I was prompted to write this post several times throughout the last year. I have not because I was not sure how. (I am just going to go with it and provide resources at the end.) However, last night it came to the forefront of my mind again. I did write something almost a year ago about trying to help the kids understand and accept autism. Here is the post At Home Autism Acceptance. I have watched Ariel and Joshua begin to show signs of frustration with Daniel in the last few months. They are coming into a new awareness of themselves, as well as how they perceive what is going on around here. It has become an issue mostly because of school.
If Daniel is having a rough day, it can disrupt our entire school schedule.
It can cause Ariel and Joshua to lose their focus or motivation to continue through the day. I admit there are times when Daniel gets away with things that Ariel and Joshua are not allowed to. This is not on purpose it is based on understanding. Daniel is developmentally delayed emotionally and socially. He can understand academics, but the other things need to be explained in detail and concrete terms. Many times his frustrations come from being confused by their behaviors or what he deems as me “changing” things suddenly.
Every child is different.
I try to be as fair as possible, but the circumstances can be different and hard to explain to an eight year-old and a six year-old. It does cause me frustration too. It bothers me; at times, that Ariel and Joshua do miss out on things because I cannot take them alone. There is no way that I could take all three of them. The events would be too much for Daniel. I do my best to ensure they all get to experience new things and go places.
My main concern is about how they feel.
I am highly sensitive to the emotions of my children. I believe in part it is who I am as a person, but I also believe that it has to do with my upbringing. We keep open communication with everyone here. We say what we are feeling, if we know what we are feeling, and we all have the freedom to say, “I have no idea what I am feeling, I am just upset.” My kids are allowed to tell me when they think something is not fair. Express the reasons why they are upset with their siblings, David, or me. We listen to them and we try to help explain things to them.
As I was growing up, I was not allowed to express my feelings.
When I was unable to explain what I was feeling I was made to feel foolish. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from family and others “You have to know what you are feeling.” My mom did not understand her feelings either. She expressed them through meltdowns or shutdowns. I learned how I was supposed to behave based on how my mom was acting. My dad did not share his emotions with me. Many times, I felt as though I never measured up, I would never be good enough, but on holidays, I would receive cards that said things about how much he loved me. It was hard for me to know what both my parents felt for me.
When I tried to talk to them about my emotions, as I got older, I was invalidated.
They did not listen to my feelings; I was simply told that I had it wrong. There is too much wrapped into that to go into here. Because of these happenings in my life, I encourage my kids to say what they are feeling. There have been times when what they perceived was completely wrong. They misunderstood tones, body language, looks, and situations. I make it a point to go back to them after something happens and ask them what they are feeling about it or if they want to talk about it. We talk after a meltdown, and discuss it because it is important that everyone feels heard.
It is important to me that they feel heard.
In recent days, there have been situations where Ariel is getting upset at things dealing with Daniel. She has always been a strong support for Daniel. She has also longed for a certain connection with him that many times is not there. They do connect in a different way, but it seems as though she is upset that he does not reciprocate in a way that she feels he should as her twin. I do not understand sibling connections, especially, with twins. She has voiced in the past that she does not understand why they are not like other twins. Then, she requested to have a baby sister. (Um, no.)
She is confused and bothered that he is getting all of these therapies through the school.
She feels that it is unfair because she “needs them too.” She has trouble with handwriting; she gets overloaded with her sensory processing, she shutdowns and does not know how to express herself sometimes. She feels that it is not right that he gets all of this help while she gets nothing. Joshua has these similar issues. I have been contemplating getting them evaluated, but at this point, I am not sure it is the best thing to do.
I have explained to her that I will take everything that I am doing with Daniel and apply it to her and Joshua.
She would prefer to have her OWN new teachers/therapists. One of the things that I make a point of doing is letting her and Joshua know that I understand they have difficulties too. I let them know that I am listening and that what they feel is of great value to me. I reassure them as much as I reassure Daniel. This does help most days. As long as I follow through on what I say I will change, or at least they are able to see that I am trying, their frustrations toward Daniel seem to lessen.
I know that it will continue throughout their life.
I know that this will be something that all of us will have to continue to stretch and grow. As long, as we, all understand that then, I think it can work out well. Some days I feel as though I ask a lot of Ariel and Joshua, but each of us are part of this family with our own quirks and issues. I explain the most important thing we can do as a family is to respect our challenges and try to focus on each others positive attributes. It is not easy some days, some weeks, but it is a work in progress. Family is made up of individuals with different needs, desires, and personalities. Learning to be open about our frustrations helps us to find better ways to communicate.
For Ariel, she has many outlets to express herself.
She writes poetry, she paints, she draws, she reads, she writes stories; I give her the freedom to do that. I encourage her to take her frustrations and express them creatively because it helps her find her words to express them to me or David. Joshua seems to work out much of his frustrations with building Lego’s. He will get frustrated, feel like everything is unfair, but as long as he gets some alone time with David or me, he recovers quickly. He feels heard, goes, builds some awesome Lego thing, and is happy once again.
It is not the same for Ariel.
I do plan to take both her and Joshua to the psychologist that I am taking Daniel to for behavioral therapy. I already discussed with her my concerns about the issue of them having frustrations or other challenges that they may have as siblings. They need just as much validation and attention in their own ways as Daniel. In this house, we respect and enjoy our differences, but we also do not shy away from that fact that it is challenging. It is hard to balance, but we take it one day at a time.
Here are some resources I read that may help others too.