Wednesday 3 January 2018

Siblings and Autism.

Myself and my husband Scott, a.k.a. Daddy Superhero, have always been very conscious of the fact that at times O misses out on participating in activities that she loves due to the fact that L simply doesn't cope well in certain environments.

O has always been a sociable child - at times she may have taken a while to warm up to those around her, but there has rarely been an activity that she hasn't wanted to participate in. She does struggle participating in activities that require her to be social with children but she will usually just get on with the activity by staying by herself.

L on the other hand, from a very young age, struggled in over crowded, noisy and busy places. His go to method to get away from the busyness was, and still is, is to physically run away from the area, or he enters into meltdown mode due to being over stimulated.

In the past prior to receiving L's diagnosis of ASD, as a family we would put off going pretty much anywhere so that we would avoid a meltdown. And if ever there was a change in routine or if we had to change the activity that we were going to be going to, cue a meltdown from L.

But to O's credit, not once has she ever complained that she has missed out an activity because of her little brother not coping. She simply accepted that the reason we didn't go is so that L wouldn't become distressed.

When we received L's diagnosis everything made sense. The saying "behaviour is not done on purpose, it is done for a purpose" rang very true.

The more that we examined the reasons for L's behaviour, the more we began to understand what he was trying desperately to tell us.

After receiving L's ASD diagnosis, we sat down with O and explained to her, using a story book, that L had autism and that was why he did what he did but that his autism did not excuse his behaviour if he was misbehaving.

After this O showed just how caring, compassionate and tolerant that she really was towards L. She has always been this way, but her compassion increased ten fold. She became even more protective of L - god forbid if anyone picked on her little brother. And when L was in meltdown mode in public, she would explain to complete strangers why L was melting down.

But she has never shown any resentment towards L, and for this I am so very proud of her and very grateful.

It makes my heart sing very happy tunes that O is the child that she is. But there have been many a time when I have felt incredibly guilty as I've felt as though I've been devoting so much time to L and yet I feel as though O misses out. I felt, and still do at times, as though I was spending very little time with O.

At the beginning of last year Daddy Superhero and I decided that we would make a conscious effort to ensure that O, and at times L, didn't miss out on doing what they wanted to do because of their sibling.

Just like it is important for us parents to have "me" time, every child in the family needs "their" time with Mummy and Daddy.

So what can we do as parents to ensure that siblings don't miss out on their own special time?

As a family we ensure that we make time with both O and L. This time is just for them, their one on one time with myself or with Daddy Superhero. Juggling the demands and individual needs of all family members can be challenging for all families - the lack of hours in the day and some times the lack of energy can both cause challenges. But for us it is incredibly important that both O and L have their own time where we are able to focus just on them eve when we are exhausted. Sometimes it is as simple as a coffee date with Mum or Dad, sometimes it is an outing to the movies. For L he just loves going to a playground. But what is important in every one of the outings is that it is one on one time devoted to O or L. Phones are ignored and we devote all of our attention to O or L.

We ensure that we go on family outings on a regular basis, but at times and depending on what the outing is, O will go on an outing with one of us while the other stays home with L. And surprising L is incredibly happy to stay at home - he has the full attention of whoever stays home with him, he has all of his beloved superhero toys and he doesn't have to share with his sister!

If L knows that a particular outing is going to be noisy or busy, he will happily choose to stay at home. And if he is aware in advance that our plans have changed, then again he is happy to stay at home! L is my little homebody!

There are activities that should be shared by the whole family so as to create those precious family memories but then there are activities that don't necessarily have to be attended by the entire family.

If we are on a family outing and one of my little superheroes enters into meltdown mode - one of us will stay with the little superhero who is in meltdown mode to help them to calm and the other will participate in the outing with the happy little superhero. This way, we don't all miss out. It is incredibly difficult to walk away from a child melting down and I always have to remind myself that the other little superhero needn't miss out. In saying this, most of the time the happy little superhero will want to go back to check on their sibling! They really don't like seeing each other in distress.

We ensure that we are fair with both O and L. As I have said many times on previous occasions, autism does explain O and L's behaviour at times, but it certainly doesn't excuse their behaviour if they are misbehaving. In our house, rules are rules and there are consequences for breaking those rules. If either O or L are particularly rough with one another, we will sit down and talk with them as to why they behaved the way that they did. Nine times out of ten there is an underlying cause for the behaviour but they certainly don't get away with it. We will talk with both of them about what they could have done instead of lashing out at the other and then O or L have to deal with the consequence of their actions. This way neither O or L can complain that we're favouring one child over the other.

And if O or L are having a particularly tough day, we'll sit down with both of them separately and explain to them that maybe, just maybe, we need to give the other a little slack for the day. They both understand when the other is having a tough day and are happy to occasionally let the rules slide for each other. At times, they know that the other is having a tough time before we have realised so they will remind Daddy Superhero and myself that we need to let the rules go for the day.

We openly acknowledge and celebrate the relationship that O and L have. We foster their sibling relationship and point out all of the positive aspects that we love. They may argue and bicker like every other brother and sister but deep down, the love that they have for each other is magnificent. We want them to see the positives in their sibling relationship.

We encourage both O and L to participate in activities in which they are able to make connections with other children. They both need their own time to participate in activities that they love without having to "share" their friends with each other.

There are times in which the focus of the entire family should just be on one child, rather than on both. When one of my little superheroes achieves something great, like receiving an honour certificate at school, we celebrate their efforts. The number of honour certificates that O received at school last year far outnumbered the number that L received and when L realised this he did become quite despondent in his own abilities. When this occurred, we pointed out all the great things that he had achieved through the early intervention centre that he was attending or we'd highlight a new skill that he had mastered so that L could see that he too was doing great things.

A family tradition that we started in 2017 centers around telling each other about the favourite part of our day or telling each other one good thing that happened that day as we were eating dinner. This serves several purposes - it assists O and L to focus on the positive parts of their day instead of dwelling on the negative. Telling each other about our favourite parts of the day also means that O and L could see that even though at times we may have all been on the same outing, everyone can have a different perspective on what they thought was the best part. Both O and L love this part of our day - quite often after the other has finished talking, they will chime in with "wow, that sounded like fun" or "next time, can I come too!" And quite often, if it is an outing that one of the little superheroes didn't want to participate in, they can hear just how great it actually was and they will want to participate next time.

We've found that by doing all of these things, touch wood, neither O nor L are showing any resentment to the each other. They understand that, at times, they need all of the attention of either myself or their Daddy, but that in the long run, neither is missing out on one on one attention from us.

What do you do to foster the relationship with all of your children? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.


  1. I really love this especially the part about the meltdowns. It's important that O doesn't feel as if she is missing anything because of L.

  2. I absolutely love the photos of your superheroes! They are so sweet. I wish I had some wonderful advice on fostering relationships with children, but I am also just learning and trying to figure it out with my little one. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story.

  3. It sounds like you all are doing a great job to make sure both Of and L get what they need! I love the tradition you guys started about telling each other something good about your day, I'd love to do that once my kids getnold enough!

  4. I take off my hat in front of you, totally love every effort you do, and I know that these aren't efforts, they came from your heart, but still I want to recognize you ♥ I also love the quote: "behaviour is not done on purpose, it is done for a purpose", it took me a couple of minutes to really understand it, and yes, it's very true.

  5. My kiddos are still young but I am struggling to find the balance. But I'll get there. You're doing a great job!

  6. Wow, you and your husband are great parents. It's very important for both kids to know that no one is missing out because of the other. That pictures are so cute.


I would love to hear your thoughts on my blog. I do read all the comments that are posted. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jen xx