoed this sentiment.

“I agree you should be able to do the things a teenager should do. That is your sister, not your kid.”

The Verdict

The passionate support that OP received from strangers in social media post highlights the challenges that siblings of autistic individuals face.

It is not uncommon for siblings to feel like they are living in the shadow of autism, and their needs are often overlooked.

While it is essential to provide adequate care for autistic individuals, it is equally important to acknowledge the impact on siblings and provide them with support.

Social media comments made it clear that the OP’s childhood should not be overshadowed by her sister’s needs, and it is up to the parents to make that happen.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Was the OP of this social media post wrong?

Featured Image Credit: belchonock /Depositphotos.com.

This article originally appeared on Ash & Pri.

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Pri Kingston

Ash & Pri are the Founders of AshandPri.com and have spent the last decade building their way towards financial freedom and a lifetime of memories. Having successfully achieved their early retirement goal in under 10 years, they look forward to sharing their financial sense with like-minded people. Read more about Ash & Pri in the 'About Us' section.