Tag Archives | sibling

Autism can’t stop my son from being a great big brother

This year, my younger son Tyler (3yrs old) started JK… his first time in school. He’s so very excited for it because he’s watched his older brother, Cameron (6yrs old), go off to school for 2 years now.

And even though Tyler is still only 3, he’s more than ready. He can count pretty high, knows his alphabet, goes to the bathroom on his own and most of all… he’s just so crafty. He loves to paint and build things… school is so perfect for him.

Still though, even when it goes perfectly for the most willing of children, school can be overwhelming for the first little while.

Still bragging about this school

Cameron

Cameron - Big Brother

I’ve written many many times about how I picked up my family and moved over 850km away to get Cameron into this school because of their amazing Autism classes… this year, Cameron is back for his 3rd year (grade 1 this year!) and he gets the same teacher, the same teachers assistants and some of the same classmates.

A couple of children have gone off to IBI or to another classroom but his familiar friends are still there. Cameron is doing exceptionally well thanks to this.

There is another added benefit though, which I have not discussed, because we had not yet reached that point but this year is the year… his little brother gets to attend the same school!

It’s a normal, run of the mill public school but they have 4 special classrooms especially designed and equipped for children with Autism.

This means that while Cameron is in his class of 4 children (including him), with 1 teacher and 2 aides…. Tyler, his little brother, is across the hall!

Overcome Autism? No problem with the right motivation

Cameron has never had a huge problem with hugs or showing his feelings but then again, it’s not as natural for him as it would be for most other children either though.

Trying to get that out of him where he’s not quite as comfortable is even tougher… like say, at school.

But that doesn’t stop him when Tyler needs him!! Oh no.

Tyler knows that his big brother is across the hall and when the anxiety gets too much for him, he knows to ask his teacher… so his teacher takes his hand, walks him across the hall, Cameron stops what he is doing, gives his little brother a big hug and tells him that he’s ok… and Tyler goes right back to his class, feeling so much better.

This is huge!

Cameron told me that he remembers when he first went to school… for the first 6 months or so, he had a very hard time because he “didn’t feel safe.” I told him that sometimes, Tyler might feel that way too but mom and dad can’t be there to help him.

Cameron stepped up to the task in a huge way and is genuinely eager, excited and willing to help out his little brother. He wants be the big brother that Tyler needs.

Not a surprise to those that know him

Tyler

Tyler - Ready for his first day!

While I am excited about this, I’m not surprised.. and I’m sure those that know Cameron won’t be surprised by this either.

Still though, as a parent, I’m still so very proud. Also, if you’re a parent of a child with Autism, I’m sure you can understand that even though I’m not surprised, I’m still… well, I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it.

Cameron amazes me every day, as does his little brother, but I still put no expectations on him before hand. He won’t disappoint me if he doesn’t do it, he won’t surprise me if he does do it… but it’s never necessary because sometimes, he just doesn’t do what some might expect of him.

And while it doesn’t surprise me, what does get me is that he’s so willing to stop what he’s doing… to break routine… to show affection right there in front of everyone… and to know and understand what his little brother is feeling.

In that moment, when his brother needs him most.. he is not autistic. There is no Autism. There are no teachers. There are no parents.

There is only Tyler. His little brother. And he loves him.

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Autism Study of The Month: Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study

the_warner_siblings

Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study

Source: http://psy2.ucsd.edu/~kdobkins/O,2011.pdf

Abstract

Objective: The recurrence risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is estimated between 3 and 10%, but previous research was limited by small sample sizes and biases related to ascertainment, reporting, and stoppage factors. This study used prospective methods to obtain an updated estimate of sibling recurrence risk for ASD.
Methods: A prospective longitudinal study of infants at risk for ASD was conducted by a multi-site international network, the Baby Siblings Research Consortium. Infants (n=664) with an older biological sibling with ASD were followed from early in life to 36 months, when they were classified as ASD or Non-ASD. An ASD classification required surpassing the cutoff of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule and receiving a clinical diagnosis from an expert clinician.
Results: 18.7% of infants developed an ASD. Infant sex and the presence of more than one older affected sibling were significant predictors of ASD outcome, with an almost three-fold increase in risk for males and an additional two-fold increase in risk if there was more than one older affected sibling. In contrast, the age of the infant at study enrollment, the sex and functioning level of the infant’s older sibling, and other demographic factors did not predict ASD outcome.
Conclusions: The sibling recurrence rate of ASD is higher than suggested by previous estimates. The size of the current sample and the prospective nature of the data collection minimized many limitations of previous studies of sibling recurrence, including
ascertainment bias, stoppage, and over-reporting. Clinical implications, including genetic counseling, are discusse

Press Release from Source

You can read here: http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/newsroom/newsdetail.html?key=5594&svr=http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu&table=published

Translation

Researchers studied 664 participants in the US and Canada, finding that 132 infants met the criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

54 children received a diagnosis of “Autistic Disorder”.

78 children received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS.

80% of all children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder were male.

The over all rate of Autsm was 18.7%.

The rate in which there was one older sibling with Autism was 20.1%.

The rate in which there was more than one older sibling with Autism was 32.2%.

In My Opinion

This is simply my opinion of the story, stop reading if you do not want opinions and are happy just having read the details of the original study itself.

This study does not assume any “causes” which means that, even though many people will pull a genetic association out of this, it could still imply a common environmental element to the siblings.

While a much larger study than previous studies, it is still a fraction of all families and even still, the numbers are averages. Which means that the risks will be higher than 18.7% for some families but also less than 18.7% for some families.

As I always say… there is always a risk, no matter what you do or what you know. There’s never a 0% chance.

These are studies on the risk of Autism, there are other risks such as being still born, born with cancer and so on and so forth. To add up all of the risks of all the possibilities could lead to insanity. If no one ever had a child due to risks, there would be no children.

 

“Autism Study of the Month”
The purpose of the Autism Study of the Month series is to provide unpolluted (by the media) information about the studies released at least once a month in the study of possible Autism causes or risks.
You will find links to the actual studies, get to read the “abstract” of the study and, when possible, get the PR release from the source.
When it comes to science, let’s leave the media out of it.

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Resenting or even hating a family member with Autism

My wife just started a new part time job selling children’s clothing at a local store, it’s a perfect job for her since she loves children and she loves dressing them up just as much. It’s been a couple of weeks and so her co-workers have adjusted to her being there and as such, found herself in quite the interesting conversation with one of them.

Cameron and Tyler

Brothers

The topic came up about our children, how Cameron has Autism and Tyler does not. At this point her co-worker shared that her brother has Autism and more so than that, she actually resents him… to the point of hating him.

Now, before I tell you what my wife’s response was to this, I’d first like to speculate just how much this might be the truth for other people out there… perhaps even more people than we might be aware of because it’s very likely that most would never confess such a thing, certainly not to anyone that would ever deliver that news back to the family.

It got me to thinking about it and even though I don’t understand, I sort of do understand too.

First of all, a sibling with Autism is likely to not play well with you, perhaps not even involve you at all and would have great difficulty sharing. Meanwhile your parents would likely ride you to no end to be extra nice to them because “it’s not their fault.”

You’d likely have to have them tag along with you or have them at your gatherings and so forth because it’s likely that your sibling wouldn’t have many friends if they have Autism. It’s possible, depending on severity, that they never really even had a normal birthday party and as such, your parents would impose all these extra demands and responsibilities on you, on your special day, to help your sibling feel involved.

I think you see where I’m going, the list can go on and on… even a high functioning sibling with Aspergers could become a burden on your life that you might grow to resent.

I would hope that most rational people would grow out of that resentment and finally understand what it was their parents were trying to do, but there’s no real guarantee of that happening, especially if the parents don’t recognize that and help it along some.

If the sibling is quite low functioning and needing a lot of help, to the point of (in your mind) stealing all of your parent’s time away from you… well, it’s easy to see where the resentment could grow from there.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I can see how my wife’s co-worker could feel that way… how I kind of feel bad for her that she had to feel that for so long. Not because she is a bad person for feeling it, but because she never had the guidance she needed to help her understand how much good she was doing in all the things she was likely asked to do, or sacrifice. That she was a needed part of her sibling’s upbringing and life to this day.

I certainly can’t say that she’s justified in feeling that way, no one should resent or hate anyone for having Autism. They didn’t choose to have Autism. But when I put some thought into it, I can sort of understand how it may have come to be.

I think it’s just important that we remember that it’s a distinct possibility in our own children. To always remember that siblings can resent each other no matter the situation but it’s so very easy to happen when one child is “different.” My little one, Tyler, is a very very kind soul and something tells me I will have nothing to worry about, but I can’t ever let it slip though. If we are not careful, if we miss something, he could hold a resentment just as my wife’s co-worker does. And I would hate for that to happen.

So what did my wife say to her in response to that? I’m paraphrasing a bit here but basically she told her co-worker, and all her co-workers:

“Honestly, if any of you deliberately ignore someone who comes in and has a disability of any kind, not only will I call you out on it and set you straight, I will never, ever talk to you again. It’s just something I will not tolerate.”

Not only am I proud of her, but so were her managers. They agreed, everyone that walks in gets treated the same, disorder, disability or nothing.

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Share the Love – Siblings without Autism

One of the main concerns in our home is how to balance our time and attention between our two small children. We have come to realize that there will probably always be a bit of an imbalance between the two since JD naturally needs so much attention because he has autism. Here are a few things we have found that work really well for our family to spread the love.

  • Play time- This doesn’t ever seem to go as planned but it still seems to work somehow. Usually we take a ball and one parent sits with each child while we roll it back and forth. It was suggested by one of JD’s therapists after Gwen decided she was going to push all his buttons to get him to pay attention to her.  It started when she was only 10 months old.  He generally ignores her and she decided that any reaction was better than no reaction and was turning into quite the bully. JD is not always happy about trying family play time but we always try to incorporate some sort of time together if at all possible. It has helped curve Gwen’s aggression to JD because she feels like she is getting some attention from him.  Even something as simple as having JD grab a toy and offer it to Gwen works on some days.
  • Alone Time- If you have more than one child you will understand how different it feels when you are back to one on one time with a child. This stratigy is much easier said than done but we try and do it at night. We will have one parent stay home with one child while the other takes child number two out. We keep it simple and the outings are usually errands that need to be run anyway but the one child really seems to be happy to go alone with just mommy or daddy. The parent at home also makes this a quality time by turning off the TV and just interacting with the child. If JD is the one home we use this time to implement floor time therapies.
  • Parent Time- Taking one child out with both parents.  This one is the hardest for our family to implement.  Often if we have a spare moment where child care is involved my husband and I would rather spend it without the kids.  Alone time for parents is a must!  However every once in a while we will take one of the kids (usually Gwen) on a “date night” with us.  We can focus all of our attention on her and she soaks it all up.

I can only imagine how hard it is to have a sibling with autism that seems to have a different set of rule and will often get more attention.  My husband and I are both middle children from large families so we understand how you can often find imbalance even where there are no special needs involved.  Granted our children are both young and right now this is what works for our family.  We know we will have to get more creative as they get older.

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The Younger Sibling, Autism’s Worst Nightmare

I’ve talked to people who tell me that they wish their ‘normal’ child would have more understanding when it comes to their Autistic sibling… my answer to that is… if they didn’t get on each other’s nerves, they wouldn’t be brother or sister. It’s like a law.

But I do understand what they mean, I live it every day… in my case, there can’t be any understanding because Cameron’s younger brother is only 2… yes, the terrible twos!!

Right now we have 2 issues on our hands when it comes to brotherly love…  one is Cameron’s personal space when he’s overwhelmed and the other is Cameron’s return home from school.

Cameron’s personal space is important to him, as it is for most people but more so for someone with Autism. Cameron will literally separate himself from people and play on his own, quietly, in an empty room for a good 15-30 minutes until the feeling of anxiety goes away and he’ll rejoin the people. He does this entirely on his own, when he needs it. However, tell this to a 2 year old and you might as well talk to a wall. His little brother Tyler will follow him and continue to push and push and push. We bought a little tent, not so much for camping but for just playing in and Cameron likes to hide himself away in it.. he even flips it forward so that the entrance to the tent is on the floor. This means there’s no way in or out.

Well, his little brother doesn’t like that at all because now he’s being excluded from something fun and he freaks out… fighting ensues.

The second primary reason for issues is when Cameron returns home from school. You see, at 2 years old, poor Tyler essentially stays home on his own most of the time to play games and do things with his mother. Sometimes he has friends over, or goes places, but a lot of times he’s on his own. And so when his big brother Cameron comes home from school at 3pm, he latches on for fun and games.

The problem with this is that Cameron is returning home from an already overwhelming day of learning and socializing. He returns home and would love nothing more than to grab a couple of familiar toys and play quietly, calming himself down but his little brother immediately glues himself to his side and tries to play with him.

Cameron typically responds by telling him he’s a bad baby, that he’s going to have a time out… you know, anything and everything that we’ve ever said in his life to tell him that he’s done something wrong. This causes Tyler to react by screaming and it escalates from there.

The best we can do in these cases is explain to them, each and every single time, why they’re behaving the way they are and what they should be doing to be nice to each other. At first it’s like talking klingon to a bunny rabbit… but over time they let it sink in a little.

In our case, Cameron is willing to give a little and play with his baby brother for a few minutes to make him happy before he finally has enough and leaves.

There’s only one thing I can tell you that makes any sense about it all…  some day, some how, they will look back on these times with fondness… although it may be 40 years from now. But in the end, Autism or not, the fights and bickering is pretty much to be expected. They’re siblings.

Just remember to put your ‘extra patience’ hat on and do your best to either let them settle it or solve it for them… just as any parent would.

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