Having a sibling on the autism spectrum
Thinking about cause
The cause of autism is still not known, though current thinking is that there are probably several contributory factors, including genetics and environmental factors, rather than one single cause. “The exact cause of autism is still being investigated. Research into causes suggests that a combination of factors - genetic and environmental - may account for differences in development.” (NAS 2016). Many people had wondered about the causes of autism and a few had actively tried to find out more information about the condition. Some felt it was probably a hereditary condition and they thought about the implications of this for any children they may have. Other people said they hadn’t really thought about cause at all.
Steph was surprised to come across someone who thought autism was caused by bad parenting.
I don’t think problems. I think I’m occasionally surprised by attitudes and opinions around disability in general. I know...Because I value young people, well I value people so much, whatever their levels and whatever their abilities are and whatever the skills are, it can sometimes come as a surprise to me when people don’t, when people are rude, and that can be surprising and sometimes quite hurtful, even though they’re not saying it about my brother. I think it kind of, it reflects on me like that. I came across a girl not so long ago that asked me what autism was caused by, and if it was due to bad parenting. And she didn’t know that I had a sibling with autism, but it still absolutely surprised me that people still had this thought, this thought and opinion that that’s what it might be, and I was kind of, oh, oh, I thought we were past that. And I wasn’t upset or angry or anything like that, but I was just very surprised and, and kind of re-educated them and kind of said, “Oh no, this is what it is. It’s genetic. It’s, you know, there’s difference in brain chemistry, there’s difference brain structure, that kind of thing. You know, children with autism, it’s a lifelong learning condition, that kind of thing. So I don’t think I ever been, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything very negative. I’ve been surprised. I’ve had to re-educate people. I’ll always, if there’s a reason to I always say, “I have a sibling with autism.”
“There are probably aspects of all of us that are on the spectrum”
Some people could identify autistic characteristics in themselves or other family members and several thought there was a genetic basis to autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), although a ‘gene for autism’ has not been identified. The psychiatrist had told one person that autism was “probably genetic but there wasn’t any reason for the rest of us to worry”. Others took the genetic link more seriously and looked into the likelihood of having children on the spectrum themselves.
Lucy thought autism was more of a recent thing in her family and so it would not affect her...
Steph had researched her chances of having a child with autism but wasnt thinking about having...
Some people worried about having a child on the spectrum, while others said it wouldn’t bother them. Those who worried thought about the implications for caring for their own child as well as their sibling in the future. One person felt sad knowing she could be “carrying a gene that could potentially upset another life”. A few people were emphatic that they wouldn’t have children themselves.
Sophie wondered how she would cope with having a child on the autistic spectrum when she was also...
Graham did not think autism was genetic, but discussed the possibility of his children having...
Katherine was unsure of the hereditary nature of ASD and discussed it with her friends. She would...
Yes. I said to my friends, and they say “Why would they?” Yes, that would petrify me. I don’t know what I’d do because its strongly influenced my … I’d really have to consider having children. I don’t know how hereditary - is that the word? - It is. But if I had a child that ended up like my brother I’d want to smack myself, and it’s something you can’t predict, and I’d hate to feel that disappointed in the child, because I know that’s what I would have been doing. If I’d known that there was that possibility. So to have a child with that in mind and then if became true, I’d feel terrible about having the kid, which isn’t what everyone wants.
One woman, who also had a son with learning difficulties, had taken her daughter for genetic testing, but the blood tests were clear. Her mother had always said that her brother had been deprived of oxygen at birth.
“It’s just something I would take in my stride and adapt to”
Other people thought that if they had a child on the spectrum, they would be able to draw on their experiences of growing up with their sibling. Other people didn’t think about it; either they weren’t at a point in their lives where they were thinking about having children, or they thought there was no point in thinking about it.
Jenni says theres no point in worrying about it; just cross that bridge if it comes to it.
Amy initially thought she would not like to have children, but changed her mind because of the...
Yes, that’s what my initial thoughts were if, I thought, I don’t know, I think my views have changed. I thought at the time like if it was hereditary then I wouldn’t have children at all, but now, I think I would even if they were autistic. I think it would be okay, because, because of having Harry as my brother, I sort of like understand what it’s like, but yeah. So I think I would have children.
Last updated August 2018.