It is six weeks since the appointment where my son, just three years old, sat playing through (yet another) appointment about GG – this time the educational psychologist. As we were chatting through some of the challenges at home, with the backdrop of Fire Engine noises, I hear a little voice say ‘GG hurts me’. The educational psychologist instantly dropped to the floor and played with him while encouraging him to expand. Yes, GG does play nicely with him – sometimes. Yes, GG can be fun. Yes, GG hurts him. How? Hair pulling, hitting, kicking … every day? Yes. From the mouth of a babe.
I tried so hard to hold it together but inevitably there were tears.
There was this amazing little boy, my incredible little boy, who never hits back at his sister – despite holding his own in the nursery play area – describing to a stranger the good and the bad of being a special needs sibling.
I frequently find myself having flashbacks to that meeting, searching for ways that we can help both GG and her brother to have a more positive relationship. There is no manual for how to support a learning disabled child, engage in meaningful play with a younger sibling who happens to have greater skills.
The ongoing challenge
There are moments of absolute pleasure – a game of hide and seek which leaves both children in fits of giggles. Unfortunately there continue to be lots of lows, occasions where we did not predict the lashing out of a very frustrated child, several potentially serious near misses – a push as we are making our way downstairs or fingers in the eyes. We have tried gates to keep them apart, we have tried never letting them out of our sight but with two mobile children and dinner to make, it’s not possible to be all things to all children. The ‘wiser than her years’ older sister who is so good at predicting and preventing trouble.
There is no doubt that GG adores her brother but he is also a sensory overload nightmare to her. Has anyone tried asking their three-year-old to quieten down because his sister isn’t coping well with noise? I know before I have said it, that my request is futile. Often, neither child is playing up but compatibility is a significant challenge.
The rookie mistake – what was I thinking!
Then I made the rookie mistake – despite being six years into our SN journey. I described the meeting and the words of my little boy at a mainstream toddler group. What was I thinking! The immediate silence, barely masked looks of horror, parents holding their toddlers tight – trying to imagine a world in which they are regularly hurt by a sibling. Then the attempt to normalise our experiences – ‘it’s just normal sibling behaviour’, ‘all siblings fight’, ‘it’s just a phase’. Me wanting to sink through the floor, wondering at what point I lost my senses.
It’s important to speak out
It has taken me six weeks to feel able to talk/write about this, I know it is important to share and that I am not alone. However, I should be able to protect my little boy and I should be able to help my little girl to find other ways to express herself. I never stop seeking help and support. Inevitably I still have no report from the educational psychologist meeting but six weeks is nothing in my experience. The dream of some professional input from school being a distant lifeline.
I am however attending a workshop in just a couple of weeks time, where I have high hopes of obtaining some professional input, meeting others in a similar situation and hopefully come away with some new tactics.