Student Science

Intel ISEF 2013 Finalist Profile

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Sibs of the Spectrum: Evaluating Support Groups for Those Who Have a Sibling with Autism

Katherine Hufker

Lindbergh High School, St. Louis, MO

Sibling Support groups provide an opportunity for those who have a brother or sister with autism to meet others in a similar situation and learn more about their siblings. This project sought to determine whether these support groups help to improve sibling relationships. Participants were between 7 and 17 years old and had a sibling with autism who was at least 4 years old. The sibling’s relationship was determined using scores for warmth, parental attention, conflict, and whether or not they felt proud of their brother or sister, as determined by the Sibling Relationship Questionnaire. Before matching, those who had attended sibling support groups scored higher on all four measurements, though none was statistically significant. After matching for the age and gender of the sibling and individual with autism, the test group only outscored the control group in warmth. In addition, those participating in a support group reported that they felt more comfortable explaining autism to a family member (p=0.028), stranger (p=.063), familiar group (p=.034), or strange group (p<.001) than those that did not participate in a support group. This pattern stayed the same after matching for birth order and gender, with both the familiar group (p=.055) and strange group (p=.055) still statistically significant. To validate these findings, a similar study should be performed with a different design and more participants. These findings support the idea that sibling support groups can be beneficial for those who have a sibling with autism.

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