Siblings of a Special Needs child

Over the years, people always ask how my son TJ is doing, how he is getting on in school, at home, progressing physically and intellectually but one massive reason for his overall development and progress is down to the love and compassion that is shown to him every day by his sister and brother. Emily is TJ’s 12-year-old sister and Dylan is TJ’s 7-year-old brother. It would be fair to say that their lives are different to their peers in many ways. Without knowing it, they are constantly looking out for TJ and helping him through each day – the beaker that TJ drops on the floor is picked up without a second thought and given back to him, the toy that falls off the chair while TJ is trying to manipulate it, is given back to him. If there is a small item in close vicinity, Emily or Dylan automatically move it out of harms way in case TJ might put the object in his mouth. When we are out in the shop, Dylan will hold the lift doors open until TJ walks in with his walker. They are constantly looking out for him, making his world safe and comfortable.
When TJ was born, Emily was two years old. We didn’t know what was ahead of us in terms of the attention and time that we would need to give to our son. We travelled to Toronto when TJ was 16 months old and Emily was 3. We spent every day in a clinic learning how to help TJ physically and holistically in a functional way, so his therapy could be brought into his daily routine. Emily came to the clinic with us everyday and her treat was a trip to the park and playground afterward. This is not the sort of daily routine a three-year-old should really experience, however, what it did show Emily was all the challenges that her little brother faced and in turn she developed a deep compassion and empathy towards him. She never moaned if we had to spend that extra bit of time helping TJ with his sitting / walking / feeding. She became accustomed to our way of doing things which would always be different to other family environments. While TJ was making good progress and learning to sit up unaided at 16 months, Emily was being a big sister and helping by just being her happy self.
We felt at this point it would be lovely to try for a third baby. This decision was one we made with Emily and TJ at the forefront. We didn’t want everything to be focused around TJ’s condition especially as Emily and TJ got older, it wouldn’t be fair on either of them and we felt the dynamic would be good for our family. Emily and TJ would both have another sibling to join their family.
Dylan was born just before TJ turned three and he brought a new light to our lives. The house was hectic but in a lovely way. TJ and Emily loved their new brother who brought different strengths to both their characters.
Emily, TJ and Dylan are very close as far as it goes with siblings – there is many a barney, but the dynamic is wonderful. TJ loves to listen to Emily and Dylan having a spat, he finds it hilarious! TJ also likes to create his own bit of trouble at times by pulling Emily’s hair or giving Dylan a pinch while sitting in the car! TJ gets no special treatment when this happens – the important part of this is he’s learning through good and not so good behaviour and again it’s helping him progress socially by not being treated any differently by his siblings. We have noticed over the years how much TJ has progressed and developed intellectually and socially by having his brother and sister around. TJ loves to be included, whether it is sitting in the room while they watch TV or watching them play a game. TJ needs assistance with most aspects of his daily life and with some games due to his low muscle tone. However, Emily and Dylan will include him as much as possible, even if it means playing the game beside him, so he still feels part of what they are doing. More importantly, they do this without thinking, it’s second nature to them now.
Most recently, Dylan was out our front garden when a little girl came over to him and asked was TJ okay. Dylan explained to the little girl that TJ is doing great and if she wants to talk to him she can, he us unable to talk back, but he still loves to hear everyone chat and likes to be included – the little girl went off satisfied knowing she can talk and play with TJ.
This blog is dedicated to Emily and Dylan who help us as parents do our best, who think that little bit more, who call us to get TJ a drink, who bring that extra light and sparkle into our lives and make things extra wonderful for TJ.