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A siblings perspective on autism….

Despite my earlier observations on post- vacation adjustment…. we have ventured out on another family excursion.  This one has become our annual trip to Family Land, a Catholic family camp, that our children do really love.  They spend a week on swimming, pony and horse back riding, sliding on the St. John the Baptist water slide, smores, and kids camp programs.  We, the adults, with our littlest ones in tow, get to enjoy all the fun with our children, while also enjoying the adult programs in the morning.

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Our family, being the least likely to really rough it, stay in the air conditioned cabins in St. James field and use the luxury bath house :).  So last night, in the middle of the night, our 8 year old wakes up screaming (not uncommon when out of her surroundings).  After waking up most of the cabin, we finally conclude that she has to use the restroom.  In one of my not so great moments, I proceed to lecture her about her need to scream and wake everyone up.  At this point, our oldest is also in tow to the restroom and gently chides me, “She can’t help it mom, she has autism.”  While processing the reality of the statement, I try to mentally fight back with a “Well, she is high functioning,” thought.

As I sit here writing, I still ponder the statement…. “she can’t help it…” and wonder if that is true.  That is a topic in and of itself…equally impotant to me is the question of how her siblings are processing the situation.  As a mom, I know that I often teach my children to have compassion for their siblings, whether it be Catherine with her diabetes, Gabriel with his sleep disorder
or even the baby in her littleness.  But, this statement, “she can’t help it,” leaves me with so many questions. Can she help it?  Is her sister correct?  How do we teach one child to handle another?  In the end, we would probably all do alot better to have compassion, whether it be towards our own children or the children of others.  And just perhaps, they will have compassion and empathy towards us in the end.

Easier said that done!  How do you teach siblings about their siblings differences?  We would love to hear.

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