It is hard for the brothers and sisters of kids with autism, the autism siblings. They don’t know what has befallen the family, they only know they have a sibling and how that sibling treats them. I know from my own experience that our other children often get short changed in the process of recovering Matthew from autism. Often, with my eye on the prize of full recovery, I have to put my other children’s wants and desires out of the picture. Telling myself that once autism is gone, then we can do xyz for the other children. I have to do this because autism requires so much of our family resources.
This weekend it really hit me just how much my middle son has given up, without even knowing it, and how his feelings are often shoved off because Matthew is unhappy or unwilling. Sunday, Nico, our middle son, woke up before his brothers. He and I went downstairs to allow the rest of the family a chance to sleep in. We had a lovely morning, I got coffee ready while he played nicely on the computer. We were really enjoying ourselves, spending quite time together, just being. Then Matthew woke up and came downstairs. Immediately he took over. He had to be the center of attention. He wanted the computer but I said no, for two reasons. The first being that he had misbehaved the day before with the computer and he had lost computer privileges. The second was the fact that he never lets his brother play when they are on there together. I wanted Nico to have the computer he never gets to have. The whole thing ended in Matthew and I arguing with him getting so angry he began to yell, which woke his baby brother. I had to shut down the computer and again deny Nico his opportunity to play. Before Matthew stormed from the room, slamming the door, he said he hated Nico and that he wished he weren’t his brother.
I was crushed. Mostly because this is how Matthew always treats Nico, and still Nico adores Matthew. He will follow him as if he were a god. It breaks my heart for Nico. And of course I can not allow Matthew’s outbursts to go unresolved. So I have to deal with Matthew’s bad behavior, again taking attention from Nico. It is a never ending revolving door of missed opportunities, and I ache for my middle son, the one that has endured an older autistic sibling and a baby brother. Both of whom demanded so much of my attention that he was left to grow up too fast.
When Nico was born Matthew was at the height of his autism. He was demanding and needy, he required attention constantly. As Nico aged so did Matthew’s needs grow, which meant that Nico had to learn to play by himself, fend for himself and do for himself. Then his baby brother was born and again he was left to do for himself, to play by himself and to be for himself. Everything our family has done has been done for Matthew. His autism demands so much from us; our monetary resources, our time, our energy, even our food choices revolve around Matthew’s autism. We know this. We try to make it better. But in reality, autism always wins. But just as we battle Matthew’s autism, we will battle this tendency of ours and will give Nico all we can. He deserves it. He is a kind, generous child that loves his brother. He is an autism sibling.