Sibling Rivalry – Siamese Twins in the Freak Show Tent
When we were first told about our daughter’s diagnosis, we were given so much information we couldn’t possible process it all. We also had two other children at the time, and a new baby on the way. We didn’t know what we know now, so we didn’t really know what to say – to other adults or to the other children.
I think that we are lucky. My husband and I are pretty straight shooters. So, with a lack of a better coping strategy, we just told the older kiddos that their sister was not deaf, like we thought, but she was autistic. They said okay, and for a long time that was enough.
What Did You Say? I Can’t Hear You!?
It didn’t take long for the older kids to start seeing things that were clearly not just a possible hearing loss. For example, one time we were at a park and our daughter ran towards a small pond as fast as she could. She was only about 3 years old. Her old brother, only 5 at the time, ran after her in a panic and tackled her to the ground. He and our oldest child somehow always knew that their little sister needed just a little more looking after.
You Don’t Love Me As Much as You Love Her, Do You?
While the older kids totally understood their little sister needed more attention, they didn’t always like it. They often felt neglected and jealous of their sister who got a lot more attention from both my husband and I – and also from each other. Unlike many other families, our children’s peers were great. They never teased them about their autistic sister and were often very sweet and helpful. However, this also was a problem once in awhile, as they wanted their friends to hang out with them and not worry about their different little sister.
The Siamese Twins
While every once in awhile we need to remind the bigs that we love them as much as we love their sister. It helped a lot that we made sure to have one on one time with each of them. It also helped that we gave everyone little jobs, including their sister. Everyone was part of the overall family and had to help. It was a huge deal for our family to make sure the focus was on our family unit, and not just one their sister.
But, I have to tell you, the best thing that we had going for us was the baby of the family. He spent his entire life in ABA therapy with his older sister – even though he isn’t autistic. The two of them have been inseparable for the last four years. We are now at the point where our youngest child has probably developmentally surpassed his sister. However, he is her chief advocate. The fact that they hang out together a lot and the bigs get time to do their own thing and be with my husband and I has really helped.
It Ain’t About You Boo
As I mentioned a bit above, the biggest thing you can do is remember that you have a family; You don’t have an autistic child and then a family. Treat the family like the central focus. Maybe schedule regular family days or family nights each week. Try to spend time doing something all of the kiddos can do. Having shared family experiences that are not just focused on your autistic child can go a long way in combating the rivalry.
Communication is the key to helping the entire family run smoothly. If you are not sure what to do, then ask your kiddos. Most likely they will tell you. Good luck!