Hello everyone! My name is Danielle, and I’m 15 years old. I have two autistic siblings, and am the mommy to the bestest labrador in the world. I play several musical instruments (my favorite one being my ukulele), and I want to be an international missionary when I’m older (see Matthew 28:19). I love reading, playing Just Dance on the Wii, and I have an incredible talent for inserting sarcasm into any conversation.
If parents of special needs children are the backbone of support, then siblings are practically every other bone that help hold up and encourage these incredibly complex and beautiful human beings. I sincerely think that we siblings are a kind of our own. We, along with our parents, have practically super-human patience, creative problem solving skills, and a plethora of information on developmental issues.
However, I believe that siblings don’t think their voices are as important, and we sometimes feel our issues are inferior to those of our sibling(s). Trust me, I can say this with what I feel is credible authority, as both of my siblings are autistic, and can claim several other learning and behavioral anomalies. Sometimes I feel like the only one who is clinically sane in our household. That’s normal and okay; because here’s a little secret for you siblings out there...you are the only one who is clinically sane in your household... And see it as a gift, not some kind of burden you have to bear. Being clinically sane is super underrated!
I really want to divert everyone’s attention to us, if only just for the few minutes it takes you to read this blog post. That may sound selfish, but to quote Eeyore, my favorite mopey donkey, “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.”
We siblings are afraid of talking about our problems and our issues, because we know that our brothers and sisters with special needs have so many more. For example, earlier this year my sister was going through testing to receive a full diagnosis of her brain. Basically, our family therapist trying to discover everything that could possibly be different with her, whether it be developmental or behavioral.
As we were going through this testing, it was revealed to us that there was a possibility of my sister displaying seizure activity in her brain. This, as you can imagine, shocked and terrified us, as Katie never seemed to have an issue as serious as this. At the same time, I was going through a very difficult time with my own mental health. I was experiencing depression and anxiety to the point where I wanted to sit in bed all day, and just read. I was seeing a therapist at the time, and the car ride to and from was the only time where I felt like I could talk to my parents about the feelings I was experiencing.
I didn’t think I was entitled to help for my anxiety and depression because other people (including my siblings) have issues that are much more serious. This, I realized, just isn’t true. Just because you may feel that your issues are miniscule in comparison to others doesn’t cancel them out. Pain is a relative force. I’m talking to the siblings here. If you feel that your problems aren’t problems because they’re different than your sibling’s issues, then you are wrong. You need to communicate with your parents, and tell them what’s going on. If they’re too busy to listen, then schedule a time to sit down and make them listen. Trust me, your parents want to know that you are okay. They love you and care for you. Don’t ever think they don’t.
Talk to your friends at school about what it’s like at home. Help them to understand so they can build you up when you get overwhelmed... not IF you get overwhelmed, WHEN you get overwhelmed. And honestly, it feels so good to rant sometimes. Try and befriend another person who has a special needs sibling. Those are the people you’ll grow closest to, because you really understand what it’s like for each other. Ask your parents to set up a “me night”. About once a week, find someplace you can go for an hour or so, ALONE (I like to go to the library). I can’t stress the alone part enough. We need time to center ourselves, and catch a breath. Parents get to do it on date nights and such, so why can’t we? Everyone needs a break now and then. Don’t feel guilty about it.
The most important thing you can do is COMMUNICATE. Don’t ever not say something because you feel it’s inferior. You are important. You matter.