Eryl (18, sister of Ellis who has Asperger’s): I’m Eryl, I’m 18 and I’m at uni at the moment.
Bryce (10, brother of Xalie and Flynn who have autism): I am ten, turning eleven, and I am in year five.
Onscreen text: Finding out about your sibling’s diagnosis
Eryl: Umm, they pretty much just told me, and then Mum gave me stacks of books to read, and then I went to the psychologist, or whoever it was, and they explained it as well. Pretty much they just told me straight out everything that I needed to know.
Bryce: They just said they have autism. I was three when they were born, so they didn’t tell me much, they just said they’re different.
Onscreen text: Tell us about your sibling
Eryl: He’s a nice kid. He’s friendly... sometimes [laughs]. When he’s not feeling, you know, anxious or anything, he can be really friendly, very talkative. He can be a bit self-centred and stuff sometimes. He doesn’t take responsibility for anything, and he thinks everything is everyone else’s fault and I think that’s part of the Asperger’s. Like, a couple of days ago I think, he was in the kitchen and he did something not very clever, like, broke one of Mum’s mugs, and blamed Mum for putting the mug there, and stuff like that. So all the little things can get blown out of proportion, sometimes. It can be really hard. He has – not so much tantrums – but he can get like that a bit sometimes when things don’t go his way.
Bryce: They don’t act like normal kids. They act a bit different. Sometimes they act normal. Well, mostly they do actually. Xalie will be running up and down the house every day. She likes to do that. And Xalie will be making plasticine things. She’s very good at making plasticine figures. She usually makes mermaids, because she likes mermaids. Yeah, and Flynn: he likes cars and trains. Like he likes to go on the computer and play car and train games.
Eryl: We go out to movies and stuff, occasionally. Or we play ball games, or watch movies at home. Just, like, little stuff we do together. But nothing, like, really... We don’t do a lot, so it’s pretty good when we do do stuff.
Bryce: Xalie doesn’t usually like playing with anyone. She plays on her own. Flynn sometimes plays on his own and he sometimes plays with me. I don’t usually fight with Flynn, but sometimes I do.
Xalie: sometimes when she takes my stuff.
Eryl: We don’t get on very well at the moment. Just ‘cause we’re always, like, clashing, about everything [laughs]. I’ll come home from uni and as soon as I see him he’ll just be like ‘Oh, go away, I don’t want to talk to you.’ Or if I go ‘I have work I need to do on the computer, and I need to use it soon,’ he’ll just yell at me and say ‘No you can’t use it. Ever.’ And I’ll say I don’t need to use it now, I need to use it soon. And he’s like ‘well you’re not using it tonight because I’m playing games.’ Yeah, it’s a bit hard, at the moment. But it has definitely gotten better since he was little.’
Onscreen text: Schooling with your sibling
Bryce: Xalie goes to my school one day a week on Monday. And Flynn, he goes to my school every day. Flynn doesn’t usually play with other kids at school. He sometimes plays with us – with me and my friends. Well, he just watches us play.
Eryl: Umm, I didn’t see him that much at school but there were times when his aide would come in and be like ‘Oh we need you to do this for us, for him’ and drag me out of class so he could be, like, ‘Oh, he forgot his lunch.’ So it was a bit annoying. ‘Cause he would hang out where me and my friends would hang out at lunchtime, and be disruptive sometimes. I think primary school was a bit more difficult ‘cause we spent longer together and because he was in prep/grade one. Whenever they got in trouble, they’d always come in the grade five/six room, and get yelled at by the teachers. So that was a bit embarrassing whenever he’d turn up there. They’d be like ‘Oh, your brother’s in trouble again.’ ‘Oh, OK.’ [laughs]
Bryce: A year sixer said my brother’s weird so I had to tell him that he has autism.
Eryl: It’s been tough sometimes. Like when he’d get bullied at school and come home and be like: ‘Can you go talk to this kid?’ That would just be a hard thing to have to, like, go talk to this twelve-year-old and be, like, ‘why are you doing this? Why are you picking on my brother?’ They’ll be like, ‘oh, you know.’ They don’t really understand what’s different about him and you have to explain it.
I think a couple of them I got through to but some of them you just didn’t even bother talking to. You’d just look at them and be like, ‘Aargh. You’re going to be difficult for anyone, so...’ Generally we try and talk it out with him and give him strategies on how to deal with it next time.
Onscreen text: Helping your sibling
Bryce: As an older brother I feel like I have a role to look after them. And to keep them doing the right thing, keep them safe.
Eryl: I spent a lot of time having to... not look after him but help look after him, do stuff around the house. Umm, do a lot more things than, say, my friends do, but I guess that’s just what I’m used to.
Bryce: I help Mum out with Xalie and Flynn by, sometimes I walk Flynn to school, and I watch Xalie and Flynn while Mum sometimes just goes somewhere to talk to someone or just goes out for about ten minutes.
Eryl: I definitely feel like I have to keep an eye out on him, a lot, especially when he’s out, or when we were at school together.
Onscreen text: Support groups
Eryl: Once a month I go to my sibling support group. Or young carers support group. The one I go to is designed to just give kids who are siblings or carers of siblings or parents just a break. Once a month we go there, we get free food, which is good. Umm, and we just hang out and do stupid stuff, like activities and fun stuff so we don’t... It’s just to have a break. Umm, we do talk about it a little bit, yeah, it’s generally just so you can forget about everything and have some fun. Everyone’s really supportive. And some of them have to take care of their parents as well which is, like, more difficult for them I think. So everyone’s really supportive there. And when we talk about it, there’s no judgement or anything there. And so, if someone needs help outside of the group at any time, everyone’s pretty much ‘Oh, if you need any help, we’re here.’ And the person who runs it is really good like that. They’ll call up during the month and see how you’re going and see if you need any help. It’s really good. Having support is really very helpful. Knowing where to get that support is good.