This is the January’s edition of Landy’s corner for Theraspeech, Inc. I hope everyone had a beautiful Holiday.
This month’s topic is dear to my heart. I live it every single day: balancing family life with children without disabilities. A lot of families struggle day to day, making sure their special needs child is well taken care of – In fact, if you’re like me, you spend the majority of your time doing just that. However, one needs to ask: What happens to the other sibling(s), if any?
My daughter is 2 years older than my son, who was diagnosed with ASD. When I found out his diagnosis, I cried almost everyday. My daughter didn’t fully understand what was going on, but she knew her brother was different. She knew and never treating him differently. She observed as I took him to appointments across counties, spent the majority of my time making sure he was receiving the attention he needed. It broke my heart when my daughter told me, “I’m not special like Amir! You love him more and that’s why you are with him everyday!.” I stood there in shock because I never noticed or envisioned that at only five years old, she felt this way. Did I forget that I had another child to raise? Did I underestimate her needs? The realization that I had been living my life as if I had one child broke my heart. It wasn’t intentional but it was difficult to hear the truth. I went in the room where my daughter stormed into and I apologized. I explained to her how much I loved her. I made the promise to pay more attention to her feelings. I explained to her (In simple terms) that her brother had special needs and because his language was limited, I needed to make sure his wants and needs were met. My daughter’s response was surprising to me: “Oh, he’s autistic? They talked about that at school. He learns different but he has feelings just like us mommy.” My daughter was only 5 years old! Balancing life is challenging enough with children without disabilities. We, as a community have to make a conscious effort to provide an outlet for the siblings of children with disabilities. We have to acknowledge that siblings have thoughts that need to be heard. They want to be included in helping the best that they can. As a family unit, setting a schedule is helpful to plan family time and sibling time. I created a schedule including several family; some with all of us and others just for my daughter and I. My daughter has been able to help her brother with a joyful heart. She reads to him and reviews sight words with him. She helps him learn how to put his clothes. Most importantly, she doesn’t treat him differently. I look back at the situation thinking that I have a daughter making a conscious effort to understand and participate in a dynamic she did not choose. Trying to live life without the rest of the family is lonely. We all need that support system. My daughter is part of that system. She helped me realized that young children understand more than we think. I’m a work in progress but I am working on balancing family life. I hope this touches the heart of many – talk to you soon.
Landyinspires@hotmail.com (786) 357-1942