Sibling Challenges

IMG_1637I really want to explain what this whole “listening” stuff is about to those following along.  But before I attempt to get into that, some full disclosure.

Travel is hard.  Travel with kids is harder.  Travel with siblings is hell.  Stir in some foreign therapy in a new place with new people and you have a wonderful recipe for daily battles, tears, and bitter grievances.

Yesterday.  Sigh.  Where to start. It began with a progress report with Paul Madaule and ended with a fight.

Paul met with each of the children and then me.  He said that E seemed to be a completely different space than when he met her a week ago.  She seemed poised and animated, speaking excitedly about dressage and her interest in competing at the junior olympics.  He said he is focusing on this goal with her though the therapy will help her across the board.  He has worked with olympic level athletes many times.  Listening therapy helps with balance, flexibility, grace, movement and timing.  All qualities she will need to go to as far as she hopes.

He was also very impressed with C’s artistic ability.  He is an artist himself so he recognized her talent immediately.  He feels the animated short film project she and I started will be very important for her, to give her a boost in confidence and reinforce the skills she needs in prioritizing and organizing to accomplish a goal.  He seemed to feel her progress is on target.

Little man seems to challenge him somewhat.  He believes this will help him but is unsure if it will tone down the impulsivity and the learned tactic of diversion and avoidance.  He feels that we will need to increase the boundaries reasonably and provide adequate outlets to stimulate his vestibular system.  He loved the story of the waterfall and how it seemed to calm little man at Niagara and then led to a very organized and rhythmic improv drum session.  His main recommendations for him during the month long break in July are trampoline, pump track biking or biking that has significant safe impacts on the body, learning to play the drums or bongos and getting a big brother to be rough with in a positive way.  He agrees that his sisters are not such a great influence for him right now.

On our ride home (took the car yesterday), the girls unloaded ALL their grievances about little man on me, in front of him.  He sat quietly taking it in as he usually does.  He’s a brat.  He’s manipulating you.  He’s a liar.  If he was a horse, we’d sell him.  He’s never going to get better.  It’s your fault.

Note:  It was less than 20 years ago autism was blamed on “cold mothering.”  So, this notion of blaming the parents or parenting or lack thereof, is still with us.  And tragically, it’s within my family as well.

I am a failure.  But not for the reasons they think.  I’ve clearly failed to educate them on what exactly is happening in their brother’s body and brain and why he has an IEP and several doctored professionals looking after his care.  I’ve failed to instill compassion and understanding that bad behavior is typically because of bad feelings.  Bad feelings can be caused by invisible experiences like sensory overload, misfiring synapses, audio/visual confusion, implicit or explicit bullying, frustration with lack of ability, and on and on…And what really kills me, is that both of them have their own issues.  One would think that having even a minor learning or functional challenge would lend one to greater compassion for others facing even greater challenges.

Nope.  Zero compassion for the brother that barges into their rooms, rifles through their stuff (sometimes) and violates the same house rules they violate.  He’s just a “pest.”  Isn’t that what many siblings say about younger siblings?  If their negative words and attitudes towards him weren’t so detrimental I would let it go.  Unfortunately, he hears every single negative word and it hurts him.  It also seems to give him permission (in his own mind) to act out towards them which creates a vicious cycle.  I’ve begged and pleaded with them to think about how it must feel to hear your older siblings dumping on you every day.  It seems to be easier to scape goat him.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” This was the kindergarten mantra at the school my girls attended in the big city not that long ago.  I guess that mantra doesn’t stick.  And neither does healthy eating, but that’s a topic for another blog on teenagers.

In an attempt to soothe the troubled waters so we can survive another week on aero beds, I took the kids to some cool little shops near the Listening Center.  Midoco is an art supply store that had a collection of necessities and oddities to perk them up nicely.


Paul recommended Bite and Sip for fresh whole food smoothies.  Not sure the gluten heavy pretzels are great but they are also fresh and hand made.  We watched the older slavic owner making them as we waited.


After their sessions we headed over to the Green Beanery for a quick snack and then to Little Island Comics, a bookstore for ages 5-15 and up.  C and Little Man were enthralled.  Little Man is obsessed with the Avatar series so he was thrilled to see the books there.


In fact, he was so excited he literally could not put the books down.  This was the first time he didn’t want to sit and wave at the subway conductor as he (typically) breezed in through the tunnel.


I was also happy to see the three getting along for a change…if passively.


Tomorrow we are hoping to get up early enough to make it to the Royal Museum.  It will be a minor miracle to get teenagers up before 8 am.  Wish me luck.


PS:  Great article “Rewired:  Learning to Tame A Noisy Brain”

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