Author Information

Mary Canha


Autism (sometimes called “classical autism”) is the most common condition in a group of developmental disorders known as the autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests (NINDS, NIH, 2009). Other ASDs include Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS). Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have autism. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females. (NINDS, NIH, 2009)

The rise in the rate of the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders makes it essential for social workers to gain insight into its impact on families including the siblings. Limitations in social interaction and empathy in a child with autism can have both positive and negative impacts on the siblings of these children. So what coping strategies do these siblings use to manage their reactions to the challenges presented by their autistic sibling? I interviewed seven siblings of autistic children to contribute to the knowledge that helps social workers better serve these families by gaining access into the siblings’ concerns and how they manage those concerns.

Note on the Author

Mary Canha is a senior majoring in social work with a minor in psychology. Her research was made possible with funding from a 2009 ATP summer research grant under the mentorship of Dr. Lucinda King-Frode and was presented at NCUR 2010.

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