Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 6 - Page 18

CLOSE-UP DSM. Don’t dismiss their issues, whatever they may be. They need your help and guidance to get through them, just like their sibling does. How to Foster Healthy, Close Relationships with our ‘Typical’ Kids About a year ago, my 14- year-old daughter, Katie, and I wrote a post together that we somewhat sarcastically called “How to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You in 9,876 Easy Steps.” The number of steps was, of course, meant as a reminder that there is no magic spell to get your child to spill their deepest, darkest, secrets to you, the parent, but rather, closeness and ease with one another are, just as in any relationship, the fruits of time and consistent effort. The strategies for building a solid foundation with your so-called ‘typical’ children are no different, whether they have a sibling with a disability or not. While the challenges presented by the day-to-day may vary dramatically from one family to the next, the basis of connection between parents and children is going to be made up of the same stuff no matter what. In any family, there will be times when one child’s needs eclipse another’s, times when we, as units, need to pull the ripcord and leave an event that one or more of us would, in other circumstances, really not want to leave. There will be things that we simply can’t manage to do that other families might be able to navigate with ease (and vice versa), not because we have one member of the family with a disability, but because that’s how families work. Human beings who live together and love each other work together to support one another. 18 ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses Sometimes we hum along smoothly; sometimes the wheels go flying off the wagon. How we handle those moments matters. If we lay blame, if we allow autism to be the scapegoat for all that ever goes wrong, not only do we teach our autistic children that they are the cause of all that ails us, but also, we endorse and encourage resentment and anger among their siblings. So, we know what not to do. But what DO we do to foster healthy, close relationships with our ‘typical’ kids? Katie and I came up with a few suggestions. By no means do we claim to have the answers for you, but this is some of what has worked for us. Respect your kids. In so many ways this is vital, but in this context I’d add the following: respect their unique identity, not as your autistic child’s sibling, but as their own wondrous creature with interests and dreams and fears and, yes, challenges all their own. Acknowledge their challenges. While your autistic child’s challenges may be more pronounced than his or her NT sibling(s), every human being has them. It can be dangerously easy to dismiss a typically developing child’s anxieties or difficulties when they are simply part of the normal course of everyday life rather than a symptom of something in the Invest in their interests. Get to know what they like. Even if you happen to find whatever it may be mindnumbingly boring or silly or banal or even somewhat offensive, dig deeper. Find out more. I promise you that there is some morsel of just about anything that is interesting. If she’s into fashion, take her to the mall. If he’s into dinosaurs, head to the Museum of Natural History. Fine art? I don’t care if you received a D in Art History. Get thee to the MFA and go find a Monet. While the thing itself might not be of interest to you, I can promise you that there is nothing better than seeing your child INSIDE their joy. Talk to them. Tell them stuff. I know they’re your kids, but they’re also, you know, people. People with whom you are in a relationship. Wouldn’t you feel really weird confiding everything in someone who never told you anything? few (free!) ideas to get you started: Play a card game or watch a movie together before