The Shadow World of Special Needs Sibling

A lot of my outings that I do with my girls I hear “Your girls get along!”.

I tell them, yes my girls get along well most of the time.

In truth, they don’t always, and when they do it is because of time and effort put into making it work. It takes a lot of practice and modeling from everyone to make things work.

And often what people see is only the shadow of the interactions and not the steps and struggles that make up having kids with special needs work together.

The Shadow World of Special Needs Sibling - a look at rules and following them and parents helpig with the rules -

Several years ago I was attending a parent workshop that the local school was putting on. The person presenting was Ross Green. He was giving us a look at his book The Explosive Child. I had heard nothing about the book before I went it.

I went into the lecture with paper to take notes of everything he said. I have hoped for the “answer to my problem.” What I came out with was a different look on how I dealt with problems. I did not have my fix for my child, but I did have a fix for my attitude for what was going on.

In the lecture, he stated that we could only work on one bucket at a time and figure out what that bucket was and get solved first before moving on. It also made me realize that I had to come up with how I was going to cope and deal with behaviors of all my girls and not just the special needs child.

I was trying to make rules that were always changing every day for all my girls. It made me see that I had to have set rules for interactions and what to do for all my girls. It had to be set patterns that all three could see and understand.

We ended up with 4 different types of interactions:
1. Asking them to stop
2. Ignoring the behavior
3. Leaving the situation
4. Asking an Adult for help

I also love this Chart by This Reading Mama that goes great along with these social rules. I was so happy when I saw it.

The rules were great, but I did run into problems with it. I just assumed that everyone would follow them and that my special needs child would follow the patterns and scripts for them. Nope, not always. Sometimes it would mean me helping her with them.

I call this the shadow world of special needs sibling because there is a darker side that is not always talked about.

I wanted to talk about how I deal with the interactions and rules when things go wrong.

The Special Child Is Not Always Wrong

On a ride recently one of my girls blurted out. She hit me with a pencil. My oldest had taken the pencil with her because that was her security item she needed at that time.

I told her that it was not good to hit for any reason. It took the rest of the ride home to realize that the daughter that got hit had been taunting her because she took the pencil. I made both apologize for what happened.

Then I had to take to my one daughter and talk to her about how she was bullying her sister. She then told me she just wanted her to stop holding the pencil. We had to talk about why the pencil was along, and it was not a bad thing.

I also talked to my special needs daughter about how she should have used her words before actions. That would have let me know there was a problem.

There Are Days You Have To Monitor Interactions.

The part of the rules that says ask an adult for help is important. I know that my special needs child might not always use that step and that I might have to step in to help her. At times she feels that rule is one that always gets her in trouble. So she won’t use it.

My stepping in might is because I can see the actions she is going to take because her siblings might not have listened to her asking them to stop. It might also mean less yelling from me.

I have to work on the listening to both sides and making sure that my other two girls will listen to my oldest when she asks them to stop. When she uses her words and they don’t listen it just makes things worse for all sides.

At times I feel that I stand in the shadow of their relationship just to help make things easier. And yes this does make things harder for me.

I Have Knowing When To Let Them Work Things Out.

There are times I have to do when to try and let them work things out. I have stood outside their door lurking just to make sure everything is okay when they start to raise their voices. Or I make loud noises going up the stairs to their room.

I have seen them work things out differently when they think I might be coming. I also try and reward them for working things out and not needing my help. I’ve often done a fun impromptu to trip somewhere when they worked things out.

I Have To Know When To Remove A Child From The Interaction

Now and then I see my girls playing and see that things are not going well. I can see my special needs child getting to the point she is going to act out.

I have to be the one that helps with the rule of “leaving the situation.” I have what I will term my shadow help box. It is a list of things that I can use to pull my oldest out of the room to do something with me or on her own.

By doing this, I help her calm down and not get into a meltdown or her hurting one of her sisters over something.

I update my list often. The other day it was taking her out to help me do something around the house. At one time I had just made a water bead sensory bin and asked her to check if it was ready. She sat down and played with the not ready water beads and calmed down.

I will use the same list on her siblings as well. They each have things they love to do and it helps my keep some sanity.

Special needs siblings can be very hard to get along with. There are times that they all fight. All siblings fight at times but you have to know that the special needs child might not always get the problem and needs help to avoid causing more problems.

Today is the eighth post with 12 other bloggers. You can read everyone’s posts about “Special Needs Siblings”.

Here is a look at all the themes for the 12 months:

Parenting with Special Needs - 12 Month Blog Hop Series -

Check out my posts in this series:

Cassie –

About Cassie

Cassie is a mom of three stomping, romping, and roaring girls. She blogs about fun art and craft activities and printables she makes. She includes the odd review of products every now and then. She also blogs about the places that she has taken the girls called trip reviews. She has a few free printable pack for kids ages 2 to 8 and always adding more. She loves to get comments and feedback and always looking for new things to try or do with her girls.
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3 Responses to The Shadow World of Special Needs Sibling

  1. Pingback: Sibling Relations: Why It's Impossible to Find Balance in a Special Needs Family - My Home Truths

  2. I love this post Cassie – very familiar scenarios to me!!!

  3. Rebekah says:

    Love Ross Greene’s work. How fortunate you were to be able to hear him speak. I strive to be more collaborative in parenting but it can be hard when I have four children and sometimes I have to Plan A more than I would like especially bc sibling fights can be very triggering to my most challenging child. So I often step in and make an executive order bc I am trying to avoid a meltdown that can last up to an hour.

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