Autism,  Family,  mommyblog,  Parenting

The importance of balancing your “typical” kids, when you have kids with autism.

Today is Autism Tuesday, and I think it’s time we talk about a topic that although not directly related to children with autism, it is still something truly important for a family of autism to know about. So, let’s dive right in.

Having a child, or in my case, children, with autism is emotionally draining. It is also time consuming, because much of your time does revolve around them. Whether it be therapy sessions, sensory meltdowns, constant worrying and so on, your mind is always on them. For families like mine, that also have non-autistic children, well, the honest truth is that it’s hard to mentally be there for them sometimes. Now I know, that it sounds horrible, and it is, but it’s also the reality of this life. They are mentally easier children, and are able to do so much by themselves that, as parents, we sometimes forget that they still need us just as much as the “autistic” kids do. I am so proud of how independent our four year old little girl is. She may be four, but she knows more about acceptance and judgment than most kids her age, because she does have 2 siblings with special needs.  She may not know the terminology, but she does understand that her big brother, and her little sister both have brains that just think differently then hers or mine. She knows that some things come harder to them then it does to her, and that’s ok.

For the most part she is really good about being lugged to therapy sessions, or dealing with aggressive meltdowns. She’s even a huge help when it comes to dealing with the new baby. That being said, there are periods where she has just had it. She’s had it with the constant attention being on her siblings, so she starts to act out. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t firmer with her then I am with the others,  but then I realize something that just breaks my heart: she didn’t ask for this. She didn’t ask to be born into a family with autistic kids. She didn’t ask to be brought to their therapy sessions, or to always have to worry about them. What she did ask for was a mom and dad who give her equal attention. She asked for princess dress up days, and mommy-and-me dates. She asked for typical activities that a four year old girl ask for, because she is a typical four year old girl. That is when I realize that, yes, I am the mom of 2 autistic children, but I am also the mom a beautiful typical four year old girl, and that four year old girl deserves mommy time too.

 

If you are reading this, and you don’t have special needs children, I hope you don’t pass judgment, although I’m sure it’s hard not to. I can assure you, that I love all four of my children equally, and I am so so very proud of all of them. It’s just the reality of what our lives are like. I do have to remind myself that just because she takes it like a champ most days, she needs mommy time too. If you are reading this and you are an autism family, I hope you can learn from this and know that sometimes we need to put the autism down and be all in for our other kids. In the end, we are ALL a family, and autism is part of our family, but it is not the only thing in our family.

One of the first things you need to do, as soon as your child starts “seeking” that attention, is to sit down with them and talk to them about their siblings. They need to understand that it is not that you WANT to spend more time with them, because certain things are more difficult for them. Talk to them about ways they can help their siblings too. When they start complaining how it’s not fair, just sympathize, because, truth be told, it’s not fair to them, but they are apart of this family and family sticks together no matter what. Once you have had a conversation with them, it’s time to show them that you do really want to spend time with them. Sit with them and create a calendar, and specifically section off specific days and time that is devoted to them. That way they have something to look forward to.

I think one of the most important things to remember when spending time with your non-autistic kids, is to let them experience activities that typical children do. The truth is there are certain things that some children with autism just can’t do, or it’s too difficult to do, so when you have a child who can do those things, it can be emotional. You owe it to them to not hold them back, and encourage them to meet their full potential. They shouldn’t have to be stuck at home, or stuck doing what they other kids want to do, simply because it’s easier. For us, this activity is gymnastics and cheerleading. She was literally built to do this, and it is something she looks forward to every week. It’s also something that my oldest ASD child has difficulties with, but that’s ok. Is it hard for me when he has a meltdown because he wants to do it too? Absolutely, but I owe it to her to let her have that time all to herself. Another great thing to do is to set aside on special day, once a month, completely devoted to them. We love to have mommy and me dates. We will both get dolled up, go grab a bite to eat, maybe a movie, and a fun activity like get our nails done. It’s  just a special gesture to show her how much I love her, and how proud I am to be her mom.

Its not the easiest thing to be a parent of children with autism, why would I assum that being the sibling of kids with autism would be any easier? There will be times when we are going to have to focus our attention of the kids with autism. There will be things that, unfortunately, will come first. It’s just the way that it is, and I hope that one day she, as well as the baby, will understand. That is why it is so important to talk to them, be open about everything, and make the time to be with just them. I’ll say this though, these kids couldn’t have asked for a better and more understanding sister. She is always looking out for them, and her heart is the best thing about her. 

63 Comments

  • Angie

    This post is written with such passion. I think regardless if we come from a family that has a special needs member or not, all parents try to balance equality with their children. Some are more sensitive than others, or more high strung. Some need the constant attention while others are perfectly fine in a corner reading. Keep at it momma! You’re doing a GREAT job!

  • Angelle

    I love that you explained how as a family unit you could sit down together to explain things to the other siblings. I understand that some days are better than others and some days require a little extra effort to share all of the love and attention equally.

  • Erica

    I totally get it. We don’t have anyone with autism in the house, but my middle son has severe ADHD and his behavior/meltdowns really dictate what we’ve been able to do as a family in the past. I can see that it’s tough on my oldest because in the past when he wanted to do things, we couldn’t because I couldn’t take all the kids out by myself. Now, things are a little bit better and I’m getting more confident. I think our kids learn to adapt to the family they’ve been given. What is “normal” anyways?

  • Stephanie

    I don’t have a child with special needs, but my mom has taught special needs for most of my life. I’ve seen so many siblings who get drug along to all the things, but I’m glad your daughter is a trooper. Even without siblings with special needs, it’s so important they all get the one-on-one time when they need it.

  • Tiff |SpectrumSenseForMoms

    Oh Kayla, my heart goes out to you! I can hear the struggle and your passion through your words. I don’t have that same struggle, because both of my kids are autistic. What’s worse is when they make fun of each other’s stimming behaviors and such! 🤣 I’m sure it’s hard on your daughter, feeling like the others get more attention, and it’s hardER on you, feeling like you’re somehow failing her…but you are doing a great job! Keep up the good work, and keep reminding yourself that you ARE enough. 💙

  • GiGi Eats

    My husband is autistic and while it’s not been proven that it is a genetic thing… It will be interesting to see if our kid shows any signs of autism! That being said, if so, my husband (who is high functioning) will be an even more perfect dad!

  • Laurie @ www.lifewithasideoftheunexpected.com

    You are speaking to me, Mama. I have such mom guilt over this. We used to call my daughter the, “Me too!” kid because whenever someone came to the house or we went to therapy for my son, all she saw was him getting attention and she used to shout, “Me too!” 🙁 It’s such a tough balancing act. We are doing the best we can, right?

  • Rachel

    Very good post! My son has autism and he’s 4.5 years old so I can totally relate. He’s an only child though so this was very interesting to read as you gave a wonderful perspective I don’t normally think about.

  • Eco Friendly Mama

    Thank you for this honest and insightful post. It’s so moving to feel the unconditional love you clearly have for all your children come through in your words. I think your advice could also apply to any family with an older child who may be feeling overshadowed by a younger, needier sibling. It’s a great tip to make time to have monthly mommy daughter dates and do things to make her feel special.

  • Dominique Brooks

    This is a very interesting post — one I can relate to in many ways. My daughter has Down Syndrome so we have some of the same challenges in our house as well. My son has done pretty well dealing with many of the issues of having a sibling with special needs.

  • Nicole

    I hope that all of your children know how lucky they are to have you. I’m sure it would be quite easy to get wrapped up with a child that has special needs and maybe not pay as much attention to your other children.

  • Maegan

    This post was so helpful for me! I also have four kids with one on the way, and my second child has an unspecified disorder (likely on the autism spectrum) and health problems. I love the reminder that just as it’s hard sometimes to be a parent of a special needs’ child, it can be hard to be a sibling also!

    You’re doing a wonderful job teaching your daughter empathy. Thanks for your example!

  • Beth Jensen

    Ugh. I love this post so much. And there’s so much useful info even for those with children who don’t have autism. (I.e. the special date just for the two of you? That’s such a good idea). Thank you!

  • Leah

    I think all families whether it be ones with neuro typical kids or neuro diverse kids go through this at those ages. You are right you need to make sure your kid knows you are there when you need them and expressing your feeling is a must. My Autistic Child helps me as much as my non autistic child does they both help each other out in their own special way.

  • Flossie McCowald

    This is a beautifully written post; thanks for sharing this story with the world. I’m only starting to learn what being a mama of a “special needs” child is (my eldest was recently diagnosed with the same rare genetic mutation that I got diagnosed with earlier this year – basically, lots of broken bones and similar tissue problems, though she is asymptomatic now and hopefully will stay that way for a long time). It IS hard to navigate how I manage this not only with her, but also with her sister (who seems not to have inherited the mutation). Her sister is only 6, and just the other day when we were on a family hike, she started to talk about all the things that COULD happen to Kimmie (because she’s seen them happen to me and knows the story behind every scar that’s older than she is), and I could tell that all of this is already weighing heavily on her. So no, I don’t judge you – you have to do what is best for each one of your children, and it sounds as if you’re succeeding brilliantly as that! Keep up the good work, mama!

  • chelf

    If someone reads this and passes judgement I want nothing to do with them. Have you dealt with something like that before? Group hug to you all, you are doing an amazing job! <3

  • Heather

    My middle child had some rough years medically, and I definitely got out of whack with the balance for my kids. My husband and I had to remind ourselves how important it is for everyone to get their time and attention. But it was also a teachable moment for my other kids to realize that fair and equal aren’t always the same.

  • Jennifer Tanney

    I get to teach autistic kids every week and I truly can’t imagine what you go through on a daily bases to take care of two special needs kids. You are an amazing mom! The thought of having four kids makes my head hurt. My only child is exhausting. That being said It is so good that make special time for your 4-year-old. I’m sure all of your kids value special time with just you. Who doesn’t need some special attention once in a while?

  • Rosey

    I can see how it might happen, the four-year-old getting less attention. You’re right though it’s important to remember they need that time too. 💝

  • Natashia

    I wish more people understood Autism. I have a friend and her son is autistic. I have taught autistic students. They are no different from anyone else, but I do understand that not everyone has the patience and that is sad!

  • Tanya

    Thank you so much for opening my eyes & many others to the difference & giving us readers the valuable information. I feel like more people need to be aware!

  • Sunni

    I have a 9 month old with Down Syndrome, and two older boys ages 6 and 3. My little guy is so, so peaceful and happy right now and I am cherishing every minute of this because I know based on other’s experiences that it can become quite the opposite as they get older. It’s hard enough balancing attention between more than one child anyway, let alone having one with special needs! Best of luck to you, momma. You’ve got this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *