How Autism Has Touched Me & What I Learned

How Autism Has Touched Me & What I Learned | Baby Chick

How Autism Has Touched Me & What I Learned

Not many people know that I have a brother. And not only that, he is my twin brother! People are always shocked when I tell them that I am a twin and most people immediately assume that I have a twin sister. But I don’t. I have a sweet big, twin brother; he is 30 seconds older than me. 😉

ian baby

nina baby

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When you’re a twin, life is completely different than being a singleton. When there is just one newborn, parents are able to focus on one baby. There’s only one newborn mouth to feed, only one that will cluster feed all throughout the day and night, one new baby bottom to wipe, and one newborn to soothe. Those late nights and early mornings are spent giving this one new, little bundle of joy your love and attention.

twins

Not when you have multiples! Parents of multiples only wish that they could have the time to give their babies individual attention and a few breaks for themselves. Obviously, if you have older children, they have to share your time and attention as well, but when you are a twin, sharing is a completely different ball game and is something that you learn to do from day one. Twins share:

  1. Their birth day (the day they were born).
  2. Their celebrations, birthday cake, and birthday candles.
  3. The majority of their presents. (A lot of gifts are addressed to both of the kids aka “the twins”)
  4. The same classes.
  5. The same friends.
  6. The same teachers.
  7. The same clothes. (If you’re the same gender. As newborns – if it fits you and it’s clean, it’s yours.)
  8. Their room until probably an awkward age to still be sharing a room. (I’m speaking as a girl with a twin brother that shared a room until we were 13 – for two twin sisters or two twin brothers this could be less awkward).

The list goes on and on. Sharing is just a part of your life from the moment you are conceived. I mean, you even also had to share the same womb at the very same time with another little human. There is nothing in the world more bonding than that.

ian and nina

nina and ian

But with all of the sharing and extremely little (if at all) alone time being a twin, there is an upside! You constantly have a buddy there that is your pal for life. Ian, my twin brother, has taught me so much in our (almost) 30 years of life. I believe that he has taught me and continues to teach me much more than what the average twin sibling experiences and learns. The reason why I feel like I can say this is my twin brother has autism.

At the age of three, Ian was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) which means that he experienced delays in the development of basic skills. This condition affects the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them. There are many, many different variations of autism and Ian’s is one of the many on the spectrum.

nina and ian

When you have a sibling that has autism, you learn so much about life at a much younger age. You learn how to love someone deeper for who they are, you learn how to appreciate the simple things about people and about life, you learn how to be a caretaker, and how to be selfless. You learn how to defend others that can’t defend themselves, how to be extremely patient and understanding of other people, and so much more. These are all things that I am incredibly grateful to have learned from Ian at such a young age. He literally grew up with me every single day of my life and I know that having him as a brother has shaped me into the person that I am today.

Nina and Ian

But I will say, when your twin, the person that was created with you and right beside you, has autism, things can be much more difficult for you and the whole family. Growing up with such a family dynamic can cause the other twin to experience some major growing pains. When you’re a toddler or a small child, being selfish is a normal thing. It’s hard at that age to understand that you can’t be selfish, you have to be “a big girl” and “help take care of your brother” when you are still trying to learn the basics yourself. When certain rules apply to you but they don’t apply to your sibling because he is developmentally different, it can be difficult. When the person that is a part of you requires even more care, time and attention than you, it can cause you to feel unloved and unimportant. Of course these feelings are the furthest things from the truth, but it is common to feel this way and have some resentment. I know this because these were the very feelings that I experienced growing up.

While perusing the internet, I noticed that there are so many different articles that talk about “how to parent/ raise an autistic child”, but there isn’t anything (that I’ve found) that addresses the other children. Having gone through being “the other child” myself, I thought that there has to be other families out there that are struggling with balancing their time and attention with their other children all while caring for their special needs child. This is why I wanted to share some of my experiences and recommendations that I believe will make your other children feel loved and important, too.

nina and ian

ian and nina

If you or someone you know has a child who has autism and you are afraid that your other children are not receiving the attention that you want to give them (whether they are acting out or not), here are 10 small things that you can do to make sure that your other children feel special.

1. Birthdays are a Big Deal.

birthdays

If you’re a twin, you already hate that you have to share everything. You even have to share your one day of the year; your birthday. Making two small birthday cakes, each for your birthday babes, goes a long way. (My aunt who has triplets does this for her kiddos.) If you don’t have time to bake and frost two cakes, put candles on two sides of one cake so that each of your birthday babies have their own candles to blow out. That was a trick that my mom would do.

birthday

birthday cake

Also sing happy birthday to each of your kids. My family would sing to us twice; once saying Ian’s name and once singing my name. Doing little things like that make your child feel special on their special day. It’s the small things that children notice and appreciate.

As your twins get older, let them plan their own birthday parties. This allows them to feel like they do get their own day, that they have their own friends and their own presents. As a kid, these are the things that matter. Oh, to be a kid again. 🙂

birthday

And if there are any presents that are addressed for both of the kids, “the twins,” divide them in half and let each child open the same amount of shared gifts. It meant a lot to me that my mother always made sure that things were equal between us both.

2. One-on-One Dates

All your children want is to have some of your undivided attention. With a special needs child, that can be difficult. This is why planning a one-on-one date for you and your other child/ other children, even if it’s only for an hour, where you get to do something fun with just them is a great way to not let them feel forgotten. You could go for a walk to the park or go on a bike ride, get ice cream, pick out a book at the book store. There are so many little activities that you can do with them; even watching a TV show or movie just with them. Tell them that this is your special time together – just the two of you. Those moments will be memories that your child will cherish forever.

3. Rotate Who Chooses the Meals

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A lot of times families are having to make more than one type of meal for their children – especially if they have a special needs child. My mother never let us choose what we had for dinner, but she did let us choose what we ate for breakfast. Ian and I got to switch off every week and decide what we would eat for breakfast. We would plan this a week in advance so we knew what we were having every morning. We did this for years until we could make our own breakfasts.

breakfast together

Ian with his strawberry banana breakfast smoothies. Those were his favorite!

4. Words of Affirmation

Each day, remember to look each of your children into their eyes, hold them and say that you love them. Days can get busy and be so draining with all the appointments and therapies that you have to go to with your special needs child so I recommend that right before your children go to sleep, remind them that you love them. It’s also great to say every now and then that they are beautiful, to talk about their strengths, and what makes you so proud to be their parent. When you all are constantly doing things that your child with autism needs, big hugs and encouraging words go a long way for your other children.

Being a sibling of a special needs child sometimes makes you feel like you are not enough since parents are needing to focus the majority of their time on their sibling. Loving words will help build your child’s confidence, self-worth, and feel valuable in your eyes.

5. Listen

During the day, things can be so hectic that it’s hard to give your children your undivided attention. You wouldn’t get anything done otherwise! Try to create a time during the day when you can listen. My mother would do this at bedtime right before we said our prayers. This taught me that even when she was busy with my brother, I could always go to her to talk if I ever needed anything or wanted help.

6. Different Activities

dance recital

Dance recital with my friend.

If you want your kids to have extracurricular activities, try to get them involved in different activities. If your special needs child and other children are in the same ones and in the same class, your other child(ren) might feel insecure. Why, you ask? They, more than likely, will be watching how others treat their sibling and are ready to defend their brother or sister to the death! Maybe not to the death, but they want to make sure that their brother or sister are okay. Children can be terrible and so mean! This then doesn’t allow them to let loose and have fun because they are constantly thinking about what the other children are thinking and saying. Because of this, it can create insecurity and a major need for acceptance. When your children are in their own activities they can make their own friends, find their own strengths, and feel free to be themselves.

7. Get Active

If you have a child that has autism and your other child is involved in activities, get active with one of their activities too! (If you can.) If they are in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, be their scout leader or be the coach for their little league team. Showing that you are invested in the things that they are doing, (not just going to their sibling’s appointments) will make them feel that their interests and activities are important too.

If this is impossible because your work schedule won’t allow it or you have too many kiddos to be that involved, the most important thing you can do is show up. Go to their games, their recitals, their try-outs, their plays. Having a parent that doesn’t show up can crush their heart.

8. Equality (As Much As Possible)

I know that this doesn’t apply to every family with a child who has autism, but something that I appreciated that my parents did is that they treated us both equally. We had equal chores, we were rewarded and punished the same, etc. Of course there are instances when things weren’t always equal, but I appreciated that they set the same boundaries for us both and made us feel equally loved and equally important.

taking care of our fish

Ian and I feeding our fish.

flying a kite

9. Meet Other Families That Also Have Twins and/or Children with Autism

twins

horseback riding lessons

Me going to horseback riding lessons with the Johnson twins.

Your children want to know that they aren’t alone and aren’t the only ones who have these same family dynamics and struggles. My mother had my brother and me hang out with families that had twins and families that had children with special needs to show that we weren’t the only ones with these challenges. If you can find other families that have multiples or children with disabilities, that can really give your other children peace of mind, feel acceptance and even feel normal.

Also going to a camps like Camp CAMP each summer helped me meet other special needs children and their siblings. It was definitely a healing and fun experience every summer.

camp

summer

10. Family Counseling

Going to a counseling session with your other children is something that I definitely recommend to make sure that they learn how to properly communicate their feelings and emotions and to also make sure that they are feeling heard and feel loved. This doesn’t have to be weekly or even a monthly thing. Every now and then having a “check up” to see how your children are doing is always a good idea.

I know that these ten tips aren’t wildly creative or new ideas. They are probably things that families are already doing for their children. But just in case, I thought I would share my story of how autism has touched me and what I learned to inspire and share what worked for my family. I also want parents who have children with autism to understand what it’s like to be in the shoes of their other children and what they can do to make their other kids feel important. And finally, I want these families to know that they are not alone.

Overall, I love my brother and am so grateful to call him my twin. I love you, Ian!

christmas

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christmas

ian

About the Author /

Nina is The Baby Chick® & CEO of Baby Chick®. She is a baby planner, birth doula, postpartum doula, childbirth educator, newborn care specialist, and a mother. With over eight years of experience, she has supported hundreds of families during their pregnancies, births, and postpartum journeys.

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5️⃣ Paternity leave! If you have it TAKE IT. The early stages of a child's life are not just for moms to enjoy. I know as men making the money especially after having a baby it's hard, but trust me. You can always make money but there are no instant replays in life. It doesn't make you more of a man to not take the leave. It's equally as important that you as a Dad get to be a part of the early development of your child. ⁠
If someone needs this info tag them ❤️⁠
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1️⃣ Look for signs of readiness:⁠
- Diaper dry for at least 1-2 hours.⁠
- Pulling at their diaper when its wet or soiled.⁠
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Potty training is much quicker if your child is showing the above signs, but you can start before this.⁠
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2️⃣ What you will need to buy:⁠
- Toilet seat insert to place on your toilet⁠
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3️⃣ Getting yourself and your child prepared:⁠
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- Practice pulling pants or shorts up and down.⁠
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- Sit your child on the potty at every diaper change, first thing in the morning and just before bed to get them used to sitting on the toilet.⁠
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4️⃣ Let's get toilet trained:⁠
- Get your child to choose a pair of underwear and put them on.⁠
- Talk to them about using the toilet and communicating when they need to pee or poo. You can sit them on the toilet at this point if you wish.⁠
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(Continue reading in the comments!)
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“You are my reason.⁠ ⁠ You are the reason I “You are my reason.⁠
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You are the reason I get up each morning.⁠
Even though my eyelids are as heavy as a five-ton truck.⁠
Even though all I want is to sleep in, a coffee and breakfast in bed.⁠
You are more important.⁠
You need me.⁠
For you, I would do anything.⁠
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You are the reason I am finally comfortable in my own skin.⁠
Even though I am a size bigger than I used to be.⁠
Even though my boobs cannot be described as 'perky'⁠
You relied on my body.⁠
You gave it purpose.⁠
For you, I will always love it.⁠
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You are the reason I now know the importance of patience.⁠
Even though I sometimes miss the fast-paced life.⁠
Even though I still get frustrated when I feel inefficient.⁠
You need me to go at your pace.⁠
You are the priority right now.⁠
For you, I slow down.⁠
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You are the reason I worry more than ever.⁠
Even though I know it won't change anything.⁠
Even though it's not your fault.⁠
You are precious.⁠
You are vulnerable.⁠
For you, I will worry forever.⁠
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You are the reason I am now filled with gratitude.⁠
Even though I get sad when things do not go my way.⁠
Even though I sometimes lose sight of what I have.⁠
You are my constant reminder that I am blessed.⁠
You are the light at the end of every tunnel.⁠
For you, everything is worth it.⁠
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You are the reason that my heart is full.⁠
Even though I am grateful for our life before you.⁠
You have shown me a love like no other.⁠
You are remarkable.⁠
For you, my heart explodes.⁠
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You are my reason." ❤️ Words by @hangingwiththeheaphys 💕⁠
We love birth stories and hearing all the details We love birth stories and hearing all the details about how each baby was born. What’s your baby’s birth story? 👶❤️
📷: @she_plusfive
Your Child's Stomach Pain and Headaches Could Be A Your Child's Stomach Pain and Headaches Could Be Anxiety⁠ 💔
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Have you noticed that your child is complaining of stomach pain and headaches? Or perhaps they seem tired and irritable despite getting the correct amount of sleep? Perhaps these things are simply coincidental, but maybe they’re not. Did you know that even children suffer from anxiety disorder? In fact, the most common mental health condition in children is anxiety disorder. If you are sensing that there may be something else going on, keep reading. {Click 🔗 in bio to continue reading this mom's personal journey with child anxiety disorder.⁠}⁠
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Article by: Katie Gibbons⁠
📷: @lisa.boettcher
Fun Pregnancy Announcement Ideas 😍🤰⁠ .⁠ Fun Pregnancy Announcement Ideas 😍🤰⁠
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Few of life’s events can have you bursting at the seams as much as “we’re making a human!” will. Sharing this news with those you love, like, or just tolerate, has become easier and more instantaneous than ever with the advent of social media. These days, most moms-to-be want to share their pregnancy announcement with as many people as possible . . . and the cuter idea the better!⁠
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Here are some fun and unique pregnancy announcement ideas for you to share your incredible news. Whether you like to use humor, romance, or a sweet surprise, these ideas are some of the most picture-worthy around!⁠ ⁠{Click 🔗 in bio to see the pregnancy announcement ideas!⁠}⁠
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Article by: Rachel MacPherson⁠
📷: @karissakayabbott
Pretty sure my mouth and nose are covered too. 😑😂⁠
📷: @thedecentmother
I am a big advocate for breastfeeding. There are s I am a big advocate for breastfeeding. There are so many AMAZING benefits for the mother and child. But you know what I am an even bigger advocate for? A mother's well-being -- her physical, emotional, and mental health!!⁠
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Sometimes we make plans and God laughs. Some of us plan to breastfeed our babies for 3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years. Some of us meet our goals and some of us don't. (🙋‍♀️ My goal was to reach a year and made it 7 months.) Breastfeeding can be a lot more challenging than many of us expect. There can be complications along the way, the baby could have allergies, and sometimes breastfeeding or pumping can take an immense toll on a mother's mental health.⁠
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It is my firm belief that we must care for and support the new mother just as much as we care for and support the new child. 💕 While I feel there is so much value in breast milk, in my opinion, if it compromises the health of the mother, it is not worth it. As long as the baby is being fed, cared for, and loved, that is all that matters. And for the mother to grow and thrive in her new role as a parent to continue caring for her child, she needs to do what she feels is best for herself and her family. Sometimes that is not breastfeeding or pumping.⁠
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No matter your feeding experience or preference, you are a good mother. Whether your choice was made by you or made for you, you must do what is right for you and your baby. Your health (mentally, physically, emotionally) matters. ❤️