Sunday, August 22, 2010

A brother and sister like any other

This weekend, Sabrina and I were talking about a birthday party Max went to a month ago for a kid in his class; she is still sulking over the fact that she didn't get to go. Suddenly she said, "That boy is special, like Max."

Her understanding about Max is kicking in. She is getting that he isn't quite like other kids. We're trying to help her understand how he does fit in.

Sabrina: "Is Max older than me?"

Dave: "Yes."

Sabrina: "But Max doesn't talk!"

Dave: "Yes, he can talk! He just talks in his own way."

She's asking lots of questions. Her jealousy's also flaring up; she realizes Max gets more attention, and she wants to make sure she's getting her fair share. For one, she's still wearing his clothes.

Me: "Sabrina, why don't you want to wear dresses?"

Sabrina: "Because I want to look like Max."

She teases him. Sometimes, it's the sort of teasing siblings do ("MAAAA-AAAAX! I'M GOING TO A CAR WASH AND YOU'RE NOT!"). Sometimes, she imitates him. Like we're driving along and suddenly from the back seat we'll hear:


And then Sabrina will say, "Guess who said that? Me or Max?"

Max cracks up. We try not to laugh, too (I mean, it is funny even though it's really not), and when we're able to speak calmly one of us will say, "Sabrina, please speak in your usual tone of voice, that's not nice."

Other times, Sabrina is supersweet to her big brother. She made the dolls below at camp; she asked for an extra one for Max. When we're walking around, she'll point out Sienna minivans (Max gets so excited). Tonight, I left the two of them sitting on my bed watching TV and went off to fold laundry. When I came back, Sabrina was sitting behind Max, hugging him.

So, basically, they treat each other like any other siblings. What's been hard lately is feeling like Max is missing out on stuff Sabrina's getting. A few weeks ago, I went to check out a summer camp that Sabrina might go to next year. It was the most adorable place, with every camp-y thing you could think of—an arts and crafts hut, tennis, a big lake. I happened to go on a day when there was a party, and all the kids were gathered in a big tent, dancing around. As I stood there watching I thought, I would love for Sabrina to come to this camp. And I ached for Max. He goes to school year round, which means camp isn't a possibility. I so wanted him to be one of those kids, dancing.

Sabrina took tennis lessons this summer. She's going to gymnastics in the fall. Max, no lessons yet. Last year I brought him to a karate school in our area that offers classes for kids with disabilities, but he refused to stay. I suspect it was because the outfits were white, not purple.

I'll try again this year. Max is plenty happy with his life, but I want to expose him to activities to enrich his mind...just like we do for Sabrina.


  1. you should check around in your area for special needs day camps for when he gets a little older. We have one in our area, about 25 miles or so from my house, that takes kids of ALL abilities and their typical sibs. They have it set up so they can take home-maker/personal care hours as payment. The last 2 summers my autistic son has gone for 25 days and all we have to pay for is transportation!

    I find that my daughter ( my only typical child) is a pain sometimes-- makes fun of her brothers and tries to talk them into doing things she *knows* will get them in trouble.

  2. To each his or her own. You've got to nurture each in their own way.

    Not that it makes you feel any better, but I never did "camp" as a kid, neither did any of my siblings, and it's not in any of our futures. We didn't suffer any for the lack of it.

    Sabrina will eventually "get" that Max sometimes needs more attention for good reason, but she also enjoys things that he doesn't--like that camp.

    Jealousy is a natural condition between siblings, too. If Sabrina wasn't jealous and didn't tease I'd worry about her.

    Off topic, that's neat that Max's school is year round--how nice to have that "routine" down so there's no summer disruption/fall re-acclimation (with the attendant sobbing and whining).

  3. Hi Ellen, I was reading my Good Housekeeping last night, turned the page and said to myself "Hey, that's Max!" when I saw the pictures. Great article. I've been following you for awhile and enjoy your posts. I have "typical" kids and reading your thoughts about special needs is interesting, and I enjoy your sense of humor :)

  4. My 5 year-old daughter, 3 years younger than her disabled twin brothers, has a similar issue are your Sabrina. Maisie is definitely feeling outshined by them at times, and I hope one day she understands why they have such special attention. I fear that she'll develop Munchasen's when she's an adult!
    The older she gets the more dramatic her "boo-boos" are. And she also mimics them, which in turn upsets me while I hold back a laugh- it's so not a normal thing for every parent to experience!

    My dudes go all year-round too.
    Funny, I think sometimes I feel relieved that the boys are in this no one is really ever alone. As much as I wish neither of them had any sort of issues, they're in it as a team and sometimes that's comforting. a weird way!

    Your kids are very sweet!

  5. You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and hardly found any specific details on other sites, but then great to be here, seriously, thanks...

    - Josh

  6. I love this post because it raises an issue that applies to all families. Even as far back as the Bible, one can find stories where siblings felt slighted or preferred. (Think of the story of Joseph as the favored son among 12 brothers.)

    Even in families like mine where none of the (3) kids are labeled with a particular ability or disability, they each have different stregths and weaknesses.
    Finding time -- and even just figuring out how -- to nurture each of them in the ways that suit them best, is a daily challenge.

    Thanks for reminding us to continue thinking about this and finding time and mental space for each child

  7. You, me, a gi and some purple RIT dye. Be there or be square. :-)

  8. Maybe when he is older you can check out Camp Accomplish. It's run by

    the camp is about 50% campers with special needs.


Thanks for sharing!

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