Growing Up Autism: Sibling Relationships

It’s widely known that all siblings, no matter what, will fight from time to time. The concept of sibling rivalry is known in every family household. In mine, however, I feel that there is way too much fighting with my eleven-year-old brother, Peyton. I love him to death and I know he loves me just as much. Despite this, we are and have been described many times as polar opposites. For instance, I love physical attention and affection while Peyton hates it. Additionally, Peyton is a “neat freak” while I leave messes everywhere! Along with all of the other siblings in the world, Peyton and I fight. Nevertheless, I feel that my Autism plays a huge part in the amount that we fight.

One thing that siblings may do to each other is “stirring the pot” (as my family calls it). This is the same thing as “pushing someone’s buttons.” This probably happens at least a dozen times a day in our household. This in itself is very annoying to both my brother and I, along with my parents. On top of this, I have always had to work on letting things go. So when my brother “stirs the pot,” there are many times when I don’t know how to let it go. Instead, I often retaliate. Peyton is guilty for starting something but I am equally guilty for retaliating. One recent example of this was when Peyton had a group of five of his friends over for a sleepover. Besides me being on sensory overload with all of the noise going on, at one point Peyton said something to his friends about me that really made me mad. It was something about my maturity level. A few minutes later, I pulled him to the side and started insulting him about his maturity level (which looking back on, makes me seem even less mature)! This retaliation set the mood for the rest of the night and let me tell you, it wasn’t a pleasant one! Even though this retaliation wasn’t physical, it was still bad. There have also been some physical retaliations that have happened between my brother and I.

When I talk about physical retaliations, I don’t mean that I hit, punch, push, or kick him. I’m not physically aggressive with him, although I used to be in the past. When I talk about physical retaliation, I talk about things such as high-fiving, getting in his space, and giving him very strong and long hugs. Like I said in the first paragraph, Peyton absolutely hates being touched in any way, shape, or form unless he explicitly asks for it. As someone who loves physical attention/affection, Peyton’s wishes can sometimes be an issue for me. When Peyton and I fight, the vast majority of occurrences start with me giving Peyton a high-five, hug, or any of that sort against his wishes. I don’t like saying this but it’s important to note because it’s true… I really cannot help myself. I have been trying for years and years to come up with ways to respect Peyton’s wishes regarding physical boundaries but I’m still having trouble. Every time that I feel that I’m making some sort of progress, something happens that sets me back. It’s like every time I take two steps forward, I take three steps back. My brother is one who will hold grudges for a long time as well, which isn’t his fault. I realize that I need to make the first step towards change and every time I do, I feel accomplished until something minor happens that sets it all back to where it previously started. I just don’t know what I should do.

We are at a point in our relationship where Peyton doesn’t even want to touch me, let alone hug or high-five me. Every time that I want to touch him I’m faced with a decision: do I give him a high-five or hug against his will which sets our relationship back but gives me physical gratification, or do I respect his wishes which improves our relationship but has me feeling overwhelmed because I can’t show my affection? The obvious answer is that I need to respect Peyton’s wishes. I just need to learn how to implement this!

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