Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Impact On Siblings Of Children With Autism

Within the past year my husband and I have noted a profound difference in our 9-year-old's attitudes and reactions toward his older brother's autistic behaviors. When they were younger, my boys played well together, laughed together and, for the most part, enjoyed each other's company. In short life was a tad easier.

Now that my youngest is 9-years-old he is becoming more acutely aware of his brother's differences. He struggles with his repetitive behaviors. He struggles with the crazy sounds his brother makes. He struggles with Anthony's need to watch him at all times while he plays the Wii so that nothing gets scratched. And on, and on, and on...

While these idiosyncrasies are not something we can change in Anthony, we can help our 9-year-old with coping skills. So this has now become my new pursuit. What do I do? How do I help Gianni deal with these irritants in a healthy way?

I have assured him that while we know these things with Anthony can be very frustrating, we still love Anthony dearly. I have expressed to Gianni that I too get very depressed and angry at times about this autism that is so much a part of his big brother. But how do you help a 9-year-old, who is trying to find his own identity and place in this world, cope with the fact that he has now become the "big brother" in many ways.

I crawled into Gianni's bed with him last night and just held him. I offered some ideas as a starting place. Maybe he could keep a journal. Writing down things that happen during the day. Maybe we could create signs for him to hold up to Anthony when Anthony is repetitive or obsessive. We have also expressed this issue with Gianni's school and they have been very gracious in allowing Gianni to see the school counselor when he needs to vent. We have asked his teacher to be mindful of his moods and emotional state each day. We are looking into dance classes for him as a release. Most importantly though, we are keeping a crazy strong sense of humor in the home.

So, we'll keep searching and moving forward. As always, I welcome any thoughts or suggestions. Keep it positive please. :o)


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