Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Sabrina describes her brother

We're at the playground. Max is turning a steering wheel on a jungle gym; Sabrina's standing nearby and talking with another little girl.

Carly: "Why doesn't Max talk?"

Sabrina: "He needs special needs."

It's a start! She'll get the wording right soon enough; I liked that she said it so matter-of-factly. I know that as she gets older, she'll get lots more questions about her big brother, and I hope that she'll answer them in the same friendly, straightforward way.


  1. I love this. Go Sabrina go!

    I remember one time a friend's daughter was referring to a self-contained class for kids with multiple handicaps (hate the terminology) that Ben was in.

    "It's a class for kids with possibilities!" she said, substituting/confusing the word possibilities for disabilities.

  2. When I was growing up had my brother ever called me "special" or used the words "special needs" in ear shot of my mother, she would have yelled at him. That word was banned in my house and in 25.5 years I have not heard a single family member (extended included) use that word in relation to me. I find it demeaning and degrading.

    Ok, I talk much more clearly then Max, so I can't really use that example in relation to me, but "Why does is your sister still use a stroller?" (I had a big blue stroller until I was 9 when I got an electric scooter) I hope my brother said simply "She can't walk very far"

    "Why doesn't Max talk?" Teach Sabrina to say "He DOES talk. He just has problems moving his mouth/with the muscles in his mouth"

    What does SPECIAL have to do with it? ICK!!! Also, leaving it at "He has special needs" leaves the kid with the inaccurate conclusion that she made a correct assumption. Ur-ul is close enough to purple to me to qualify as being able to speak.

    *off my soapbox*

    1. I don't see a problem with saying someone has special needs. We all have needs - some needs are ones most people have (eg needing help fixing the plumbing in your house) and others are special needs. It's not just disabilities - I've heard pregnant teens, gifted children and English language learners being considered to have special needs in many school divisions.

  3. It's so interesting seeing siblings work it all out. Dan is two and starting not notice difference: 'mikey not talk to me. Mikey can sign'. The challenge is responding to those moments in a way he understands! Love how cool Sabrina is!

  4. I have a sibling who did not talk until he was 5, and then he was very difficult to understand for many years. When kids said anything about him, I typically delivered a punch! So good for Sabrina:)

  5. I love the "he needs" part. She is getting that sometimes Max really does require (as opposed to want/compete for) additional attention.

    She is a cool little sister!

  6. I love how sweet and direct her answer was!

  7. Cheryl, you are so very right. In fact, when Sabrina's asked us why Max doesn't talk, we've said that exact thing—he DOES talk, in his own way.

    I think I was just instinctively happy that Sabrina was trying to explain her brother in a way another kid might be able to understand, as opposed to what she's done in the past which is shrug her shoulders or say "I don't know!"

    But, yes. We will work on that. Thank you for that reminder.

  8. I've been following your blog for awhile but haven't commented yet- but I loved Sabrina's description. My "typical" daughter is 10, and my son, who is autistic, is 7. My daughter says that her brother is a real pest and he gets on her nerves, but she will defend him in a heartbeat to anyone else who is mean to him (including her own friends). When I pointed that out to her, she said "Only I can pick on Alex- no one else is allowed to. That's my big sister job". Like someone else said, it is really interesting to watch the siblings work it out.

  9. My 5 year old son Ryan tells everyone that his brother Cj (whom is non verbal) has brain energy (meaning brain injury) and he talks with his eye energy. He goes up to strangers all the time and tells them all about his brother. It is really cute!

  10. my daughter (4) describes her brother as having "autumn" (autism) and says she is "summer" - I love it, both beautiful seasons for very different reasons. Lovely post

  11. For you Ellen, and for some of the people who have left comments about other mixed up words. I have only one thing to say.
    "Out of the mouths of babes"

  12. haha! that sabrina is awesome.
    maisie (5 y/o) has gone through different phases. first it was "these are my brothers, they don't talk and Elijah can't walk but they're real cute"
    then "my brothers are medical".
    after I had a talk with her recently it's "these are my special twin brothers who need special stuff".

    I gave her a photo of them to take to show-n-tell yesterday and am dying to find out how she described them to the class!

    also turns out she has a girl in class who has downs syndrome and a boy who is autistic...I'm excited to see how the year goes. what experiences she'll take home.

  13. Fantastic. Of course, with you for a mom, I'm in no way surprised that Sabrina was able to take the bull by the horns on this one.

  14. Hi- - Just a thought, re Cheryl's comments.

    I would suggest something like: "Max knows what he wants to say, but the muscles in his mouth don't work properly, so it's really hard for him to speak."

    I think the concept of a child "talking in his own way" seems like you're dismissing what the other children are seeing. In their minds, he doesn't talk like they do, and they want to know why.

    When Ben was younger and at a daycare the caregiver would often use that phrase in regards to Ben. When the kids would say "Why doesn't he talk?" she would say: "He talks in his own way." (and he did have some word approximations then).

    And yet they would continue to tease Ben when she wasn't in earshot (Ben's younger sister got into fights sticking up for him.

    In my mind "he talks in his own way" shuts down the conversation with the kids versus opening it up.

    They see he doesn't talk like them, and they want to know why. They don't want to be told that what they see isn't valid.

    Just a thought.

  15. That, Louise, is clearly an even better thing to say. Thank you for your wisdom, as always.

  16. My favorite was my cousin Tyler(then 7 now 10) sticking up for my cousin Luke(then 5 now 8)who has autism.
    At Playground
    Boy (about 9): That kid sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard(Luke was going Eeee Eeeee!then he way to show excinment)
    Tyler:Thats my brother
    Boy : Why does he do that?
    Tyler:He is happy.
    Boy: I dont do that when Im happy why does he?
    Tyler:He has atisum.
    Boy: He is a retard.
    Tyler:(not knowing the maeaning of the word)No hes happy
    Boy:rolls eyes walks away


Thanks for sharing!

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