What must it be like to have a sibling with autism? We, as parents, connect with each other. We discuss all aspects of raising a child with autism. But with whom do all the siblings speak? Where can they turn? Do they even posess the ability at their young ages to know that their feelings are justified, and often quite similar to their parents?
My son's private school for children with autism is organizing an event for " Siblings and the Spectrum". I am taking Nicholas next week. I actually am a bit nervous for him. I would like to sit in for at least part of the time, hoping to hear a snipet of how these sibs really feel. I am eager for Nicholas to have this opportunity, but also nervous about what he might say and how I can help him through it. I want to have the perfect words ready to aid him. I want him to know how hard I know this is for him. I bear witness to how hard he has to work to have even the slightest bit of a connection to his siblings, whom both have autism.
When he does connect he and I really celebrate our victory together! Last night I was able to get Mia to say his name while she pointed to him. What an incredible grin he has when she is able to say his name, high five him, or tolerate a hug. The other day Ethan threw a ball back to him, and Nick screamed, "MOM did you SEE that?"
I think the most important thing is to help our typical children develop a bond with their disabled sibs. Also, let them know that they have a "say" in how things are handled when difficulties arise in the household dealing with autism. Autism is a huge part of our world as a parent, and we should never underestimate just how much it impacts their life as well.
I had Nick's parent teacher conference a few weeks ago. I was told that he works very hard to do his best and that he is a very compassionate friend. I remember last year when he was in preschool, his teacher told me he is always the first child to ask about a student when they are absent. She said he was always the first one on the "scene" when someone fell outside or had any minor injury in the classroom. So I have this pretty empathetic 5 year old. Cannot help but wonder if having siblings with autism has had anything to do with inspiring such a wonderful character trait. No, I do not wonder, I know that autism has played a big part.