Monday, June 29, 2009

Explaining Autism For Your Children

Some of the earliest conversations I can remember having with the two older boys about my middle daughter were about what to say to their friends. Being new to this myself I was surprised and concerned about their obvious discomfort as well as my own. Finally we came to the agreement they could tell their friends she was just a little slow. This seemed to satisfy them for quite awhile.

When my oldest, Sam, was about eight or nine he asked if they were going to ‘catch’ what she had. Of course I reassured him people did not catch a developmental delay from a sibling. I explained every once in awhile someone got sick and were left with a developmental delay. If you could have just seen the way he looked at me sideways out of the corner of his eyes when he asked. Many years later I learned these were perfectly normal reactions from older siblings.

Some younger siblings are in many ways less tolerant than older siblings. They grow up seeing you spend extra time tending to the older siblings needs. As they start to pass their sister’s abilities, they are very upset when she seems to be able to do things or act in ways they are not allowed. It is very difficult to explain the many choices they will have a head of them which she will not have. As one of the younger ones said just the other day, “That’s too long away. This is now!”

I have tried several things to help with this situation. One of them is books about children and books by children or teenagers. There are books about autism and there are books by the siblings of children with autism. Another newer idea is several videos on YouTube that have been made in recent years. Some of them are surprisingly good and challenging to other children/adolescents. I have found organizations, such as the Autism Society, willing to lend me videos from their libraries. Borrowing videos or books is good for the budget when possible. The videos and DVDs tend to be expensive so be sure to return them. All of these ideas work with your own children or children in your child’s class.

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