I am the proud mum to 2 amazing boys. JJ is 10 and Logan is 7, though to see them behave you would struggle to appreciate that JJ is older than his brother. JJ has ADHD and is on the autistic spectrum. I get asked a lot about the journey we have taken with JJ, his diagnosis, dealing with schooling and so on. But very rarely does anyone ask about Logan and his journey as a sibling to a brother with special needs. This journey has been just as important as JJ’s and ours.
Logan has not had an easy road. Normally a younger sibling learns their social and play skills from the older child. In our family, however, Logan has not had this benefit. In fact, he has had to learn that how his brother plays is not typical. Like most siblings, JJ and Logan have different personalities. JJ likes structure, whereas Logan seems to revel is mess! If JJ allows you to play with him, you have to play by his rules or not at all. Logan is very social and always finds someone new to play with when we go to the park.
Sometimes, Logan gets frustrated that he doesn’t usually get the chance to choose the game we play, or understand why JJ does not have the social skills to just make friends wherever he goes.
I play an important role as referee, helping the kids work their sibling issues from both sides. JJ needs guidance in understanding that the world does not see things in the same way as he does. And for Logan, I remind him that it’s OK for him to feel those normal emotions of sibling rivalry. Sometimes, he will dislike his brother’s behaviour – and that’s okay.
Involving Logan in JJ’s journey has helped our family dynamic. We have always been open with both our children about the needs that JJ has. His condition is not an embarrassment, nor have we ever allowed it to be an excuse for his behavior. Logan has attended JJ’s paediatrician appointments and is included in conversations about how JJ is progressing.
Siblings of children with increased needs sometimes feel mum and dad are too busy for them. This has been a struggle for Logan. Sometimes, he will copy JJ’s behavior to try and get our attention. We now set aside regular daily times for the boys so that both feel loved and appreciated. It might be a bedtime story, or 10 minutes together to talk at the end of each day. Logan and his dad bond by attending Logan’s rugby games together, while I take him to theater events.
While Logan’s journey as the sibling of an autistic child has had its challenges, we hope that it is also teaching Logan resiliency, independence, patience and tolerance. Most importantly, we hope that he is growing up knowing that mom and dad love him unconditionally – and that we are grateful to be right by his side, every step of the way.
Kirstie is the Professional Advisor for Johnson’s Baby UK and Ireland, helping to promote an evidence-based approach to infant skincare. Kirstie previously worked as a qualified midwife. Away from work, she loves spending time with her family exploring the British countryside and travelling.