Saturday, October 15, 2011

31 for 21: #15 What do I tell my kid? (part 2)

Yes, it was supposed to be singular "kid" today.  Why was yesterday's post timely for me
Because Amelia is asking.  She is becoming hyper aware of "categories".  She started kindergarten this year.  And, sadly, what was "normal" before, is not as normal now.

Amelia has been refusing to play with Elise.  Not every day.  But more often than I'd like.  I don't push it.  They are 4 years apart after all.  But sometimes I admit to "setting up" a play date.  Initiate a mutually enjoyed group of toys or movie...and make sure it reminds Amelia about what they used to like to do.  Remind her that it's still normal and fun.

When there are people over, friends, cousins, acquaintances, Amelia tends to be even more exclusive.  Especially if the kids involved are uncomfortable with or tend to avoid Elise.  I try to push it a little bit.  I always make sure that Elise gets a little treat.  Her choice of a movie, toy, or snack, so she has a comfort item in place to be supportive, and something that might lure in the other kids.  Something that might make it more desirable to make the effort.  I wish I didn't feel like I had to.  I often wonder if I am doing right.

I've had to reprimand Amelia publicly for ways she has chosen to treat her sister.  But she does love Elise.  She has NO desire to have her own room.  She loves sharing with Elise.  She loves Elise.  She's just sorting things out.

Amelia has started to correct Elise's mis-spoken words.  She gets frustrated with her sister.  She asks me "Why can't she say ____?!"  I remind her that everyone is different and has different strengths.  Elise struggles with some words.  She will often return with, "But she's older, and I can say it!"  I have reminded her that Elise can read words and sounds that she cannot.  She then whines about how she's not as smart as Elise....and I remind her that we all have strengths and weaknesses.  Which is what we were talking about in the first place...I tell her that Elise's heart is littler than her body because of Down Syndrome, but even though her words are hard for her, her heart and mind still understand.  And that she must not forget that.

I know Amelia is processing what she knows and the differences that she is discovering.  I have always handled the situation (concerning special needs) the same way I handle questions about sex.  I answer the questions as they come.  I answer the questions as clearly and simplistically as I can. I let them ask the follow up questions...and so on.  I am always very honest and clear.

It worked well with Gabriel (our son) who is four years older than Elise.  He never was as hyper aware of Elise's differences.  He always just kind of lumped her and her disabilities as "her".  As a matter of fact, for a long time, he just thought girls were slower to grow and develop.  He was disappointed to learn that Amelia was going to be a girl (when I was pregnant) because girls "take FOREVER to talk!"  He has always been very understanding and loving with Elise.  He is very protective and has even gotten in fights (verbal shouting matches) over her.  He has eliminated friendship over opinions of Elise and even other kids at his school with special needs.  I admit, I am proud of that.

I am still feeling my way with Amelia.  I know honest and upfront is always best.  I know that positive reinforcement of her sweet and encouraging behaviors will beget more sweet behaviors.  I am holding to that pattern, trusting that she will eventually realize that "normal" is not the be all and end all in life.  I am trusting that when she is done categorizing she will understand that hearts come in all shapes and sizes.  And I will trust that she will comprehend just how stupendously big her sister's heart is.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. This is a struggle I have yet to face. For now since Gabi is still little we haven't had any problems but I know we will. I worry about my other two dealing with "friends" as well. Gabriel is such a great big brother, you should be proud! I hope my son will defend his sister's honor like that when the time comes.

    P.S. I had fun with Charlotte this morning! ;)