Autism Awareness – S is for Sibling

I am continuing with my Autism Awareness posts, which started with a brief description and my acronym for the word autism.  If you missed my original post, you can read it here.
I will never forget the day several years ago when my younger son very loudly declared, “I hate autism.”  Now, as a protective Mom who wasn’t thinking or hearing clearly (obviously), I heard, “I hate my brother.”  Whoa!  Not cool at all and I believe I told him so at the time.  Hey, remember, I was a Momma bear hearing hate towards her son.  The details are hazy.  Give me a break already.
After I grounded him for a year calmed down and tried to put myself in his shoes, I remember (yes, this part is clear to me) explaining to him that it was certainly okay to hate autism, but those types of feelings should never be directed at his brother.  Quite frankly, I don’t care very much for autism either.  Honestly, it sucks…..sometimes.  At the same time, though, it is the best gift we were given as a family.   When you are a sibling though, a younger sibling, of a kid with autism, it is just not fun.  

Nicholas has enough to worry about. 

  • Trying to fit in at school (he just started middle school)
  • The beginning of adolescence (crazy hormones)
  • Learning to really love himself, let alone his brother
  • Finding comfort in his own skin and with who he is as a person
  • Mean teachers
  • Bullies
  • Girls (yes, besides his wonderful Mom)

Yeah, I do get it a little bit, even if he doesn’t realize it right now.

When I try to imagine, I mean really imagine, what it’s like for Nicholas, I think about what it should be like for a boy who has a big brother to look up to.  You know, a normal brother, like on the Brady Bunch or something.
Honestly, there is no normal or perfect sibling relationship.  I think that’s a bunch of crap, to be honest.  I do feel, however, that it’s a must to recognize the needs of siblings of kids with autism, or with any disability for that matter.  Just because the entire family lives with the diagnosis by default,  doesn’t mean the sibling shouldn’t get to feel normal at least some of the time.  Sure, they should gain compassion and understanding and empathy and dignity toward others, but they shouldn’t have to become little adults.  Their needs and desires shouldn’t be cast aside because the diagnosed child’s needs take up so much of everyone’s time. 
If you have a child who is a sibling of a child with autism try to remember to:

  • Give them your undivided attention on a regular basis.
  • Try to build in times out of the home for them to enjoy something special that they want to do.
  • Take them to a movie.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Talk to them.  Listen to them.

Talking and listening is important.  I mean talk and listen, as in listen between the lines.  Know that there might be more to what they are saying, but are a little nervous to share what they are really feeling.

If you come in contact with kids that you know have a sibling with a disability, show them some compassion and understanding.  It’s not easy for them.  Some days it downright sucks, okay?!
I am not saying they get a free pass and should get away with anything because that is certainly not how I treat my son, but I also get that his brother can be annoying or embarrassing.  After all, Nicholas is only 11 and his older brother at 15, should not be flapping his hands all the time or be constantly in our space and touching our necks, at least to Nicholas he shouldn’t.

My hope for the future is that Nicholas will grow into a wonderful young man with an eventual appreciation for having a brother with autism and the gifts it has actually brought to his life.  For now, though, I know that he loves his brother, but sometimes he just drives him crazy.  Wait!  That sounds pretty normal, right?

You can read another article on this topic that I wrote for A Child Writes.  It’s a wonderful new website dedicated to children as a safe place for them to visit online.

Comments

  1. I already read it but it certainly is well worth reading again. Keep up the good work!

  2. Cathy Let's Be Green Together says:

    Thanks Cheryle! This is a different post, though. You may have read the one here: http://achildwrites.com/blog/2010/03/21/siblings-of-children-with-autism-deserve-your-patience/ -which is a little different. 🙂

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