I can’t tell you how many times I wished parenting came with a handbook or quick tips on how to navigate the hard situations. Special needs parenting comes with a totally different handbook with missing pages, different languages and a few hieroglyphics to keep it fun. So, as the parent, you struggle to piece together the information you need on your child and help your neurotypical children understand. How do you explain that rules that apply to them don’t apply to their sibling? How do you explain what you don’t fully understand yourself?
It’s not fair
As parents, we try so hard to give our attention equally. To make sure fights are settled in a fair way, that no one is getting special treatment. (what happens if they find out who the favorite one is?!) But if one child has big problems, fair goes out the window. Our attention goes to the special needs child first-it has to. It becomes almost impossible to give the neurotypical children the time and attention they deserve. Ever have a four-year-old talk to you about random things while restraining a super-strong three-year-old to keep said three-year-old from harming himself? The four-year-old gets pushed aside, once again, for the safety of their sibling. This is just one example of siblings of special needs kids.
To the siblings of special needs kids, thank you. You are members of a club you didn’t ask to join and you sacrifice so much and you hardly ever get the recognition you deserve. You are the first to get blamed and the last to get praised. We see it all and we appreciate you. We know you want to go to all the school events, and stay the whole time. We see the tears of frustration you wipe away as we have to leave “rightnowgetinthecar!” that is quickly covered with a brave smile and an ‘it’s okay mom.’
It’s frustrating to not understand why you get into trouble for saying words that your sibling can say. It’s frustrating to hear, “he has autism/ADHD/cognitive delays/odd’ and he doesn’t understand what he did’ It’s frustrating to be brushed aside as you try to talk to mom or dad and your sibling is having another episode or meltdown; to feel unimportant hurts and we are sorry
To be honest, these siblings are superheroes. They seek each other out in crowds and recognize each other. And they also seek out the ones with disabilities or challenges and befriend them instantly. They know how to treat them and include them-no questions. Oftentimes, they see their sibling being mistreated and bullied and they won’t allow it to happen to another child.
So rest easy mammas and daddies. It feels like you are climbing Everest daily without ropes. But sometimes those ropes come from the smallest people you’d least expect it to come from.