If you are too intent on winning, you will never enjoy playing.”
– Thomas Merton
Most of mom & dad’s time is spent trying to figure out and cope with Asperger Johnny. It’s pretty easy for brothers and sisters to feel resentful, neglected, left out, unappreciated etc. Life isn’t fair!
One parent said they try to set aside one day a month as each child’s special day. A day when mom & the child can do what ever their child wants. They might go to the zoo, museum, and a shopping trip, eating at a special restaurant, just sitting and talking etc. a day to make that child feel very special. Spend time assuring the child of your love for them. Talk to the sibling about their feelings. Let them know you understand and that you feel frustrated too, that their brother or sister didn’t choose to be born with special needs but they ha ve them and we need to love them and help them. They are probably already very aware that life is hard for their brother or sister, so help your child to feel compassion for their AS sibling.
Years ago, when I was raising my first family of 5 adopted children we experienced unintentional “sibling neglect”. Several of the children with severe problems, took quite a bit of my time and energy.
One day my introverted, perfectionist, daughter said, “Mom, it isn’t fair; the bad ones get all your attention. I don’t give you any trouble so you don’t have time for me. I guess I’ll have to start doing bad things so I can get some of your attention. You make all kinds of rules for them but you act like you don’t care what I do?”
Boy! That threw me off guard! She was right; she didn’t get much of mom’s time or attention. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around. I was exhausted till I was done dealing with my oldest’s impulsivity and Asperger meltdowns and my second child’s roller coaster, bipolar, mood swings. No matter what rules we made for him, he found a way to break them. I prayed for wisdom then said to my daughter, “Your brother is like the bull on the farm that needs a very strong fence around him. No matter where the fence is, he’s going to try to break the boundaries down – push the fence a little farther out, so we have to keep reinforcing them. But you’re like the lovable little kitty that has the run of the farm. You don’t need boundaries because you pretty much do what you’re suppose to. I’m really sorry that you don’t feel like your getting the attention you need. It takes so much of my energy trying to keep the bull in the pen that I too often over look the nice little kitty that doesn’t get into trouble.” I assured her that she was very special to me and she was very much loved. I told her how much I appreciated her and needed her to be the good girl that she was. I needed to repeat that story to her quite a few times.
Most the time the youngest of my three girls, seems to understand that her AS sisters need a lot of mom’s time. She will fuss with her sisters, but she loves them very much. Let someone pick on her sisters and she’s right there to defend. She has found her role as peacemaker, as the one who picks up the pieces, goes ahead of her sisters and smoothes the path if she can. If one of her sisters is being questioned on a misdeed or accused of something she will often answer for them. Though she is the youngest, she often acts like the oldest. She has friends over and friends call her on the phone. She comes home from school talking of her interaction with this friend and that. I’ve heard other mothers of Asperger children tell how their NT children won’t invite friends over because they don’t want to be embarrassed by things their AS sibling might do or say. Who wants a new friend to witness a meltdown? It’s not a pretty picture!
On the other hand, I believe the sibling who survives growing up with an Autistic/Asperger sibling will be a stronger adult as a result. Adversity often develops our strengths, teaches compassion, and helps take away self centeredness.
A mother in our group shared how her NT daughter was working with special needs children. She was drawn to that work because of her AS brother, yet she had a hard time getting along with him. She resented him growing up and refused to invite friends over.
Relax, enjoy your children. Make time to play. Make a special time for each child. That’s hard to do when one child is demanding most of your time and attention. But because of that the others really do need time alone with the parents. Find little hidden spots of time. While the AS child is zeroed in on a computer game or TV, take the other child/children aside and in another room read a story, plan a mini tea party and have a heart to heart talk, color a picture together, get a song book out and share a song, bake cookies. Make a batch of play dough (depending on the age of the siblings). Those little together spots will leave lasting impressions and form bonds.