Parenting a spectrum of girls

Posts tagged ‘Siblings’

Love like only a sister

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M trying to be like her big sister

My goal of writing every day this month was for Autism Awareness (& Acceptance) Month, which is why I have been concentrating almost exclusively on M.  But today, in searching for what topic to write on, I realized that K really deserves the spotlight for a minute.

For one thing, K is amazing in her own right, and also has her own special needs from her high level of giftedness.  She has had an amazing year.  All As and A+s this year, after grade accelerating, being placed into a gifted program, and now accepted into the highest gifted program available nearby due to her SAT scores (she just turned 11). She was accepted as a returning scholar in a scholarship program for academic achievement and humanitarian work, for the 3rd year in a row.  She is part of a small leadership group at her school.  She has continued to work hard and miss little school despite struggling with chronic mono.  Her love of learning in all subjects is amazing.  Today she was excited to share a wealth of information on a number of topics, from her current vulture observations to the properties of Mars to Hieroglyphics to drawing optical illusions and pottery.

But none of this is really what I wanted to share.  Having M as a sister has at times been quite difficult for K.  First of all, she was almost 6 when M was born and didn’t particularly want to lose her status as only child.  Then M required much more than her share of attention over the years.  Also, K just does not understand M, their minds work so very differently.  She has tried off and on to understand, occasionally being a big help with M, doing things with her and teaching her things.

This week, K came home with a new book from the school library.  It was a sort of reference/self help kind of book for kids with autistic siblings.  She wanted to read it.  She WANTED to UNDERSTAND.  She started asking a lot of questions.  What an amazing young woman, to voluntarily seek out a way to understand her sister, and to help herself cope as a sibling, as well.

This has been an extremely bad week for M.  She is starting to show behaviors we have not seen since the beginning of the fall.  Today she even got in trouble at school for screaming at the para pro, whom she adores, and she rarely has problems at school that get a note sent home.  K has stepped in to help her sister when I have been trying to make dinner or complete my own homework.  She has spoken calmly to her and made proprioceptive activities and exercises for M to do to help calm her.  She has not once lost her temper with M this week, in a week where M has constantly been losing her temper with everyone else.  I know she wants to be an oceanographer and geophysicist, but I think she would also make an excellent occupational therapist ;).

I couldn’t be more proud of my girl than when she is helping another person.  And as a kid, siblings can be the hardest people to forgive and help.  I have some pretty amazing kids. 🙂

The siblings

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All 3 of my girls on a family fun day

 

I talk a lot about M and her special needs (Asperger’s Syndrome, OCD, GAD, Dyspraxia, Sensory Processing Disorder, Convergence Insufficiency) but I talk less about my other daughters, her siblings.  I do occasionally post about K, age 11, who is profoundly gifted.  Less so about A, age 3, who has asthma and is likely highly gifted.  But what I really need to post about, and I don’t think we talk enough about, is how M’s special need affect her sisters.

K is significantly older than her sisters, and generally tries to avoid them by camping out in her room in typical pre-teen fashion.  She really is a good sister and does play with them sometimes, but overall they have no interests in common which is exacerbated by her high intelligence and creativity.  Just like M, her mind works differently.  Just a different kind of different.  She struggles to understand M and to be sympathetic, but it is difficult for her to even understand her neurotypical peers so it is truly a struggle.  We talk often about it and really sometimes she is the one to calm M down and give her exactly what she needs.  M loves her big sister passionately and misses her greatly when she spends time with her best friend, which is pretty much every weekend.  I was extremely touched a couple of weeks ago when K left her devotional out marked to an older page we had missed for one reason or another.  She told me this particular devotion was special to her and she wanted me to read it.  When I got to it that evening I realized it was about how God made everyone unique and special and told the story about the boy on the autism spectrum who was put into the end of the last basketball game of the season and scored several baskets.  She literally brought tears to my eyes (which doesn’t happen often, I truly hate to cry).

A loves her sister M so much.  They are 26 months apart but more like twins.  They used to never fight and play together and enjoy each other’s company constantly.  They are still best buds, but since A turned 3 and started preschool there is a little more discord in their relationship.  I think a lot of this is because A is learning to stand up for herself and realizing that M’s behavior is not always appropriate.  M also becomes upset with her more often because she is reaching M in some areas of development (exceeding social-emotionally) and because A is starting to express her own preferences versus always going along with what M wants.  Unfortunately A is often the person M takes her frustration out on, both physically and verbally.  This summer before M started on medication for her dangerous behaviors (physical aggression, talking about killing herself constantly, becoming hysterical and trying to run away or run into traffic etc) I was truly worried for A’s safety, but fortunately that is over.  M does still push, pinch, bite, hit and otherwise try to hurt though…usually A, sometimes K or myself.  We have zero tolerance for this behavior and while it is less frequent (usually high stress transition times…like spring break…) it does still happen.  She also has certain phrases that are due to the unfortunate combination of Asperger’s and OCD, which also makes them a very hard compulsion to break.  These include “stupid idiot” and “I want to kill you”, and are often screamed at anyone in her path (at home, but fortunately not at school yet), often A.  As you can imagine her self esteem suffers a little at times and her feelings get hurt by this language from someone she so truly loves.  She is the most easy-going, laid-back kid, but sometimes, especially when she is not feeling well, it is just too much and she needs extra cuddles and reassurance.  She also picks up on M’s undesirable behaviors and tries to mimic them sometimes.  Then we have to explain why, even though M is older, she can not always control what comes out of her mouth but A can.  Still, overall, they are good for each other.  A is a very loving, compassionate child who loves to play mommy, teacher and doctor and I can see her experience with M and their closeness making her wonderful at any of these endeavors.

I wish there was a support group for siblings that K could join, and maybe A later if she wanted to.  In the meantime I know I spend a lot of extra time and energy on M and she seems to get away with a lot more.  A manages to get a lot of time too, being the youngest and knowing how to use that pouty lip and big sad eyes against me as she does 😉  But I need to be conscious that as hard as tough weeks (like spring break LOL) can be for M and for me, they are also difficult for my other girls, who have no control over the meltdowns they are often in the middle of.  I need to make an effort to spend a little extra time with them and be extra understanding of them as well, as they probably also suffer from sensory overload after, say, riding home in the car with their sister screaming, kicking the door and threatening to beat them up.  ❤

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M & A, best friends & sisters.

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