Sibling Snapshots: Living with Youth who have Autism or Down syndrome

barbara mandleco, Jessica Rosemann, Aimee Palicharla, Tammy Rampton, Tina Dyches, Donna Freeborn


This study used photography to capture important symbols in the lives of 14 siblings of 13 youth with autism (ASD) and 16 siblings of 15 youth with Down syndrome (DS) and then determine if there were differences in the photographs taken according to the type of developmental disability, age, and gender of the sibling. Analysis revealed two types of photographs: people, including family members and non-family, and non-people, including objects, animals, and buildings/scenery. Siblings of youth with DS took a higher percentage of photographs of people and a higher percentage of photographs of family members than siblings of youth with ASD.  There were also differences according to age and gender in the people/non people and within family photographs. The 7-9 year olds took a higher percentage of snapshots of typically developing siblings and him/herself whereas the 10- 12 year olds and the 13-16 year olds took a higher percentage of photographs of the youth with the disability than the younger age group. Sisters took a higher proportion of people photographs than brothers; whereas brothers took a higher proportion of family photographs than sisters. Indeed, results validate the importance of gathering data in an open-ended manner directly from young people, confirm the use of photography as a method of facilitating communication with young people about important symbols in their lives, and indicate there are differences in the percentage of photographs taken of people/non people and family/non family according to disability, age and gender of siblings.


Autism; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Down syndrome; Siblings; Photography; Photo elicitation

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