Darling has been craving attention lately. She is acting out and letting us know she needs more. We are making plans to go out just us girls for a special night. It has been too long since we did that. Buds new therapy and his upcoming evaluation have taken on a little too much prominence. We were talking about him more often than usual, and it made her feel less noticed it seems.
Sometimes, when we talk about Bud’s issues, she pipes up that she has sensory issues, too. She is jealous that she is not being talked about as well. Darling does have some sensory issues, but she is mild. She functions well and she is going to be fine. Bud is more severe and his future is uncertain right now. When we talk about Darling, we talk about her fantastic reading, her straight A’s, her new silly new dance moves. She does not notice this; she notices that we talk about Bud’s disorder and not her struggles.
The school called us and said Darling needs speech therapy. Darling was horrified and burst into tears. She did not want to be pulled out of class for “special” help. She feared the other kinds would see her as dumb or different. I listened and empathized. I reminded her that it is ok to be different, different is not bad. I also reminded her that no one could ever think she was dumb since she is top of her class in math and reading and got all A’s on her first report, and that she has simply “got it going on.” I got a little smile out of that.
Darling has complex, conflicting emotions for a 7 year old. On the one hand, she wants to be normal and minimize anything having to do with her SPD or her struggles, but on the other hand she is jealous if Bud’s struggles are a topic of conversation. I suppose this is normal. It got me to thinking about how hard it is for the sibling of a child on the spectrum. I want her to feel free and safe to express her feelings, even if they are negative, and to ask questions. Other than creating a safe place to vent and making sure she gets some special attention that is just for her, I am not sure what to do.
I have read about how families struggle because so much attention is on the child with the diagnosis, and I want to avoid that trap as much as possible. Even so, he will get therapy and have attention paid to him, and she will have to learn to deal. We have explained to her that she is blessed not to have the same diagnosis, and when she is mean to him I try to get her to talk about her feelings as well as educate her that Bud needs his big sis on his side because much of the world may not be. Most of the time, she is a doting, loving sister and very protective. We want her to remember that she is remarkable, special and loved. My very favorite daughter. Nothing can change that.
If you have found ways to help your child cope with having a sibling with special needs, I welcome your advice.