3 Things Autism Siblings Need to Know: #2) They have a life outside their sibling

Thanks for coming back! It’s week two in my sibling series. Today, we’ll talk about the individual child, apart from their special needs sibling.

2Life outside

While the love these kiddos have for their autistic siblings is intense, and while the bond they have together has been hard-earned (even excruciatingly so), it does feel pretty good when friends and family recognize their individuality.

#2: They have (or should have) a life outside their sibling.

This is different from “independence,” because frankly, they’re forced into independence just plenty, thank you. Nora didn’t learn to tie her shoes until she figured it out on her own in the second grade. That’s because there was always something more pressing with William’s behavior. Nora is plenty independent, which, in truth, will probably work in her favor as she gets older.

But she also hates being alone. Because she. is. always. alone.

You know what she wants? To be in a ballet class and show up every week on time, and then have her whole family show up to her recital without anyone yelling at her to get in the van to protect her from a meltdown William’s having. Because her brother is capable of hijacking *even this moment.*

She wants to say, “you know what would be cool, Mom? It’d be cool to make some cat toys out of cut up sponges and felt, and donate them to the animal shelter,” and for me to go, “sure would be, honey. Let’s go to the dollar store right now.”

Now, it’s not that attempts aren’t affected all over the dang place. Autism doesn’t pack up very nicely just because you’re determined. In fact, science has (probably) shown that “determination” makes plans fail harder in direct proportion to the height of its stakes. But maybe some modifications are in order.

In fact, let’s take this approach:

Plan Ahead and Modify.

Maybe we create a carpool for ballet and set up babysitting or respite care three months ahead of the recital, or we experiment with cat toys by shredding newspapers until we have time to buy supplies.

You see, it’s not about sucking it up and saying yes. Because God only knows we want to. It’s about creatively finding realistic and sustainable ways to say yes.

Friends? I see you there. You know what you can do?

  1. Offer rides. Therapy commutes are the worst, and have a real tendency to make it pretty difficult to get everyone else where they need to go. You know how it’s ridiculous trying to get all your kids to all their different practices and whatnots right at dinner time? Now add food allergies (which is common in autism and eliminates all fast food) and three more hours of *daily* travel in there. Yeah.
  2. Go to their games, recitals, shows, presentations. Nothing makes them feel like they matter quite like this one. 🙂
  3. Ask for their thoughts in Sunday School. It depends on the kid, of course, because they might not be the sort who likes getting called on. But some kids are so used to getting overlooked that they forget to share. Try it.
  4. Launch a discussion on their favorite books and movies. Or whatever you can see they’re into. Kids are people (a fact I often forget), and people like to talk about what they like.

I hope these are helpful for your community. Comment below or find me on Facebook and let me know what you think, or what’s working for you in your family and your community.

Join me next week to talk about the third thing autism siblings need to know: They’re important to you. Thanks for stopping by!


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