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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dougley

How to respond when a younger sibling is copying behaviour

It is completely normal for younger children to imitate their siblings. If you have an autistic child, you might see younger siblings copy behaviours that are more often ASD-specific. While much of this imitation is harmless, it can be tricky to handle if the behaviour is more harmful (e.g. severe meltdowns, self-injury, or aggression). Here are some tips to help navigate this!

  1. Think about how often it has happened. Is your child just trying the behaviour out? If so- it's quite likely it'll pass. Or- are you seeing a behavioural pattern where you might need to intervene or respond differently? If you said yes to the last question, keep reading!

  2. Think about why your child is repeating the behaviour. Are they getting anything out of it? This might be getting access to something they want, getting out of something they don’t like, or getting a reaction or connection with a parent or other person. If we know why the behaviour is continuing, this will help us know how to respond.

  3. Teach your child what to do instead. For example, if your child is screaming because they are finished eating, teach them what to say instead of screaming (e.g. “all done”). If your child is screaming because they want something, give them the language to ask for what they want.

  4. Refrain from giving a big reaction. If your child seems to be seeking a reaction, refrain from saying too much or reprimanding. Instead, remain neutral and calm. When you do see positive behaviour, react and praise A LOT!

Questions? Want to know more? Feel free to book a complimentary consultation with our BCBA Alisa Gagne by calling 519.751.0728 or emailing

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