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Kind words and a smile can mean so much

Updated on July 11, 2012

Siblings have special needs too.

In a home where the oldest child often sets the tone for the household, having a special needs child as the firstborn can prove challenging for the siblings that follow in his path. We have made it a point to provide counseling for both of our younger children when they felt it necessary to work out their feelings. We try to give them time with us, that does not include their brother. Sometimes they like that, other times, they feel bad that he is not with us. There are days when we, worn down ourselves, simply must tell them that this is the way it is, like it or not, "just get over it". We try not to speak to our children like this regarding their brother who has Asperger Syndrome, but there are times when the words just come spilling out.

I read a study recently which recommended that all children have one friend who has special needs because it would make them better people in the long run. I tend to agree. As tough as it is to have a sibling with disabilities, my children are definitely kinder and more flexible than those who do not have to deal with anything outside the norm. They do not stare at anyone who looks different and they are often offended if they see or hear something that is discriminatory towards someone with challenges. Interestingly enough, they did not like when Fiona from Shrek turned back to the "beautiful princess" instead of the Ogre because they said that beauty was not as important as who you were inside and that the message was being sent that perfect was how you should look,.

We have some summer friends at the lake we frequent. They too have an autistic child. He is much younger than our son and is non verbal. My daughter has gotten friendly with their daughter who is close to her age. This family works very hard trying to provide their disabled child with all that he can possibly have to improve his quality of life. They are desperately trying to help him find his voice. This summer they are concentrating on teaching him how to swim. He is catching on very well, swimming in his life vest like a little fish. Like, my son, he is comfortable in the water and smiles a lot when he is in his tube and life vest.

My daughter and her little friend swam out to the big raft happy to see each other since it had been awhile. They were chatting away when her friend's little brother paddled past them. My daughter's friend stopped and thought a minute. Then she said "my brother is autistic. He might do some things that you think are weird. He can't help it." My daughter smiled and said, "I don't care, my brother is autistic too, so it doesn't bother me. Besides, weird it good!" The other girl's face lit up in a smile and she embraced my daughter. The two were inseparable the rest of our vacation. The simple words, smile and empathy my daughter showed towards her friend made all of the difference in the world. I am not saying that children who do not have special needs siblings are incapable of this behavior, but it is definitely less common.

For all the struggles that we go through, for the days when my middle child wishes that he had a "real brother" who would play basketball with him, the times when my daughter wanted her brother to stop following her and her friends since he towers over them by a foot,but acts their age, the times they wanted us to help them with their homework instead of taking care of the oldest who was again melting down at homework time. For all those difficult times, they are grateful for the gift of him and his challenges. They are better people and when we ask them if they would trade their brother in, they both say no! They accept him and marvel in his gifts. They try to help him overcome his deficits. There are some bad days and they are definitely not perfect, but I am proud of the people they are growing up to be.


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