Saturday, November 18, 2006

what about siblings?

Ok, so this is my 2nd attempt to post this. The first one was lost into the cyber-ethers somewhere, something that has happened to me before while using Picasa to post on Blogger. If only I could edit my photos more easily while directly ON Blogger I wouldn't have these problems....

But anyway, I'll try to remember what I wrote!

One of the most common questions I get when I discuss our RDI program with someone is "but what do you do about his brother?" The answer is simple (now): We include him.

It wasn't so simple when we first started out, however. During the first stage of RDI, even Zoo Boy's presence in the room was enough to turn Jacob into a dysregulated mess. So we had to sneak in RDI sessions when Zoo Boy was napping, or when The Map Man had him occupied in another room (and even then, the noise of Zoo Boy coming from the other room, even through closed doors, was enough to distract Jacob away from whatever I was trying to do with him). By Stage 2, Jacob was able to tolerate Zoo Boy in the same room, but I kept everything up at table-level while trying to keep Zoo Boy at floor level. Sometimes that worked, but most times not, and more often than not our activity would up with Zoo Boy messing up whatever we'd been working on and Jacob running screaming for his room, not to reappear for hours. (It was really fun trying to get a video tape done and submitted to our Consultant!)

I had gotten so used to NOT including Zoo Boy that it never occured to me that I COULD include him. That is, until one day, soon after starting Stage 3, our Consultant said "why don't you just include him in everything?" Well, um, DUH. Why didn't *I* think of that!!

So we started giving Zoo Boy a real role in the activities we did with Jacob. And darned if he didn't go from being the biggest obstacle in our RDI program, to being our biggest asset. Not only was he a great role-model for Jacob in the activties, but he naturally brought the objectives we were working on into his play with Jacob. It became 24-hour-a-day non-stop RDI around here; it was like we had a small live-in therapist on the payroll. Zoo Boy definitely has a knack for being an RDI coach, and The Map Man and I have joked about renting him out to other RDI families that don't have little siblings to run their programs for them. And, because he became so used to coordinating with his brother, Jacob was easily able to take his RDI skills and generalize them with other kids. That certainly wouldn't have come so easily if he was transitioning from just working with his parents.

Another HUGE benefit of including Zoo Boy in our RDI program was that I finally stopped worrying about how he might be perceiving all this "special time" we were spending with his brother, and what effect that might have on his developing self-esteem. Now there's no reason for him to ever feel jealous of all the time we spend with Jacob, because he's included in everything too. (We've even managed to get him included in Jacob's Sensory Integration sessions, thanks to a wonderfully understanding therapist.)

I know that including siblings does not work out for every family doing RDI. Sometimes the older child with Autism takes offense to a younger sibling taking on the role as the role model, which they perceive as something the "big" brother or sister is "supposed" to do. Jacob never had (still doesn't) the self-awareness to question his place in the family heirarchy, so he's never questioned why Zoo Boy is the "leader" in so much of their play, which makes it work very well for us. But I know just as many families who have very successfully incorporated older siblings as coaches for their younger sibs with Autism, to the benefit of the entire family.

Now I'm going to try posting this. Wish me luck.... Posted by Picasa


At 7:22 PM, Blogger mcewen said...

Well done. We went through the same thing with ours. Sounds daft, but on the whole, these days, whatever we do for one, we do for all of them. It's just simpler.
Best wishes

At 8:47 PM, Blogger Bea said...

I see your point. I agree that it can an advantage to have a sibling.For Dessi it would be defenetly good to have a child around all the time.


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