A little while ago, Shawna of Not the Former Things wrote a post for my readers about special needs siblings. Many parents stopped by. I think they felt that she understood what they were going through. I sure did. Which brings me to another episode of As the Special Needs Siblings Turn.
I know I’m supposed to stretch my child and push him to deal with sensory issues. But here’s the rub. When another child is involved, how far do you push? How often? At what expense?
This came up again the other day when I tried to teach spelling together. My youngest is a good speller and has reached the point he can be at the same point in All About Spelling as his brother. I thought this would save me some time.
The first day we tried it was a lesson day, where you walk through a new spelling rule, practice on the board, etc. Their sensory needs and personalities clashed and I needed a chocolate IV.
So, I thought surely I could do the spelling practice days together. All it requires is telling them a word, phrase, or sentence, they repeat, and then write it. Once again the sensory needs clashed. Youngest is a mover, a shaker, a music maker. He’s tapping his pencil while he writes. “Please stop it.” Tap. “PLEASE stop it.” Tap, tap. “I SAID PLEASE STOP IT!” To put it nicely, it went downhill from there.
Of course, trying to talk it out didn’t work. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say sometimes I feel like my life could be titled Clash of the Titans.
I know I’m not the only special needs parent dealing with this. How do you deal with the differing needs of special needs siblings? HOW?
Sigh. The next day in The Loving Push, Drs. Grandin and Moore tell me, “You need to know your child’s rhythms so that you can plan ahead. The worst time to try to push your child out of their comfort zone is when they are already annoyed or distressed. Find a time they are rested, not hungry, and not overwhelmed by sensory input.” (p. 71) Yeah, so trying on a full moon Monday is probably not my best bet. (You can learn more about The Loving Push here. That’s an affiliate link, so if you choose to purchase anything, I make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.).
I still don’t have all the answers. Life with special needs siblings is a roller coaster and there’s nothing I can do about that. It always will be. But, I do have some ideas. I chatted with my husband and some other special needs parents. Here’s what they had to say.
Me: I still have to stretch him. Currently the rule is you can’t shush if you’re not willing to put your headphones on. And for little brother, you don’t always have to stop, but you do need to turn it down. Additionally, I’ve decided to move the location of our spelling lessons. I used to do my All About Spelling lessons in the bedroom because I could shut the door to minimize distractions. Now I’ll do it at the dining room table to make it a little more formal and hopefully cut down on the need to use silly voices and maybe reduce some tapping.
Hubby: “The other day I had him leave the room to calm down, and it worked. He was much calmer after. Maybe that would help?”
Jennifer: “I try to balance the needs of each child. I work really hard to find a way to help my child with sensory needs meet her needs in ways that don’t drive her sister nuts. We spend a lot of time talking about having compassion for others and realizing that your needs are not the only ones that matter. This requires so much prayer on my part. I want both of my children to understand and work to meet their needs while not trampling the needs of others in the process – and to sometimes sacrifice their needs for someone else.”
You can read Jennifer’s post about the challenges special needs siblings face here.
Sandra: “Because James’s special-needs are so severe, we can’t push him into much. We do push David, our 10 year old typical son. And my parents pushed me in my relationship with my older sister who has Down syndrome. Like last week, we were at the splash pad and James was in full melt-down mode—crying, screaming, hitting, and trying to take his clothes off. I can’t push him. So David has to be understanding that we have to go and we will try another time. If it’s an activity that’s important to David (like seeing a movie), then just my husband Lee or I take him.”
Sandra has written an article, “7 Phrases Every Special Needs Sibling Needs to Hear.”
Now it’s your turn. I want to know how you handle the balancing act of special needs siblings with different needs. Have something that has worked for you? Tell me in the comments!
I’ve got a super-duper ebook of 75 survival tips for special needs parents! Get it…FOR FREE! Just click the button below.
I do adore All About Learning Press. I work for them now, but have always loved their multisensory, easy-to-teach curriculum. If you’re looking for some spelling help for your child, why not click on over and grab some FREE colorful spelling rules posters you can print. (That is an affiliate link. I make a small commission at no cost to you should you decide to purchase something. Thank you for your support!)