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Jul 16

Brothers

God bless you if you have one child, but I don’t think anybody should have just one child. Everybody needs a sibling. I have siblings, and I have so many amazing, precious memories with my siblings. I don’t know what I would do if I had been an only child.” – Sherri Shepherd (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/siblings.html#0AFDtAFXIQcj32Jm.99)

Brody and Ryan

I think about the quote above because there are times that I feel like I have two children but they live a life sort of like only children.  A deep hardship in the ordeal of parenting a child with autism is their social skills or lack thereof. Not all children on the autism spectrum have a lack of social skills or severe lack of social skills. For my son Brody, there is an extreme lack of social skills or interest in peers or any children at all. Brody will seek out interaction from adults at times but that seems to be his social limit. Brody not seeking the social interaction coupled with his extreme lack of communication makes a relationship with a parent difficult to cultivate let alone a relationship with a sibling.

I grew up with 5 siblings and my husband grew up with 6 siblings. We are all very close to our brothers and sisters in our family. These relationships built our character and the friendships with our siblings continue to this day. Even the siblings we are not as close with still hold a special place in our hearts. A sibling is a person we hold similarities to and share countless memories. A sister or brother is the person we first develop many of our social skills, spend time playing with and help us evolve as a person. It is an automatic friend for life!

The recent difficulties between Ryan and Brody have not always been as big of an issue but as the younger brother has gotten older, it has. Ryan is now 4 years old and Brody just turned 7 years old. As with most typical functioning children, Ryan constantly wants to play. Whether it is pretending he is Luke Skywalker, reading books or playing outside, Ryan likes a friend to play with. Previously Ryan did not mind that a friend to play with was either me, Dad, an uncle or an aunt. Sometimes I was able to have that ‘friend’ be a cousin near his age or my friend’s child. Unfortunately, I do not often have other children at my disposal to play with Ryan. Ryan has never been one to be able to just play with toys and be content. Ryan has always loved and craved to interact with others. Even when Ryan sits and watches a movie, he wants someone else to be there with him. This summer though, has been especially rough as Ryan is desperate to play with his brother and Brody is not in school and constantly home.

I hear Ryan constantly say to Brody any of the following:

“Hey Brody, do you want to play?”

“Brody do you want to play light-sabers with me?”

“Hey Brody do you want to watch a movie with me?”

“Brody how old are you?”

“How was school today Brody?”

“Brody, let’s eat”

“Brody, do you want to sit by me” or “Can I sit with you”

“Brody, can I play with that?”

“Brody, I love you so much”

“Brody, let’s hug”

Not once, have I seen Ryan say any of these statements and Brody even make eye contact, let alone respond. For a while, the effect of Brody’s disinterest has not only been Ryan reaching out but Ryan doing anything to Brody for some type of reaction. Ryan will bug Brody, take toys, hit, push, tell him what to do, take things away, etc. For him psychologically, any reaction from his brother is better than no reaction.

Many have told me that Brody does love Ryan in his own way. I have also been told that in time, when they are older, they will be the best of friends. Well no matter what the future holds, it is difficult NOW to watch these things daily. It does not stop the effect this sibling relationship – or lack thereof – has on Ryan mentally NOW. As much as these things bring tears to my eyes and depress me, I have a small place in my heart that hopes and longs for the sibling connection to be made by my boys. I am also realizing, with behavior intervention, that my role as their mother is to teach Brody HOW to play with Ryan and how to have a brother. I never thought I would have to do this as a parent but it is now a role I need to embrace.

I guess I feel compelled to share of this problem because it hangs over me and pulls at my heartstrings daily. As with most things I write about on this blog, I hope sharing will help me or others

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