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Should My Daughter Be Responsible for Her Older Brother With Autism on the School Bus?

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We recently moved across the country and my children are learning more responsibility and still getting to know the neighborhood. Taking the bus home from school has been a little perplexing at times. We haven’t been sure where the bus stop is, what time it will come, and so many other scenarios.

One day my daughter walked into the house from school, her brother, who is on autism spectrum, wasn’t with her. The bus driver had pulled away. She immediately let me know that her brother didn’t get off the bus with her, so I put in a call to the bus driver. In the mean time, the bus driver backed down the street to let my son out at our house. The next day I received a phone call from the bus driver.

Some of the first words I heard were:

“She needs to take more responsibility for her brother.”

Our daughter is 11. Our son is 13; he’s not helpless, but he does have disabilities.

Should our daughter take more responsibility for her brother?

If you have a child with a disability and one or more that do not, chances are you experience a lot of parenting guilt when it comes to your child who doesn’t have a disability. The child with a disability, due to the pressing nature of their needs, often gets the most attention. You do everything you can to make it up to your other children, but you feel guilty.

Many of us are going to have a conversation one day with our child without a disability. We will need to talk about how they are going to have to take over in caring for their sibling when we are gone. No parent ever wants to lay that at the feet of their child. You have all the money you need to leave for the care of your child with a disability? Great! But there will always be decisions that have to be made for their sibling’s care. It’s something you can’t ever walk away from.

I’ve pondered those words from the bus driver in my heart ever since.

When I take everything into consideration, I have to say she did just what she should.

If her brother chooses not to get off the bus, her 75 pounds to his 130 pounds is not going to get him off. She came and immediately let me know the situation.

But more importantly, she’s 11.

She is going to have plenty of time in her future where she will have to take charge of her brother. At 11, it’s not fair to give her that responsibility now. She deserves the chance to be an 11-year-old girl who talks and laughs with her friends on the bus. The chance to be her own person, and have fun without the responsibility of always wondering if her brother is being safe, doing what he needs to, is important! She already takes on far more responsibility for him than she should. How could I possibly ask her to take on more?

This line we walk as parents is often confusing, and you find yourself always second guessing if you are making the right choices.

But I’m not second guessing this one.

A version of this story originally appeared on

Photo credit: LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

Originally published: March 9, 2019
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