Monday, July 25, 2011

What About Me? Siblings of Special Needs Children

Something that has been on my heart for some time now was to post about
siblings of special needs children. If your family is anything like
mine, you are always busy. There are all the typical day to day tasks
to be done. Maintaining the home, preparing meals, tending to the
children, laundry, homeschooling, and more. With Micah, there is also
therapy to be done. Micah is like a 10-12 month old in a 3 yr old
body. His understanding level is 2 years behind his age. This means
that I am having to, in some ways, treat him as you would a 12 month old
infant. He has to be hand-fed, watched like a hawk, diapered, and at
every opportunity be given some form of therapy. While I am doing
structured therapy with him daily, I also believe that you take each
opportunity that is offered. If he is wanting more water in his bottle,
I encourage him to sign "more" in hopes of getting him to use sign
language to communicate instead of fussing. It makes an exhausting
day. In all of this activity, there is one other very precious child
involved - Abigail.

Abbie is 5 yrs old and a quiet child by nature. She is sometimes a bit
older than her age. In being with her brother, she is wonderful. Often
Abbie can get Micah to respond when no one else can. If Micah is
wanting to be in "Micah Land" for too long, Abbie will get in his face
and nag him into playing with her. She simply plays next to him,
following & imitating him, until he begins to smile and interact with
her. She just won't let him ignore her! It is a joy to watch. Abbie
is such a big help to me. If I am busy washing dishes, she can be found
playing along side of Micah. If Micah does anything that could hurt
him, she is quick to let me know. If he is having a meltdown, Abbie
will attempt to comfort him. Most often by quietly reassuring him with
gentle words and stroking his back or head.

While it is a blessing to see her grow with a sense of compassion for
her brother, I also want Abbie to be a kid. I also want to be sure that
she doesn't feel lost in the shuffle. I make a point to spend time
alone with Abbie each day. Micah still takes his naps in the afternoon
and often Abbie and I will have that time or in the evening after Micah
has gone to bed. We do different activities, depending on what she is
in the mood for. Sometimes, it is coloring together in a coloring book
or watercolor painting. Other times it is me massaging pretty scented
lotion on her legs, arms, and feet while she chats about whatever is on
her mind. One favorite activity is to have me read stories to her. It
doesn't matter what the activity. The point is that we have our time
together where she is the center of my attention and made to feel special.

The Lord blessed Joe and I with 2 very precious children. While Micah's
needs may be more out in the open, Abbie's needs are just as important.
We do not want her to ever feel that her brother is more important than
she is. Even in families where there are no special needs children, you
can have so much focus on one child that the other feels left out or
less important to their parents. By circumstance, Micah will need more
attention than Abbie at least for a time. Does Abbie need to understand
that Micah needs the extra help and attention? Yes, certainly she needs
to understand that. Does this mean that she should feel good about it?
No. She is a child herself being asked to understand something that
even grown-ups sometimes struggle with. But I can do much to help ease
the way for her. To not do so could lead to her resenting her brother
and the time I take helping him with his therapy. It is not showing
love to Abbie for me to leave her out continually and expect her to
understand.

In doing therapy with Micah, I involve Abbie whenever possible. She
loves playing games with him and trying to show him how to play with a
new toy or game. I have caught her many times playing with Micah and
showing him how to work a puzzle. When she notices that I am watching,
she tells me that she is helping Micah with his therapy. It is sweet.
She adores him and it shows. I see the way that he responds to her and
you know that he feels the same towards her. She can get a laugh out of
Micah without much effort. He walks in circles and she follows him and
sings. Before long, Micah is smiling and giggly as they do laps in the
middle of the floor. Through letting her "do therapy" with Micah in
her fun way, she truly feels like she is helping him. She does help
him! When she can get him to do something, she gets even more excited
than Micah does. I make sure that she knows that her helping Micah was
what helped him learn that new thing so fast and that I am proud of her.

Through it all, we have our tea parties and our "Momma/Daughter time" as
she calls it. We cook together, bake together, she is even helping me
with making meal mixes that we bag up for Joe to take on the truck. It
is a joy to have these times with her. We take mundane tasks and are
turning even them into "our time."

I am so blessed to have Abbie. She is a precious little girl with a
heart bigger than any I have ever know. She is learning at a young age
how to love unconditionally and to have compassion for others. I am
humbled to have this little girl as my daughter.

2 comments:

LizBeth said...

You're doing a great job. Some days it won't feel like it. You'll think you should be doing something more or things wouldn't be the way they are. But you're hitting all the buttons, and you're doing a wonderful job of loving your kids and rearing them in God's grace. Don't ever doubt it! ~Liz

Midlife Mama said...

Micah and Abbie are so blessed to have you as a parent. While I'm sure there are moments when Abbie feels left out, I believe that is how it is with all children regardless of the circumstances. I'm sure when she is older, she will remember all the times you spent with both of them - and the special way you took care of her brother with special needs. God Bless you and your family. AmyK