|Janey and her big brother William|
When I have read books about parenting kids with autism, especially the extreme "I cured my child" books, one thing I noticed often is that siblings are pushed to the background. Either there are no siblings, or you get lines like "Of course, the other children often wound up missing out on our attention, but in return they learned so much compassion and love!" I swore I'd never have that attitude. Luckily, Janey's autism came to the forefront right around when the boys were reaching the age that less attention from Mama and Daddy was not a bad thing. I have guilt that will last forever at events I missed and times I was too tired to listen well, but overall, I think Janey being seven years younger than Freddy, and ten years younger than William, was a lucky thing.
However, as anyone with adult or young adult children living at home knows, they still need you at times. And I don't ever, ever want them to feel like Janey is more important than they are. But what do you do when a force like Janey's will meets a force like her brothers?
The answer is---I often just don't know. For Tony and me, the peace and calm that comes from letting Janey control the things she can control is so worth it. But what do we do when Janey quite literally pushes William out of the room he wants to be in? What do we do when she screams because Freddy is trying to show me something on the computer?
Generally, I stand firm. I say things like "William lives here too. William has a right to be in the room. Freddy can watch a video on YouTube just like you can" But, as I've written about, just being firm doesn't work with Janey. Her routines, her need to control her environment---these things are not something she can change easily based on rewards or deterrents or our attitudes or words.
Over the last week, I've seen the return of some disturbing behaviors I haven't seen Janey show in a long while. Last night, when I told her that she couldn't use the big TV right when she wanted to, she lunged and tried hard to bite me. Only a quick reaction on my part stopped her. This morning, when I was putting on her shoes, she wanted me to use the shoehorn, as Tony usually does. When I didn't immediately comply, she tried her hardest to break the shoehorn she'd brought me, and almost succeeded.
So---what do I do? It's one of those cases without a right answer. All my kids are important to me. The boys certainly have modified their lives and behaviors a huge amount over the years, but I am not willing to tell them they can't even be around, which is what Janey quite plainly wants at times.
All this is making me think of how extremely difficult it must be for those of you with children close in age to your child with autism. It's something I have never had to deal with. Like with so many ideas for dealing with autism that might work for one family but not another, many of the approaches we've had success with would quite literally be impossible if Janey had a close age sibling, or if not impossible, extremely unfair to that sibling.
We'll see how the summer plays out. I'm glad Janey is still in school for now, and will be in summer school for a good chunk of the summer. But I'm worried about the changes in behavior, worried with the fear of someone who has seen just how tough things can get. I hope they don't.