The Loneliness Of A Special Needs Sibling

It’s just after 6:30pm and her brother has just had a seizure in the bath. While her mum pulls him out and dries him her dad rushes upstairs to help.

And she was left alone.

It’s 11am at the retail park and suddenly her brother has disappeared. Her mum shouts his name and runs to the lift knowing her brother loves them, while her dad runs to the door to make sure her brother hasn’t ran into the car park.

And she was left alone again.

It’s 2:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon and she is with mum and her brother at yet another hospital appointment. Her brother’s height is taken, his weight measured and the eye specialist looks into her brother’s eyes while talking to mum in words she can’t understand.

And it feels like she isn’t there at all, even though she is.

Life feels all about her brother. She can only go places if HE is well enough, if HE can cope with it, if there is provision for disabled children. She hears others at school talk about zoos, trampoline parks and ice-skating rinks but she has never experienced those. She could tell them about tonic clonic seizures, communicating with a non verbal brother or what an occupational therapist does. She knows that isn’t what anyone wants to hear about though.

So she just stays quiet.

She does her own thing. She finds her own way of coping. She is the epitome of resilience, the definition of bravery, the personification of inner strength.

But she’s lonely. So very lonely.

She’s typical of so many siblings lost in the shadows while the limelight shines on the sick sibling, the disabled brother, or the struggling sister.

Expected to carry on with homework while her brother screams, to try and watch TV without complaining while her brother has a meltdown, to still sleep while her brother bangs toys throughout the night because he sees no need for sleep.

These are the siblings whose loneliness we don’t like to see. We don’t like to admit that disability affects the siblings as much, if not more, than the child who is diagnosed. It makes us uncomfortable to think we have caused an innocent child to experience mental pain while we care for the physical pain of another child. We hope beyond hope that things will settle and one day we will ‘make it up to them’ for the times we couldn’t make their school play because their brother was sick or in hospital. But that day never seems to come.

So she just carries on.

Until one day she says ‘it feels like I am invisible sometimes.’

Then you realise the utter loneliness, the repeated rejection she had felt and the fear she experiences daily. You vow to change things but nothing, nothing, will take away her loneliness.

I promise you siblings, you are NOT invisible. You are the real hero’s in all this. You are the ones who’s smile keeps everyone going, whose humour brings life and whose strength inspires.

You may feel lonely but you are never alone.

I promise you so many other siblings understand and they have been where you are.

You got the raw deal here and I’m sorry.

This post first appeared here. Do check out my other blogs on Firefly (www.fireflyfriends.com) and my regular updates and thoughts on my Facebook page (faithmummy).

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When there is less like you

 

imageSeven year ago I started my journey of parenthood. It has been the most exhilarating, exhausting and enlightening journey ever. Over those years many have journeyed along with me but every year more of those people take a slightly different route. Every now and again I stop and look around, and while there are still many of you cheering me on, I notice as my children grow that there are less like me.

When my child was not speaking at aged one there were hundreds of others like me. That first birthday came and so many of us were yet to hear ‘mamma’ or ‘daddy’ and so we journeyed together for another year.

When the second birthday came along a lot of those children were now talking. It was beautiful. But some of us were still waiting. So we travelled on another year.

When the third birthday came I looked around to see some were crying happy tears as those precious words were beginning to come slowly. There were still others with me walking the path together of ‘is this autism’ or ‘should I be worried by now’ and we consoled ourselves together in our group. I wasn’t alone.

As we approached four I could hear some cheering us on. “This is the year” they would say, “Nursery will bring him on”, “he will soon get there!”. Hope carried me on as one by one more of my companions on my journey started to see their little ones develop and grow and finally speak.

There were less of us by now. The odds were not in our favour as much. Our children were starting school and still not speaking. This started to get serious and worrying and yet we continued to journey on supporting each other. As our special babies began school something changed. A few more, slowly but steadily, began to speak and the group became even less. As beautiful as these moments were it becomes more and more scary when there is less like you.

Still a few more trailed off by the time my child reached six. Therapists, teachers and parents rejoicing at little voices emerging years after they should. Miracles still happening.

And there we were, still waiting.

He is seven and a half now. And still not speaking. My true companions are few now and reality starts to settle in. Are we all here now for life? Is there still hope for us? Is there a time to say that the therapies are not working for our child? Our small group sub divides between those who have children using pictures to communicate and those who use sign language. Some are even managing both! We start to celebrate communication instead of language.

Then there is my son: Seven, no language, not using picture communication and only mastering three basic signs.

It is lonely here in my world. It really is hard to stay positive. It gets harder to find stories of children like mine. Sometimes it feels like we were forgotten. I admit it is heartbreaking when there is less like you..

But the longer we wait…the more of a miracle it becomes.

So we keep on waiting..even if we are left waiting alone.