For some reason I have been thinking about the issue of siblings recently. Do you worry about the effects of being a 'sibling' on your children? Do your 'typically developing' children have a good relationship with their 'unique' sibling? Do you think being a 'sibling' is having a positive (or negative) effect on their development? Do you do anything to specifically help the siblings cope with their brother or sister who has a disability?
I'm not overly worried about Emma's relationship with Ashlea, or with how she feels about having a sibling with a disability. She seems to understand that Ashlea has a disability and that it needs to be accommodated. She has even been known to take me to task if I get frustrated with Ashlea and will tell me "MUM, Ashlea's DISABLED. She can't help it" if I get impatient. At school she told off one of her friends who was teasing a girl in a wheelchair, by telling him "She can't help it, she's disabled. Don't tease her". While we obviously need to work on using more inclusive language, I love that Emma sticks up for Ashlea and other children who have a disability. She is becoming a little advocate and has even been known to (loudly) announce "Where's the ramp?" when we've arrived somewhere not very accessible. I love that she is growing up expecting that there should be disabled access everywhere we go. If only everyone thought like that. I love that Emma just accepts Ashlea - and others with a disability - just as they are.
Audrey on the other hand I'm not so sure about. She isn't as close to Ashlea as Emma is, and really doesn't seem that interested in her at all. If she thinks Ashlea is going to get hurt she will freak out and start screaming for me to come and help, otherwise it would be hard to tell how she felt about her. I don't know whether to be concerned, or whether this dynamic has just grown out of the reality that Ashlea was very non-interactive for a very long time, so Audrey just naturally followed after Emma. I feel like in the long term though - especially at school - it will be more of a burden on Audrey than Emma. Audrey and Ashlea are twins. Whenever Ashlea draws attention to herself at school Audrey is going to be associated with that - whether good or bad. I am hoping it is a long way off, but I am sure there will come a day when she gets teased for having a sister with a disability.
I am glad that Emma and Audrey are close - and that they have a 'regular' sibling relationship with all its regular ups and downs.
While I was thinking about this issue I asked the girls what they thought of having a sister with a disability. The following answers are exact quotes.
I think it's special, because there's not that many people that are disabled. And because we can do lots of special things that you can only do if you have disabled people - like the Lord Mayors Picnic and going to Bear Cottage, and going to the deaf and blind children's thing (she means RIDBC), and the chocolate fountain party (Cerebral Palsy Alliance Christmas party). I love her and I think its nice having her in our family. But its hard because she cries when her (TV) show finishes - like the Night Garden and its hard because Mummy has to wipe her poos and she can't go to the toilet by herself. I like her because she's special and I play games with her.
I don't like it when Ashlea screams because she screams too loud.
Audrey is hard to get an answer out of, so I decided to ask some specific questions.
What is it like having Ashlea at preschool?
Nice because Mrs Cook is with Ashlea who helps her.
Whats a good thing about having Ashlea as a sister?
I don't know
Do you like going to speech therapy / OT / physiotherapy? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
A good thing.
Finally I asked them both "Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing having a sister with a disability?
Emma: A good thing. I love her. She's so cute.
Audrey: A good thing.
Although when pressed I asked if they would rather Ashlea have a disability or be like 'just like them':
Audrey: Be like us.
Emma: Be just like she is.
That probably sums it up. You can see why I am a little worried about Audrey. Obviously it is normal for the siblings to wish their brother or sister wasn't disabled, but I also love that Emma just loves Ashlea as she is. If you ask her how she feels about Ashlea she will tell you that she just loves her.
I think I would like both the girls to get involved in some sibling groups as they get older. I haven't heard of any for younger kids like mine, but if you know of some please let me know. The CPA are currently running a Masterchef themed group for older kids - mine are too young to participate but would LOVE that as they are currently obsessed with the show.
We are slowly making some 'real life' friends with siblings too which is good - and while I think of it - school holidays are coming up. Who is free to come over for morning tea and a bit of informal sibling (and Mummy) interaction?