Siblings of Autism: Interview with My Son Spencer Barbera

Every family has their own stresses and unique circumstances. Our family just happens to have autism. As most of you know, my son, Lucas, was diagnosed with autism a day before his third birthday.  By that time I had already had another child, Spencer, who is now 22 years old and is sharing his experiences with other siblings of autism. Siblings of autism or other special needs children are often the most resilient and mature that I’ve ever met. Hearing insights from Spencer was eye opening and positive.  I know that every parent wants all of their children to be as safe as possible, as independent as possible, and as happy as possible, whether they have autism or not. But because parenting doesn’t have a finish line, it can be hard to determine whether you’ve accomplished those goals or not.

Some of you may know Spencer from my other training videos or articles. He’s made various appearances over the years in my work, but today he is twenty-two years old and entering medical school in the fall. Because of COVID, we’ve been blessed to have some extra time with him before he heads off into a new chapter in his life.

I wanted to talk with Spencer about what it’s like growing up with a brother with autism. We talk about some of the hardest parts of our family’s journey, whether he ever felt jealous of Lucas, and how we dealt with Lucas’s brief aggressive period. Spencer even takes the time to share advice for other siblings of autism.

As I said, I think that siblings of kids with autism or siblings of kids with disabilities are some of the most resilient and mature children out there. Siblings learn compassion at a young age, and parents can be proud of the relationships they can form with each other as a result. No matter what the unique circumstances your family finds itself in, there is room for all of your children to grow up to be happy, safe, and independent.


  • The best advice I received for how to create a strong family unit by adapting family configurations for our needs.
  • Spencers feelings on growing up with a brother with autism
  • One of the creative ways we respected Spencer’s need for boundaries and privacy.
  • How talking about autism helped Spencer on his medical school application.
  • What our family has decided to do about guardianship for Lucas.