How Siblings of Children with Autism are Affected
As parents of children with Autism, we understand they require specialized care and attention. Depending upon which part of the spectrum a child falls under, the extent of the support will vary from helping them accomplish daily tasks to needing assisted care on a continual basis. Regardless of the extent of the therapy solutions, parents try anything and everything to give their children the support they need to reach their full potential.
But what about the siblings of the children with autism?
Just like how parents’ lives change when they discover their child has autism, their other children are also affected but in a much different way. Siblings have to stand by and watch, feeling helpless as their beloved brother or sister is affected by a disorder they will not fully understand until later in life. This has the potential to cause anxiety and difficulty in expressing emotions, which can lead to the siblings lashing out at their parents or brother and sister.
Parents who have children that fall into these categories are often at a loss as to how they should address the problems their children are facing. On one hand, they know their child with autism needs the added attention and Occupational, Behavioral, or Speech therapy required. On the other hand, their neurotypical children are feeling neglected and possibly left out – which is also tough on the parents.
While the sibling who has autism is receiving the care and attention they need from therapy, the neurotypical siblings finds themselves watching, almost in the shadows, while the other child receives a large part of the attention. Even though many siblings of children with autism try to understand the need their brother or sister has for the added attention, feelings of jealousy, depression, anger and resentment often arise.
This was the case in my family prior to the creation of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym. My son Gabriel, who has autism, was receiving therapy from professionals as well as utilizing a sensory gym I had set up in my own home. Prior to the in-home gym, Gabriel would receive the lion’s share of attention while my daughter Sophia often stood by and missed out on some of her own activities. Even though Sophia tried hard to understand, she stated on more than one occasion, “I wish I had autism.” This broke my heart as I immediately knew this was her way of letting me know she felt left out and alone.
I want both of my children to feel that they are perfect the way they are, which inspired me to create an in-home gym full of fun, sensory equipment for Gabriel to improve his own skills but to also give Sophia a place where she can play with her brother and friends. It wasn’t quite everything Sophia needed, but it was a step in the right direction and drove me to create and found a gym that changed my family’s lives for the better, We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym.
We Rock the Spectrum not only allows children to play together, but offers a place where play dates can be arranged for a group. We did this early on with Sophia and Gabriel. He would get his necessary therapy in the gym, and she would be able to feel like a kid again and play with her friends.
Because the gym is monitored, safe, and regulated by the dynamic staff, children can make their own play dates with their own friends from school, camp, or other social groups and meet to play and have a great time. With the option to set up play dates for your children and their friends, parents no longer have to worry about telling their typically developing children they cannot have a play date because of a therapy need of their sibling with autism.
By having the ability to play together at We Rock the Spectrum, families with children who fall into both categories now have the ability to say “yes” much more often than ever before, allowing all children to play, have fun, and feel important. Benefiting the entire family, We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym helps to create a more positive dynamic at home and allows children who are typically developing to feel they are receiving similar attention as their sibling with autism.
My Brother Rocks the Spectrum
My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation’s mission is to assist families who need additional financial assistance for the therapy and care of their children with special needs to receive the support they deserve.
My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation was created in honor of Sophia, my daughter who rocks every single day. Sophia has watched as her brother Gabriel has grown and developed from the time he was diagnosed with autism to how capable he is today. Not only have Sophia and Gabriel been the inspiration for my creation of We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, but Sophia has become a young therapist in her own right. It wasn’t always easy, but her curiosity to learn, determination to assist her brother, and desire to help others has led her to have a positive influence on many of the children at We Rock the Spectrum. Over and over again, we see children who are typically developing assisting their friends and siblings who have special needs, a dynamic that is allowed to foster and grow in our gyms by having an inclusive philosophy and gyms full of amazing parents and staff. Here is what Sophia had to say: “I feel great because I can help my brother and I can help other kids, even kids with Down Syndrome. I am not a Junior Helper any more, I am now a Coach.”
The foundation helps to fund a variety of activities at the gym for families who qualify and need the assistance, including monthly memberships and equipment. The foundation also helps families finance the personal aide some children with special needs require in order to attend a camp or activities at the gym. As the cost for a full-time or part-time aide for a child can become extremely expensive, the foundation is able to help defer some of these costs in order to allow all children to experience the benefits found at the gym through camps and play time.
Through both the We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym and My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation, all children, whether suffering developmental disabilities or not, are able to take full advantage of the fantastic, specially designed equipment, open play area, arts and crafts section and come away with a feeling of peace, happiness and accomplishment!