Time for Siblings Part 2. Still some lovely happy pics, but a little story to go with them this time...
Yesterday our eldest girl (Yr 6) was on playground duty with the youngest ones in school (Yr 3s). She told me how the other two Yr 6 girls with her had not let her join with them, and a younger Yr 3 girl who had been idolising Tilly this week was dragged off to play with someone else.
Then she told me the bit that broke my heart.
'A few of the Year 3s came rushing up to me Mum, and asked me why Sophie always howls in the toilets. I just shrugged, they went away but a different group came back and asked me why Sophie makes funny noises in the toilets. I just laughed and said I didn't know why.'
We talked this over, and I asked if it upset her. She replied that it did at first, and it made her feel a little weird but that by after school time and her telling me the story, she realised it didn't really matter so she wasn't bothered by it any more. She went on to say that she didn't quite understand though, because she thought all of the Year 3s knew that Sophie had autism, so why would they then ask her about Sophie doing unusual things?
The 'Sibling' issue has been on my mind for years now and I've worried lots about the effect that a sister with autism is having on our eldest. There is a national website at www.sibs.org.uk but local support can be a bit patchy. I wrote in a recent post about how Tilly has just started at a great monthly after school session for SIBS, and is really enjoying it.
A couple of years ago I read an amazing book called 'Being The Other One' by a lady called Kate Strohm (available at Amazon if you click the link but most likely elsewhere too!).
It made me cry. It was written by a lady who also has a sibling with special needs (Cerebral Palsy in her case). She interviewed many other siblings of various ages, to let them talk about how it had affected them growing up. It's not an easy read, but it is a good one in terms of trying to understand what might be going on under the surface, particularly of a young child who has not yet learnt how to talk openly.
The author looks at the siblings' feelings of isolation, grief, anger and a huge amount of anxiety. That anxiety is not just over the embarrassment of being seen as different because of that sibling sometimes, but can also be a worry about making life any more difficult for the parents. The book also offers lots of practical advice around what parents can do to help their neurotypical children (long word, basically means those who are developing typically).
Just last week I posted a story on my Facebook page about one particular school day:
'While I was brushing my teeth, our amazing eldest girl took it upon herself to try and motivate youngest (PDA) girl to get dressed for school this morning so we wouldn't be late.
She knew exactly how to do it; eldest is having a friend over for a playdate after school, so she offered youngest the chance to play with them both in her room for half an hour if she got herself dressed. I'm actually quite amazed it worked, but it did, obviously because there is nothing more youngest wants than to spend some time with eldest and her friend. Which is quite sad in itself.
The issue will be after school, when eldest suddenly twigs that she is going to have to carry through with this reward; when she really wants to play with her own friend in that way that 'typical' children can, and without having to be extra careful to make sure all goes OK for youngest to avoid a meltdown. Sigh. I'll be around (and by that I mean right there) to offer alternatives and ensure all goes as smoothly as possible of course, to make sure eldest isn't in tears before youngest...'
It was such a lovely thing to do to try and help, and demonstrates not only how well eldest 'gets' it, but also how well she can use the PDA strategies - she told me she made it 'fun', used light-hearted phrases etc and that she knew it might not work but she'd let her play anyway (not what would usually happen!). Kind of sad that she needs to, really; I know how stressful it is to always be one step ahead and I don't wish that stress on any other parents, let alone a 10 year old child frown emoticon
As you can see from the pictures though, it's not all doom and gloom around here. They have fun, they fall out, they play Minecraft together, just like any other siblings. I wouldn't have it any other way.
This week I'm linking up with the lovely Victoria over at #PoCoLo.