Autism and the Effects on Siblings

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Autism and the Effects on Siblings

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Q&A Session 6 with the Director of The Son-Rise Program

Topic: Autism and the Effects on Siblings

Q: Hi Bryn!
Thanks so much for doing this – it is invaluable!!!
My question concerns the effect of a Son-Rise Program on siblings, something you must be very aware of, being Raun’s sister as a child, running a Son-Rise Program in your home for one of your children, and having so many years of experience working with various families. As you know, we have been running a program for Benjamin, autistic, 5 years old, for 2+ years now. I have made special time with my daughter, Rachel, who is 9 – we go to workshops at the museum and to plays and dances, etc., probably about once or twice a month. I am feeling pretty good about our relationship, but I’m also aware that she at times slips through the cracks – she doesn’t get the attention she should, we expect more out of her than she’s capable of, and her needs get put on the back burner while Benjamin’s needs are so front and foremost.

Do you remember how you felt about Raun getting so much attention when you were a child? Is there anything you do with your son that you’d like to share with us? Do you have any other insight into this area?

One of the things we told Rachel when we started this program was how much we wanted to take her to The Option Institute – we were looking forward to attending the pre-teen program you had at the time. Will you ever be bringing that program back? I’m sure many of us would be interested in going when the demands of our Son-Rise programs are less.

Thanks for sharing Bryn.

My love to you and your family
Kelly M.

A: Dear Kelly,
Hello! I was excited to see your name and have a question from you. I would also love, when you have time, to hear more details about your program with Benjamin – how is he doing? how are you feeling about it etc.

You ask a question which I am sure others share. In terms of my own personal experience, I can only say, truly, that it was positive. And if I did not have this personal experience, if it was in any way unpleasant for me, I would never then endeavor to create a circumstance, as I have, in which my son would experience the same thing. I always thought it was a fantastic and fun experience! I loved having young people come into our home – I loved the group meetings and being able to be the special “helper” on these occasions. I loved when my father would rotate taking my sister and I out for our “special” time with him. Actually, let me highlight this a moment. My father would take my sister and I out – every other thursday afternoon, so, in effect, I got my turns two times per month for an afternoon. You could perhaps think, “Well, that’s not that much”…and yet, these afternoons were the highlight of my childhood. I spent more time, focused, with my father than any of my friends did. And the beauty of it was, that he and my mother made it special too. They would highlight this occasion and make a big event out of it, talking about it days in advance and giving me the feeling that this was a very special, wonderful, unique opportunity for me. We tend to do this with Christmas, or Birthdays’ – we (the adults) begin to talk about them in advance and we are excited and we help to teach our children to become excited about and value these occasions as well, I feel that is what they did for me. And, that is what you can do for Rachel. You can make the things that you listed that you do with her “events” vs. just a “given” part of her week. You can talk about how you look forward to them, you can giggle and get excited about it – you can call it our “special” time – you can build it up and make it bigger and even more wonderful to her…and to you! This will be excellent for both of you, truly.

When you talk about her “falling through the cracks”…I am not sure what you mean. It sounds as though you are feeling that she is not receiving adequate attention from you. There are a few ways to deal with this. First, and most importantly, is attitude! (surprised I said that eh? tee-hee) If you are feeling guilty, or you are feeling that she is not getting enough, then you will teach her to see it the same way. My baby-sitter comes from a family of 8 children – 8 children in 8 years. Her mother did not have help in the home, her mother raised all of these children, plus 12 in her home as a childcare provider. She never played scrabble with them, she never sat for long periods individually with each child sharing about their day, speaking with them about their dreams. Yet, when I talk to my baby-sitter, she only speaks so highly and full of love towards her mother. She never talks about being cheated or unlucky…and given the circumstances above, I imagine she received much less individualized attention than Rachel does. So, why does she feel this way? In part I think because her mother felt good about what she was doing. Her mother highlighted for her how wonderful it was that they were all sitting together at snack time. Can you see? We can teach Rachel, by our own perspective, that which we give meaning to, she will give meaning to. That which we see as extraordinary (taking her to places one or two times per month) she will see as extraordinary as well. You are so powerful, so capable, and such a strong influence in her life – you have all you require to teach her to feel cared for and special. It all starts with you and your perspective. I am confident, with all that I know of you and your “powerful way” that you can create a new relationship and experience with Rachel. And it can be easy and fun! Have a good time with this new perspective – and let me know how it goes.

With warmest wishes to you,
Bryn N. Hogan

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