It was two days before the declaration of the Enhanced Community Quarantine that my eldest son and his aunt came home from the city. The unexpected global COVID-19 outbreak brought the longest time he would spend with us since the day we had to let him study in Baguio so he could avail of Occupational and Speech Therapy services which are not available in our province. His siblings, aged 6 and 4, get to see him only on Christmas breaks or at times that I travel to Baguio on a weekend just to check on him or on an official business for work.
For more than a month now, they had enough time to spend together, our home daily filled with giggles, screams and loud cries. This may be a normal scenario in a home with toddlers and preschool- aged kids, but what concerns us is the response of my eldest who is in the Autism Spectrum when being teased results in hitting his younger brother and sister. Accordingly, he behaves in such manner when he already doesn’t know how to verbally respond to the situation. Concerns such as understanding why their brother acts in what seems to them to be strange ways, feeling like he gets more time and attention from parents than they do or not knowing how to play with him may have been confusing the two younger kids. This to me, is the hardest part.. how to let these young minds embrace difference, explaining in simplest terms what autism means that they would clearly understand? And why does their brother behave that way? Just as I was when we learned of his diagnosis in 2010, it took time until I felt free from all the why’s.
Days passed that I could see how these kids gradually adapted to each other’s behaviors. There is now more time for play, dances, exercises, and other activities that teasing has now become minimal. The younger kids also learned to correct their brother from behaviors that seemed inappropriate. It may not be a total turn out, but eventually they will learn to be part of their brother’s world as they would provide the support and love he needs for development.
It is a family effort to let the kids cope, and keeping them informed and reminded is important. These kids may have a difficult experience for now as they notice different behaviors from their brother or may feel a drawing of attention between them, yet spending time with each other helps them to better understand and feel comfortable.
For siblings of a child with special needs, there may be times that your sibling does something suddenly or in an unusual way that can cause you to feel frustrated, upset and sometimes lonely. It may also be time consuming for everyone in the family and very often you feel that your brother or sister becomes the focus of everyone’s attention. Some common feelings such as anger, resentment, sadness, and frustration are experienced. However, dealing with this feeling such as sharing what you’re going through with family or friends may help. It may take a little time and a lot of patience to learn how to relate with your brother or sister, but it will be worth it in the end. As you spend time with your sibling, it is likely you will get to know him or her better and you will start to appreciate the differences between the two of you.
FAITH. HOPE. LOVE. AUTISM.
Autism has taken us to a common journey.
Our faith has given us a common hope.– Debbie Meyer Abbs