Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Sibling Factor
We were honestly conflicted on the concept of growing our family beyond our 1 son diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. Aside from having the ability to focus solely on our first born son’s needs without slighting another child, there was also the wrangling of how we felt about the potential for bringing another beautiful child into this world that may have just as many, or more, distinct needs than our first born star. So many unknowns…
However, God chose to show us it was out of our hands and control, and ultimately blessed us with another priceless gift to love and cherish. And we love and cherish them both, of course. We were so lucky to have been able to devote and invest so much time and energy with our first son, that the six year separation between brothers is perfect. And just like every other issue within our personal spectrum experience, a distinct new wavelength of color emerges into our sights, propagating an infinite kaleidoscope of it’s own brilliant prisms. These complex prisms increase the indelible convolutions for our family, adding to our dance steps, around and within the refracted light and color within our own unique Autism Spectrum experience.
Our youngest is just over 2 years old now, and we are very sensitive with navigating the sibling relationship. He was recently diagnosed with ASD too. His needs are not so severe and we are well versed as to how to better cope the second time around. We attempt to be selective with our battles and let the relationship evolve naturally, but in as healthy and as constructive a manner as is possible to achieve. We try to balance the attention, and now that the baby is older and physically more durable, we are attempting to increase his threshold to weather his older brother’s struggles and meltdowns with us “together as a family”.
We oversee so much, from dealing with the modulation of appropriate physical touch-as my oldest struggles with this area a great deal, to sensing when they need separation and time with a parent or even alone- and so much more. It’s also extremely difficult to allow a mini-baby-tornado into our older son’s very consistent world. Although we have been hyper-cognizant to be consistant in approach with variance in situational experiences, to decrease a dependency on rigid routine (we call it controlled chaos, aka consistant change) in an effort to increase our son’s coping strategies-it’s just plain difficult for any sibling to deal with a baby brother-period.
Like everything else-we are a constant work-in-progress. What’s key for us is simple – we are all in this together. We support each other to the best of our ability. We work and tackle the issues with love, and candid honesty. Some days aren’t pretty. There are a lot of deep breath pauses before diving in, coupled with statements like “I am sorry”, “let’s try again”, “yes, it’s not fair”, and “I love you” in our home. And some days the fact that my two-year-old has enough restraint and intuitive understanding to perceive, that perhaps not every instance is a good one to try and break up big brother’s meticulously constructed group of toys, is both a beautiful and a heartbreaking experience to witness.
The relationship that is growing between my two sons continues to amaze me. There are not really words that can hold enough meaning for me to describe it, being their MOM, but I will try. Together-these two boys exhibit pure love. I wonder at the love that I saw in my oldest son’s eyes when we met his little brother together for the first time…and it hasn’t faded..it’s grown. When I say, my oldest lit up, well he did just that. His eyes and face had the most light in them that I had ever seen! Quite literally. I was floored.
There were even moments in those early days with the baby that he teared up and told me “I just so happy that I cry, Mom”. We are talking about a boy that had gained and lost verbal multiple times, and struggled with the utterance length of his sentences tremendously, let alone, muster the ability to convey emotional context of any situation. Watching him cry with happiness impaired my ability to do much other than breathe…when I reminded myself to take a breath! But, here is the thing. I, secretly and very ashamedly, thought this shine would wear off. I did. Like the shiny new toy that sits in the corner after Christmas day passes. That the shine would tarnish as all the “real world issues” set in. I grossly underestimated both of them, and us. I am so happy to report, the light shines bright.
My oldest has a new best friend, which was missing and so integral to his progress, and he simply exudes such a new sense of purpose. On a daily basis, his empathy flows out of him in buckets. He revels and takes very seriously the roles of protector, teacher, friend, and even tries to parent. We carefully do our uniquely distinct color spectrum cha-cha dance to keep things as healthy as we can, but we are letting this budding relationship be individual, and the 2 boys are guiding us with them most days. In short, the miracle is that they are spectacular. My oldest is “just as much”-CORRECTION-“even more” in love with his little brother than he was the first day they met. And, the youngest “thinks”-CORRECTION- “knows” the sun rises and sets with his big brother. AS a Know-It-All-Mom. . . I couldn’t have been happier, to have been more wrong.