Having a kid with special needs is time consuming, as I’m sure many of those reading this can perhaps personally attest to. Our days are littered with creating visual boards, constant therapies, hopefully only occasional meltdowns, and a general struggle that comes from the disconnect with the social, emotional, and language barriers. Now try adding in a sibling, or two or more, and you have quite the juggling act going on. I know this all too well since I have been juggling my three for some time now. Having multiple kids can always be challenging. But what do you do when you find that you have to spend so much time and attention on one child that you feel like you are falling short with the others?
In the juggle that I have going, I often am a glutton for punishment and like to add to my struggle by taking my kids to lot of places. I want Damion to learn how he should act out in the world, and this requires us to leave our home. Plus, I really like going places too. I know outings are not the easiest with my crew, but I hope with time Damion will continue to improve so that going gets easier. Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy things that you may not have the time for while school is in session. I pack our summers as full as I can, scheduling around our helpers, knowing that most outings will require additional “hands” to help me safely get through the day due to Damion’s elopement issues. The majority of this help with outings is given by my parents or my husband’s parents. Depending on the day’s agenda, I try to swap places with those assisting me so that I can spend some time equally with each of my three children. But it seems as Damion continues to get older (and faster) there are many places that I find myself spending an unequal amount of time with him. Leaving me feeling bad that I don’t get to see my daughter or other son in their enjoyment of the day out. I love spending time with my Damion, but I want time with my other two as well.
I wish I could just say that I ran into this dilemma outside of my house, but the truth is a lot of my energy at home goes to Damion as well. I try hard to keep things fair between the kids, taking turns between who gets to choose the show or activity, or whose turn it is to play with a particular toy. But there are times when I know that changing the turn away from Damion will cause a meltdown or a fight. Some days I am on my game and no child tantrum can outlast me, but I’m not perfect. Some days I am just tired or have other things I have to get done and just don’t have the time to manage another fight. So, I find myself asking if Damion can have another turn, or if they can just move onto another game or toy altogether. It is not my finest mom moment, but it’s the truth. My youngest son, Drew, is still only three and has some of his own communication delays, so more often than not, these additional requests are being made to my daughter, Delia.
Delia just recently turned 6 and other than some general sassiness, she is a wonderful little girl. More often than not, she is my helper. She plays with Damion, even when she is not interested, even when he is not playing “right”, even when she isn’t having much fun. She does all this because she has started to understand that Damion is different than other kids. She helps me look out for both of her brothers. And she often obliges me in letting Damion have extra turns from time to time. She is caring, and thoughtful. She is also extremely social. She loves going out, meeting new people, making new “best friends” even if she never learns the kid’s names. I try to let her have these times as often as I can, but unfortunately due to our circumstances, a lot of things like that can also get cut short. Even at family events we find ourselves leaving before others with kids because we are struggling with Damion, while Delia begs us to stay and let us play longer.
We also run into places that Damion is just not ready to go to yet, like a ball game or a regular movie. Thing that requires him to sit in one spot for an extended period of time are difficult. I find myself struggling to make sure that my other kids don’t miss out on things just because Damion is not yet able to do them. So, to make up for all these discrepancies between my time and often my energy with Damion, I try to plan some one-on-one time with my kiddos.
Most of this one-on-one time is gained in small ways. Maybe it is a weekend and I let Delia come with me to the store. Maybe when my parents come visit, I let them hang with Damion while I go play uninterrupted with Drew. Sometimes we plan something bigger. We work out babysitting and take Delia out shopping or take Drew to a movie. Finding time with Drew will remain easy for a while since he is my youngest and only in preschool part time, but Delia will be starting Kindergarten this fall, so it is likely that this time will be harder to come by.
I myself grew up with an older brother on the spectrum. My parents did well to hide the juggle for attention between us. Maybe they were just better at it than me, maybe it was easier for them because we weren’t as close together in age as my kids are, or maybe kids don’t really notice it as much as I stress about. Whatever the case, I personally cannot remember feeling forgotten or unnoticed. It is a personal goal of mine that my children don’t feel this way as either. I want them to have great memories of their childhood, and I want to be able to be present for those memories too. So sometimes, when I feel that the juggle of our life is starting to affect them, I ask for help, so that I don’t have to juggle for just a short time. They need it, and the truth is, I need it too.