Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

7/17/2014

Special Needs Brother



My wife recently remarked to me that she doesn't feel like our kids get excited about anything, that they don't show their excitement like other kids do. Her comment stuck with me for a few days. As I've been thinking about it and churning it around in my mind, I honestly had to agree with her. There have been several times, just in the last year, when I've been disappointed by their reaction to something. For example this past Christmas we surprised the boys with tickets to Legoland, Florida. We live in Maryland so this was a big gift that involved airfare and such. Both boys had been begging to go to Legoland for months, basically every time the Lego "magazine" arrived in our mailbox. (I use that term in quotes because if you've ever seen this so called literature that the company mails to my children for free...then you know that it is basically a glorified toy catalog.) 

I set up the iPhone on the bookshelf to secretly record their faces once they opened the package with the Legoland tickets and park map, hoping that their reaction would be as over the top happy as some of the videos I've seen on YouTube. They both barely cracked a smile. Instead they were full of questions about when we are going, for how long and then once the day arrived they were both happy to be there. Excited? Well let's just say that their "excited" isn't anywhere close to other children's excited.

And after further thought on my wife's recent remark to me about it, I've come to the conclusion that my youngest son has been looking up to his brother for the way in which to conduct himself emotionally. Almost all children do this, younger siblings look to the older sibling to interpret if something is a good idea, safe etc. Well my oldest son, Logan, is on the Autism Spectrum. And children on the Autism Spectrum have a great deal of difficulty appropriately expressing their emotions.

When Logan was around three years old I use to hold up flash cards at the dinner table that had pictures of various people expressing emotions. These were stock images that showed him what crying looked like, surprise, happy, thoughtful etc. Children on the Autism Spectrum don't naturally understand emotional facial reactions, it often times has to be learned.

So it shouldn't come to a surprise that those children then don't always express their own emotions as you or I would. Logan's "really happy" looks like a very toned down version of a nuerotypical child's "really happy". His emotional reactions aren't as extreme or as identifiable. And now I've realized that my younger son's emotional reactions are simply him imitating his autistic brother, not on purpose of course, it has just happened the way these things do within a family. Could this be a study for future research scientists? I think so. I wonder what else my younger son has learned how to do by watching his older brother and though he is not on the Autism Spectrum he might unintentionally act as though he is.
Have you ever encountered this between siblings where one child is special-needs and the other is not? What did you observe?

2 comments:

morninglight mama said...

What an interesting insight. I think you're onto something, and the sibling order is an important factor here, I would think.

It's kinda funny to me to think about this type of emotional expression, since our experience with our kids is the extreme opposite. There is no "mild" expression of any emotion around here, and I'd say that the younger two have definitely picked up some of that from their older brother!

Crushing said...

I personally love their reaction! Very L & Z. I have to admit it was along the lines of Jackson's this Christmas when we told him he was going to be a big brother. I thought he was going to be over the moon given our recent conversations about REALLY wanting a brother or sister. I too thought we'd have that YouTube video so we recorded it. It was a bit lackluster to say the least :). But I agree, it would be a really interesting study.

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