When we applied to adopt, our birth daughter was being assessed for Autism. We worried that our agency might think her needs would make adoption the wrong choice for our family. What I have found is the absolute opposite. Here is my story.

My sister and I are both adopted, so my daughter has grown up knowing about adoption. But prospective siblings are always assessed as part of the adoption process, and we knew that could be very daunting for her. 

I knew our daughter needed time and space to build trust, so I worked with our agency to design a process that would work for her. We started with her just being present when the social worker visited. Then we started planning some craft and baking sessions to do with a support worker. Gradually I was able to step back. They began to talk about what it would be like when her sibling arrived.

Because of her own challenges, she was amazingly empathetic about what a child joining our family might feel. It soon became clear to everyone that she was going to be an incredible and very insightful big sister. 

She has a strong need to feel in control, so we kept her in the loop throughout the assessment process. We made a visual map, printed out a picture of her and moved her along the timeline as we made our way forward. Once we were linked, we were able to share our son’s picture and parts of his story with her. We let her decorate his bedroom and have pretty much free rein - she turned it into a calming sensory heaven.

Introductions worked well for our daughter because they were so carefully planned. She had her own laminated copy of the plan, and even on the days she wasn’t involved she knew exactly what was happening. Going to meet him for the first time did heighten her anxiety – so many new things to navigate – but the meeting was short and the foster carers were amazing. It couldn’t have gone better. 

We made sure that once we brought our son home we had a plan for what she could do if she felt overwhelmed and needed some space. Really simple things had the potential to upset her, like changes to our washing powder. I wanted to use the same as the foster carer so it was familiar for our new son, but that presented a challenge to our daughter. She decided it would be ok as long as her bed and soft toy was washed in the scent she was used to. 

Our adopted children need routine, boundaries, and a therapeutic parenting approach. They often have sensory issues, fear of new experiences, and may struggle with communication. Already being parents to a child with autism meant we were well equipped. 

Our daughter simply understands our son, sometimes better than us. If he’s upset because it’s a non-school uniform day or someone’s accidentally put beans on his plate - she gets it. She can often tell he’s going to get overwhelmed before he can. We feel incredibly fortunate to have watched her blossom into the wonderful big sister she is. And I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that, thanks to her, our son will make an incredible big brother when we, hopefully, grow our family again through adoption.   


 Author - @Sarah_eternally_endo (Instagram) is an adopted adult, bio Mum and Mum through adoption.