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Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2019 May 27;28(2):759-767. doi: 10.1044/2018_AJSLP-18-0088. Epub 2019 May 15.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sibling Relationships: Exploring Implications for Intervention Using a Family Systems Framework.

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Communication Sciences and Disorders, Ohio University, Athens.


Purpose There is currently a very limited scope of research in the field of speech-language pathology on sibling involvement in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Principles of family systems theory (FST) recognize the interrelatedness and dynamic nature of the family unit, making it a relevant and useful guiding framework for future research and practice on sibling involvement in intervention. Method In this article, core principles of FST are reviewed, followed by the state of research related to sibling relationships in ASD, and roles of typically developing siblings and siblings with ASD in intervention programs. Implications for adopting an FST framework as well as considerations and future directions in this area of research and clinical practice are discussed. Results According to the principles of FST on the inclusion of siblings in treatment, there are several considerations to be made at the level of the child with ASD, the sibling(s), and the family unit. Factors such as developmental level, communication status, and areas of strength, challenge, and interest are key features of the children and family that will need to be addressed in order to promote positive sibling involvement and family functioning. Conclusions The development of family-centered sibling intervention programs for individuals with ASD is an area of research that warrants further exploration. With the guidance of the FST framework, researchers and clinicians can work to develop innovative interventions that consider the unique characteristics of each family to optimize outcomes at the levels of each individual, the sibling relationship, and the family as a unit.


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