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We’re happy to introduce a new gust blogger to the Special Needs Essentials community,  Jenn from Positive Parenting Specialized. We are glad to have her unique perspective on our blog!

Hi there, I’m Jenn, a single mom to a seventeen year old with Global Depression, a fifteen year old with Asperger’s Syndrome (and a hand full of co-morbid diagnosis), a 10 year old with autism, Type 1 Diabetes, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and a 7 year old fireball with Disruptive Behavior Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Learning Challenges, and Anxiety Disorder. I am in my forties and have started blogging to try to support the kids and myself. I love being a work from home mom, praying often that it stays this way.

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Life with four children who all have unique challenges might be surprising. Maybe some of these points are “No Brainers.” See for yourself!

 

Here are Five Things You Might Not Know about Having Multiple Children with Special Needs:

1. We have fun!

Jumping on the trampoline, having pillow fights, going sledding, playing in the

now, etc. All these activities have brought us tons of enjoyment. So when I say I have multiple kids with special needs, please don’t think of us crying in a corner (although, that has happened). I love my kids. I try to support them, cheering them on at every corner.

Other activities that I love to watch the kids do is play in their body socks. They often pack237 one body sock full of pillows, then all three younger children pile in together. Inevitably, one of them gets upset. It is so fun, while it lasts.

Another fun go to activity we do, is we take a “Sensory Tunnel,” and pull the kids around on a hard surface while they lay on it. They love this! I love hearing the squeals of delight.

2. Diets Can Be Hard

I am a short order cook at every single meal! Even with pizza nights, there just can’t be one pizza. Nooooooo. One kid can’t stand too much spaghetti sauce (it makes him dry heave), another kid can’t have gluten, etc. So, I always end up making a few dishes, much to our Behavior Consultant’s Chagrin.

The adage, the child will eat when they are hungry does not match with autism. At some point my kids have gotten down to just GoGurts as a diet. So, if I find foods they will tolerate, I am happy to have them eat. Sure, life might be more complicated, but I sleep better knowing they are getting more nutrition than GoGurts provide.

3. The Kids Feed Off of Each Other.

This is both bad and good. The bad is that when one melts down or is in a funk, they all tend to go down that path (like babies in the newborn nursery atthe hospital, when one cries, they all cry).

The good side is that when one needs help, they all tend to try to problem solve. Sometimes, the problem solving makes no sense or is completely out of our means, but they try. So I say this to convey, “Kids with special needs do have empathy. It just might look different than what we envision.”

My kids feed into each other, however, they do not copy each other. I wish they did. Then, they might be more compliant. They feed off of each other’s moods, but not their actions.

4. They All Are Different

Three of my kids have been on the Autism Spectrum. Even though they have shared a diagnosis, they couldn’t be more different. My fifteen year old is very rule bound (thank God for him!).However, my younger two can be defiant, liking to color outside of the lines, if you know what I mean. One loves to be naked. All three are frustrated very easily. None of them developed according to the normal milestones.

Even though all three have been on the Autism Spectrum and communicating is difficult, you couldn’t believe how diversely they grate each other’s nerves. They know how to push each other’s buttons.

This is part of a vast puzzle: their repetitive behaviors irritate each other. One paces, another can’t stand it and keeps ordering them to sit down. Another makes constant strange noises, the others beg him to stop. And yet the third, will constantly snap, butt bounce, and body rock. The others will beg me to make it stop.

This sounds like it would be oh so funny, but I assure it is NOT. Be in my house for more than an hour, I bet you would want out quickly, especially right around bed time. Riding in our van can be quite the arduous journey.

5. I Love My Kids Always and Forever No Matter What.

Just like typical kids, I am proud of my Fantastic Four. I know there is nothing they can’t do. It is just inspiring them to do their best, pulling out their unique gifts and talents. The talents come to the surface eventually. It takes a great deal of time. We celebrate everything, especially progress, no matter how small or how long it takes to happen.

I feel special needs kids aren’t THAT different from typical ones. They all love to play, love to have fun. For special needs kids, being able to have fun may be more difficult.

But regardless of any circumstance, I am proud to be their mom no matter what. In the moment, as I am smacked by one of them, I may not feel that way. None the less, in my heart of hearts, I am forever theirs, and they are forever mine.

I am always proud of every step forward and we manage through the steps back. All in all, we are family. We stick together, helping each other through it all.
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I hear Elizabeth ask Michael a question about something,

I hear Michael answer,“I don’t know Elizabeth, I think that it was the other day.”

I hear Elizabeth say something else, then I hear both of them laugh.

This got me thinking about the close relationship that Michael has with Elizabeth.

I started thinking about this wonderful little man and I wanted to get his opinion on some key issues about life with Elizabeth.

So I asked Michael if I could interview him for this blog, to which her responded  “Mom?!!?  YES!”

So here he is, fresh from his latest win on the basketball court.

Me:  “So Michael, how old are you now?”

MG:  “ Mooooommm…really?”

For the record he is 11 years old.

Me:  “Michael is was fun to hear you and Elizabeth laughing tonight, It made me want to ask you, what does it feel like to have a sister with special needs?”

MG:  “Mom, I feel honored to experience this unique person.  Elizabeth is a fun person and I want everyone to know that.”

I told him that he talks as if he was much older than his actual years, to which he smiled.

Me: “Speaking of which, what do you wish everyone could know about Elizabeth, other than that she is fun?

MG:  “I want everyone to know that she is not different, she is exactly the same as everyone else.  I mean, I know she has special needs, but she is just like other people.  I think there should not be any stereotypes.  She should not be grouped away because of her special needs.

I told him how much I loved him and how proud I am of him.

Me;  “I know that at times Elizabeth’s special needs are challenging to me and Dad. How do you feel when she is upset or anxious?”

MG: “I can handle her moods, because I know she is struggling hard but it does make me feel frustrated to watch her work so hard.  And it does make me anxious or makes my anxiety get high.”

I told him how much he means to his sister, that their friendship helps her so much.

Me:  “Speaking of friendships, Michael, is there anything you want our readers to know about your relationship with your sister?

MG:  “That sometimes I get sad because it is hard for Elizabeth to tell me everything she wants to or to tell me exactly how she is feeling about things, like I can.”

I went on to tell him he is quite a sensitive and insightful 11 year old.

Me:  “You know Michael, that there are many children your age who have sisters or brothers like Elizabeth.  As well as many who have sibling with other disorders…So with that thought in mind, tell me the advice you might have for others who have a sibling with special needs.”

MG:  “I want to tell them to show affection to them because they need it.  Even is they many not show it to you or cannot show it to you.  It matters because they will feel loved.”  “Mom, I love her.”

I hugged my little man so tight at this point.

I was quite moved by his words, I mean, I know he is such a tender hearted little man, but to hear his answers while looking into his big brown eyes, makes it hit my heart just that much more.

Siblings, like Michael, are affected by the “Elizabeth’s” in their lives. This is my opinion.

It simply cannot be helped.  Again, my opinion.

But how they react and feel and is something that can be. Again,  opinion here.

I feel so strongly that how we talk to the Michaels of the world, how we offer them explanations or offer them hope for their sibling can help them so much as they are on their own unique sibling journey.

Sometimes it is even as simple as giving them a voice, the chance to tell you how they really feel is sometimes all they need.

I love that Michael is the boy who befriends those in his class who need a friend, or the boy who says the kind word to the boy in his class who just had a meltdown.  I am proud beyond words that this is Michael.

But it is also because of the gift that Elizabeth is.  Having a sister like Elizabeth has helped Michael to be the young man he is.

I thanked Michael for his time, he smiled at me and at that moment I simply gave thanks.

I wish you all a peaceful week.

-Michele

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