The Loving Sibling – A Grandpa’s Perspective
By Bob Ketelhohn
As stated in my last writing, having an autistic grandchild has given me an opportunity to grow in ways I didn’t know I could grow.
Part of that growth is paying attention to all aspects of my relationship with an autistic child, as well as everyone else in the family. Anyone involved in this type of an arrangement understands the constant demands – as well as the enjoyments – of raising an autistic child, but sometimes the traditional sibling gets lost in the constant demands.
In my observation, this oversight of the non-autistic sibling is not an intentional decision; but is more the result of the many demands on everyone’s time and emotions.
Per http://www.spectrumnews.org, over the last decade or so researchers have begun exploring siblings’ actual experience and they have learned that autism favors these relationships in myriads of ways. “It’s not that disability is the outside force. Disability is actually part of the relationship”, says Ariella Meltzer, a research fellow at the Centre for Social Impact at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “It’s part of the essence, part of what’s communicated and felt between the siblings.”
So, with this being said I want to devote this piece to my loving granddaughter Allayna, the proud and loving older sister of David.
Even before David was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, it was very apparent that the two had a special bond between them.
Early in David’s childhood, he would not verbally communicate, so the understanding of his needs could become difficult – but more times than not, it was Allayna who understood and eased his anxieties.
Soon, David’s first course of action was to go to “Sissy” and make his needs known – as he knew it would be understood.
At this point, Allayna could accept or reject this role; and she willingly, and lovingly accepted being the best big “Sissy” in the world that took care of all David’s needs.
As the years have ticked by, the bond between David and Allayna continues to grow – and gets stronger. David has now begun to communicate verbally, and there are many times where you can sit back and listen to David and Allayna communicate; you’d think the two of them have developed their own personal language between them.
They will throw quips of movie lines back and forth that to us seems meaningless – but to them makes perfect sense, and actually is driving a point across.
It is in these moments you sit back and realize that Allayna has grown and matured in away that other teenagers her age will never experience.
Again referencing http://www.spectrumnews.org, the relationship between the autistic and non-
autistic child can provide the non-autistic child with developing qualities of maturity, patience, resiliency, and empathy. The autistic child, who finds socializing a challenge, will develop a meaningful experience of friendship through the bantering and bickering with their non-autistic sibling.
In closing, it’s easy for the non-autistic sibling to develop resentment and anger; but when a loving relationship is developed between them, the relationship becomes beneficial to both in their development and growth.
I am very proud of Allayna, and in awe of how she has accepted and nurtured her relationship with her brother David.
Congratulations Allayna, for being the best big “Sissy” in the world!!