I have been looking around for ages for information on needs of the siblings of special needs kids. However, most of the scientific research is dedicated to actual disabilities and the person with the diagnosis–not the effects of the disability on their siblings.
**Sidebar: I feel like this problem might reflect the exact issue with autism sibs. Overlooked much? Sheesh.**
So. All you people I love so much in the social sciences. Don’t you want to be the one who got that going?
Until my people get on that, I spent some time searching the interwebs with my autism parent glasses on and developed a special new series focused *JUST ON THE SIBLINGS!*.
And I’ve put it to you my way. Know what? I hate “simple” ideas that really require you to hire in tens of thousands of dollars worth of help. And I’m not interested in making suggestions that make my autism parent friends choke on their water and destroy their laptops in fits of rage.
I’ve written this series so that there’s a little for everyone–not just parents, but family members, friends, fellow parishioners too.
This, of course, is *NOT* an exhaustive list. I’m just getting us started here. I want to hear from you in the comments or on social media–what do you do for the autism sibs in your community to contribute to their well being and mental health?
Without further ado, this week’s topic…
#1: They are seen and heard.
As far as parents go, I’m not going to suggest you create standing dates with each individual kid or creative ten-minutes before-bed-things. Actually, if you parent a special needs child, we just start out with the understanding that nothing is protected. Especially if you go out of your way to call it protected.
Aim for quality rather than quantity.
Look for the opportunities, and grab them when they show up.
For parents, I know most of the moments our typical children are vying for our attention are already occupied by autism. But when we do have a couple moments here and there that are quiet, let’s focus on the quality of that response.
What are we doing during those moments? Zoning out? Silently resenting this child’s needs? Anticipating the next challenge?
Heh. Me too, guys. I know that feel.
And some schmo on the internet telling you “but it’s important to do” doesn’t make it easier to accomplish. Even if I am that schmo.
But this guy’s pretty great, so I figure if he can try try again…
“Every day I say to myself, today I will begin.”
St. Anthony the Great
I can, too.
For friends, it’s a similar seek-the-opportunity approach. Here’s a few things friends have done for us:
- Talk to them at church. Ask about anything except for their sibling.
- Stop by their house and take the kid out for ice cream. Or a walk. Or just run errands. They love it, trust me.
- Write a note to let them know you’re thinking about them. Doesn’t have to be anything heartfelt or serious, either. Nora gets fairly frequent postcards from a friend full of knock-knock jokes and it is THE. BEST.
No matter who you are to an autism sibling, whatever effort you make toward this end probably isn’t going to be sustainable if you try to make it into a standing date on your calendar. Might be possible. But it’s okay if it isn’t.
Just look for the opportunity and seize it. They’ll see you trying.
Let me know what you think of this week’s installment in the sibling series. Next week we’ll be talking about siblings having a life outside their autistic sibling, and how we can honor that.
Can’t wait to hear from you all! ❤