~~ When you are someone with disabilities or are the caregiver of one, you quickly learn a few simple facts. Not everyone understands simple common courtesies. So as we blog and I think of things I'll include them here. I would love to hear your thoughts and solutions as well. ~~
Special Manners #101
When people encounter a family of mixed abilities, health issues, or behavioral problems, they often either zero in on just the special needs person or the parents. Left behind are the "typical" children. Here's the real rub, those normal kids carry extra burdens because they aren't impaired.
The special needs child may require tons of extra attention from the parents. It doesn't matter to the sibling that the attention isn't all about playing and cuddles. What matters is that they aren't given equal time. As a parent I can tell you that there is no way to balance it all. Less so with each major disability in the home.
There are therapies that often have the disabled child getting a sucker, small toy, sticker or stamp. What does the sibling get? They get to do their homework in the waiting room for an hour while missing their favorite cartoon or time with their friends.
People donate things from time to time and it goes to those with needs. Guess what? Every child has needs, even those with typical abilities. There is no ribbon for them that mom proudly wears to bring them to the mind of others. They don't have a day or a month of recognition that celebrates how much extra work they put in helping their sibling.
Siblings that grow to feel left out, put out, or uncared for will find ways to show you. Their actions will then cause harm to everyone around them. School grades may drop because they think no one cares. After all mom is too busy learning about IEPs. They may become violent just because they can't voice their frustrations. They may not even realize why they are upset.
So what do you do?
The Manner: Remember that every child is special and unique, even the normal ones.
There are little ways to give to the siblings that don't take any extra effort or money. It's what most parents try to do anyway. You can catch the child being good or going the extra mile and tell them what a great job they are doing. Let them know that their help is wonderful and they will carry that with them. Involve them as much as they want to be in their siblings home based therapy, and the cause you are behind. But if they don't want to be involved, don't force them.
If the sibling is younger, then a boring therapy appointment can be made better with a story that they pick, a bit of time at a park that's close by, or some other small "me" time. If you are a friend or family member outside the home you can offer to watch the sibling for therapy time and do that quietly fun thing that makes them smile.
A simple word, small gift, a little bit of attention goes a long way. And as you know I like to say: Balance is key! just like in a typically functioning home. Don't over shower the sibling with fluff that amounts to buying them to be good. They will catch you and it will become it's own monster.
How do you balance the family? ... Oh and don't forget the spouses.... they can suffer as much as the children do.