Thursday 24 May 2018

The intuition of additional needs siblings

Autistic David on a slide

Sometimes I'm amazed by my kids.  Anthony's acceptance of himself as a child who is autistic and has a diagnosis of ADHD; David's ability to find happiness in the smallest of moments.  Then there is the times I'm brought to tears by an interaction I never thought possible; the first time my two boys actually communicated and spoke to one another.  It was just a word.  It was brilliant.   Most of the time I'm very aware that I need to be around for these things to happen.  How could Anthony and David cope without me?  Of course, I should know better.

Unlike many kids with autism, David is not put off by people.  Busy places don't worry him in the classic sensory overload type of way.  What he struggles with in most busy places is communicating, understanding what to do and how to navigate the social scene. Obviously this is not easy for a boy who doesn't speak, like 25% of autistic people.  So, I often take on the role of interpreter or trying to help David communicate himself by signing or starting words for him.

We recently went to a playground called the Magic Garden at Hampton Court.  We've been to it many times.  Although it's often very busy at the weekend, David creates a loop of activity for himself and me.  Up a turret, along a bridge, wait for his turn on a swirly slide and repeat.

Part of the fun for David is doing this with me.  He waits at each point for me to catch up and when he gets to the slide, I join the queue and he waits by the slide entrance for me.  When I get to the front of the queue he goes down before me and waits at the bottom.

We've had some near arguments with kids who think he is pushing in, and the odd adult who have said he is being very rude by not answering them when they ask him "Are you going down?"  How would they know that the only question David would recognise is "Is it your turn?"

But then I'm not the only one who understands this about David.  One time as I came down the slide, David's younger sister, Jane was there.  As I was out of breadth, I asked her to chase after David as he hurried towards the turret, just to make sure he was safe while I caught up.  But then, David saw Jane and beckoned her to follow him.

In fact David, and Jane followed the same path that David and I had without fault. I watched from the ground as David pushed past the people in the queue to stand by the slide entrance as Jane waited in the queue. Even from the ground I could see him smiling at her.

As she got to the front of the queue, David looked at her, "David's turn" she said to him firmly, and David disappeared down the slide.

To my delight this repeated as I watched like a hawk from the ground.  Then on the third round as David pushed to the front of the queue to stand by the entrance, a couple of kids took offence.  There was a bit of jostling.  Just as I was about to head to the turret with the thought that it'll have broken into a fist / scratch fight by the time I get there, I saw Jane.  She left the queue and went to stand by her brother.  She gently held his hand. She turned to the boys and told them something.

The boys went down the slide and then a moment later so did David and Jane.

It was fascinating how at only five years old, Jane knew when her brother needed more support and when she didn't need to offer it.  She's always had a very natural instinct with both her brothers, an understanding or as least a mimicking of me when it comes to helping them.  The day she prevented Anthony from falling into the water is just one case, and this another.  She naturally adapts her language when talking to David without a thought. A shining example of inclusion and why it's so important on many levels really.

When I was in secondary school I remember smacking a kid two years younger than me on the bus.  He made the mistake of ganging up with some other lads on my younger brother.  Nathan told my mum and dad that I gave the kid a bloody nose, in fact he said "His nose was all over his face, it was awesome."

Though I don't condone fisticuffs (is seems those were different days) there's a certain mirroring in the protection of a sibling mingled with an intuitive understanding of her brothers needs that I'm delighted to see in Jane, despite her being the far younger sister.

I often consider what her future may be.  I worry if she will end up being a carer when she doesn't want to be.  She's an extremely astute child and perhaps the fact that she chooses to care the way she does is something of a lesson for many of us.  It certainly gives me a bright hope for her and her brothers' future.

I actually managed to ask Jane what she said to the lads at the top of the slide.  She said she couldn't remember everything but that it included:

"David's actually waiting very nicely.".... and

"He sometimes needs some help to go down the slide.  Don't you need some help with things sometimes?"

Indeed Jane.  Indeed. xxxx

This week's #wetalkmakaton sign is brother 
- and I'm happy to highlight this in our post today.


  1. Oh I love Jane! Such a good read #dreamteam

  2. Brought tears to my eyes. Siblings are indeed amazing. She'll grow up to be a carer only if she wants to be one. Maybe she'll help in other ways, like research. Whatever, I'm sure she will be fantastic xx #SpectrumSunday

  3. She sounds like a wonderful little girl, as do all of your children. Thanks for sharing with #TriumphantTales, we'd love to see you back again on Tuesday!

  4. I feel like these siblings learn to be more empathetic, caring, and patient adults. It can truly be a huge benefit! Jane sounds like a brilliant sister. #DreamTeam

  5. Your daughter sounds like a very caring and thoughtful little girl. #TriumphantTales

  6. Wonderful Jane! They are lucky to have each other. My youngest is similarly intuitive about what his elder, autistic brother needs, and also regarding what we need him to do when things get challenging. I often look up from rummaging in my bag for my keys to see little brother standing tall, with his arms slightly outstretched, subtly blocking his big brother from bolting while my eyes are off him for a second. xx



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