Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Sibling's Perspective

I have two children. Both are fantastic little balls of energy and frustration. My daughter is seven and my son is five and they truly are best friends. Though they bicker and get under each other's skin, my son gets upset if his sister is not around, and she looks out for him if other kids get too rough or upset him.

We were at a new friend's house recently. I can't remember exactly what my son did but without missing a beat my daughter chimed in, "He has Asperger's, so he acts a little different than you'd expect sometimes." No excuses. She simply lets them know this is who he is and how he acts. Many times she advocates for him letting others know what some of his triggers are or what he enjoys talking about to make sure he feels included.

I'm not trying to say she's perfect. As a typical seven-year-old, she voices her frustrations. She's asked me why she can't have a brother like her other friends. She asks why her brother has to be so difficult sometimes. We sit and try to talk through it. I try to listen and help her voice her feelings, but I have to remember she is impacted differently as a sibling than I am as a parent.

As much as raising a child with special needs affects me as a parent, I know it also impacts my daughter to have a brother with Asperger's.  I recently read an article on Asperger's Experts from one of the founder's brother, Alex, titled "An Outside Perspective." Both founders of the website, Danny and Hayden, often share their insights and offer resources having to do with Asperger's. The reason they are experts on the subject is that they both have Asperger's.

Alex recently joined the staff and wrote an article discussing growing up with an older brother diagnosed with Asperger's. It really hit home for me. I often read and research articles to help me be a better parent for my son. I realized how much his diagnosis also affects his sister. Alex struck a chord when he wrote:
My outside perspective on Asperger’s that I developed throughout my entire life may not have helped me fully realize what it is like to have Asperger’s, but it certainly helped me develop a love and appreciation for every human being by teaching me to love and appreciate my brother for who he is. 
Siblings, relatives, and close friends of children with special needs have a unique perspective that cannot be found in books or articles. I really hope my daughter grows to not only embrace her brother's differences but to also be able to apply that acceptance to other's she meets.

Rachel H. plans to give her daughter some quality one-on-one time today. Her daughter asked to learn to crochet and Rachel has no clue where to start -- though does own a crochet hook and yarn, so on the right track. 

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