Azia Shares What It’s Like to Have a Sibling with Autism

By Azia Celestino 04.30.2017 blog

My younger brother’s name is Royal. He loves Disney movies, going to Target on Tuesdays, and eating plain foods like hamburgers with no pickles or pizza without tomato sauce. He does not like places with noisy crowds, loud music or having long conversations.  

My brother is autistic.

If you don’t know what it is, you’re not alone. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve explained what I know hundreds of times to friends — autism is a neurological disorder. It has different symptoms, and ranges in severity. Usually it makes it difficult for someone to speak or make eye contact. Sometimes people with autism have strange behaviors. They might make weird noises, flap their arms or completely ignore you. Many find comfort in favorite toys or games, a quiet place and an unchanging routine. Right now, no one really knows what causes autism.

One thing is for sure, autism can be a challenge, not only for the person diagnosed with the disorder, but for his or her parents and siblings.

Deciding to move away from California and work for Channel One is one of the most incredible opportunities I’ve ever gotten, but it was also a major change for my family, especially for my brother. I wanted to make sure that Royal could adjust, so we still talk on FaceTime almost every day.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I thought that since I couldn’t spend time with my family in person, I would try getting involved here in New York.  So I did some research and found AHRC. The organization provides different support for individuals with developmental disorders and their families.  

One of the cool services AHRC offers is called Sibshops, workshops just for kids between the ages of 5 and 13 who have brothers and sisters with disabilities like autism. They play games, make arts & crafts and have time to discuss whatever’s on their minds. My sister and I didn’t really go to things like that growing up, so I went to check out the program.

I walked into a room, and the students were doing a theater activity. Everyone got into a line, taking turns trying to make the person in front laugh. The kids were yelling silly words like “potato,” dancing crazy, doing an impression of a California valley girl.  Then they acted out different emotions, excitement, anger, confusion.

After that, I got to sit down and talk with them. I noticed that the group was so diverse, with kids of different backgrounds and interests. All of the sibs in this group have brothers or sisters with autism. I introduced myself and asked them questions about being a sibling, and we had a lot in common. It was like talking to myself at their age.

“What is the hardest thing about having a brother or sister with autism?”

One boy said, “When she has a tantrum.”  

“He gets what he wants but he doesn’t deserve it,” a girl chimed in.

Another described her brother, “He’s an 18 year old with the mind of a 2 year old.”

I asked them, “What can you talk about with Sibshop friends that you can’t talk about with typical friends and family?”

They all know what it’s like to have a sibling with autism.

One girl told me that she felt that her Sibshop friends were the only people who really understand her. She felt that her parents didn’t care about her because they were too busy taking care of her sibling, and my heart broke.  

Siblings of people with autism are usually apart of that person’s life longer than anyone else. Caring for a sibling with autism is a big responsibility that comes with tough challenges. Many of these young people will eventually make important decisions for their brother or sister.

Workshops like this are so helpful, because they give young siblings a safe place to connect with others. In Sibshops, the kids also find support and gain confidence that will prepare them for the future.

“What is the coolest thing about having a brother or sister with autism?”

One person said, “He always wants to play.”

“She knows how to make me smile,” another said.

One girl paused, and said, “My sibling is autistic. And I like that because it makes my family unique and different from others.”


  1. Juan

    I really liked this article because I personally know someone with autism and it can sometimes be hard for me to get along with them and this blog sort of inspired me to do think of ways to have fun with the person.

  2. Rachael

    I liked this article because I have alot of friends at my school with autisim and other intulectual disabilitys and it realy gave me an insight on what life was like to be living with a special kid. I kindof got the trait of hanging out with special kids from my mom because she is a special education teacher. I love to talk to them and play with the students.

    • Juan

      I really liked this blog because I used to think people with autism were annoying and wrong,but now I know that it’s not their fault that they are like that and that it can be hard for siblings of autistic people to deal with them so it made me understand a little bit more of the situation.

  3. Allyssa Steinlfson

    Good Job

  4. Chloe Stephens

    My cousin who I see daily is like a real sister to me , she has autism and its really hard because a lot of kids make fun of her and it’s heartbreaking. She broke my Nintendo do one time and I wasn’t mad at her because I know she can’t control what happens sometimes., as she gets older I worry more about though

  5. Madelyn

    My two year old cousin has autism. We all watch him like he’s so cute and think he will just start to talk and stop ignoring us anytime now but deep down we know he’s not. His sister thinks that no one even knows she exists when he’s around. It all breaks my heart.

  6. megan mcnally

    I’m autistic, I know what it feels like to be different, sometimes I feel like I am too different to be alive, but I remind myself that I was brought here for a reason, a reason to live. I love my family and life. 🙂

    • Captain Phasma

      That’s really inspiring

    • Paul Richard Schreckhise

      Hi my name is Paul what grade are you in i’m in fifth grade i’m 11 my favorite subject is science whats yours I collect Pokemon cards and I think you would be a really great friend.

    • Rachael

      It’s great that you feel that way! Autisim isnt a bad thing and i dont understand why people make it out to be. It is just another trait to make the average person more unique!

  7. Mallory

    My younger sister has autism. I have learned a lot about it in the past years. Sibshop sounds so much fun and I definitely would want to go there. It is great that you guys are spreading awareness. I can connect to a lot of this in the article. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Kamryn Schmidt

    I’m sorry for your brother.

  9. annette spallino

    Thanks for coming to meet all the kids at AHRC-NYC Sibshop. We enjoyed having you spend the day with us. This program is a tremendous help to boys and girls who are siblings to someone with special needs.

leave a comment