#035 Amy Patterson: Solutions for Siblings

fasd success show Aug 23, 2020


This is definitely a topic of great interest for caregivers. Lately, there have been requests for more information on how to help siblings navigate, respond, and manage their relationship with a brother or sister who has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. You asked … I delivered! But before we get going, maybe hit pause and gather your kids so they can listen and learn from someone who has been there! 

Amy Patterson has a younger brother with FASD. It was this relationship that ignited her passion to work with children who present with externalizing behaviour. She grew up immersed in the everyday stress that her brother faced due to developmental, social, emotional, and cognitive deficits, and the resulting impact it had on the entire family. Even at a young age, she felt like the world around him could and should do a lot better in setting him up for success. Accordingly, this reality led to her obtaining a Bachelor of Applied Child Studies degree and subsequent employment in the child and youth development field. Now, she is completing a Master’s in Counselling Psychology and then plans to register as a psychologist in Alberta so she can support families and children impacted by neurodevelopmental disorders. 

With the value of hindsight, and her background and education, Amy is able to articulate exactly what life is like living with a sibling who has FASD.  

The first time I really started to advocate for him or notice that things seemed unfair was when he was in school. At (the age of) 14 I wrote a letter to Children’s Services and his school because they talked about whether he was safe enough to stay home with us. I wrote why he needed us as his family but also why we needed him. He was just my brother and I needed him home.

We talk about how this desire to help and how that advocacy was a springboard for further education, as well as: 

  • How her parents told her about her brother’s disability and tips for caregivers who need to have that conversation. 
  • An honest reflection on how she felt as a sibling and thoughts on the future and possibility of taking on the role of support person after her parents. 
  • Some suggestions and strategies caregivers can implement, including a brilliant idea that I know if you aren’t doing, will make a definite difference in sibling relations. 

I have siblings with Fetal Alcohol in my family. And this interview definitely brought up some memories I wasn’t expecting or that I forgot. I think it’s important to keep talking with your kids, even as teens, and understand this is hard for them as well. Let me know in the comments what you think and if you have any suggestions or solutions to add to help another family struggling with sibling rivalry. 


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