Younger children need age-appropriate information, says Karlene Reid
It was an emotional and poignant question from her son, showing the depth of his struggle with his brother’s autism diagnosis that began Karlene Reid’s journey to find some way to help him.
But he was only six at the time and the services she looked at suggested that he was too young to really understand what was happening.
So she decided to do something herself, looking to this same son to help her.
Together they would write a book about the experience of living with a sibling with autism. It would be a way to help him make sense of his unique childhood experience, give him some support and hopefully help others in a similar situation.
Me and My Big Brother, a picture book, has since been published, and is available to purchase through Amazon.ca. It’s a source of great pride for her son, says Karlene, proving a solution in some ways, though there is still the need to work with him.
The B.C. resident has now arranged for the brothers to take part in a facilitated play-time, where both can learn more about interacting with each other and being friends despite their differences.
For Karlene, this is a story in many ways about the importance of connecting with one’s younger children who do not have a disability, listening to them and understanding that they have their own special needs.
“Children so young need so much support, too,” she says, noting they can often feel like that their feelings don’t matter or that they’re not as important as the sibling who has a disability.
“Those emotions come very, very early,” she notes, adding she feels many practitioners and even other parents don’t seem to realize this in many cases.
But recognizing those feelings and then providing age-appropriate information and support can strengthen the family, says Karlene.
She adds she believes it’s important for families to be honest with themselves and each other about the difficulties that come with living with a child who has a disability, that it’s in that honesty they begin to develop resilience and healthier ways of living.
The younger siblings especially can feel more connected to the family as a result and the parents will feel less compelled to do things out of guilt.
Having said all this, she adds, she herself is still learning to apply what she knows to be true.
“It’s all baby steps,” she says, noting her mantra is to take it day by day, or even moment by moment, if the day seems too much.
And at the end of the day, even with the challenges, she sees it all as a gift.
“Now is all we have, and these moments are precious,” says Karlene.
“I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”
Me and My Big Brother was published through Author House and can be purchased online at www.Amazon.ca .
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