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My nephew is not very nice to my DS and my sister doesn't challenge him. But he has asperger's ...(bit long)

(9 Posts)
spicemonster Sun 06-Sep-09 16:29:24

Maybe this should be in SN but I'm not sure if it isn't more about the relationships

My nephew is 9, my DS is 2 1/2. They are both only children. They used to get on pretty well but over the last year or so, my nephew (J) has become increasingly intolerant of my DS. My sister and I are very close but I left her house today feeling like I never want to visit her ever again because I find it so stressful.

J will not let my DS touch any of his toys and gets very, very anxious about him going anywhere near his playroom or picking up anything lying around the house that belongs to him. So it feels like we're visiting the house of an elderly aunt which is covered in nicknacks floor to ceiling because I cannot relax for a second. It's not related really to whether my DS is going to break things or not either - J went ballistic today because my DS was playing with a washing up bowl full of water in the garden that he had a couple of 'splat balls' in (basically small spongey balls). He had a massive tantrum and then refused to speak to either me or my DS the rest of the afternoon. He did grudgingly say goodbye to me when we left but refused to say goodbye to my DS. My sister apologised for him not saying goodbye but then said 'oh well, that's 9 year olds for you' in front of J. And that just felt like she was saying it was okay for him to behave like that.

J has also hit him or thrown things at my DS a couple of times - nothing that is really going to hurt but it makes me uncomfortable.

I know that toddlers are a total PITA but aren't you supposed to teach older children to cut them a bit of slack? Or is that totally unrealistic with a child with aspergers?

I felt miserable and was almost in tears when I left today - really sad for my DS because he adores J and it makes me so sad that J isn't very kind to him. And really sad that I couldn't wait to leave my beloved sister's house.

So - should I tell my sister that I feel unwelcome round her house and that I am upset by J's behaviour? Or am I expecting too much from a child with aspergers and I need to learn to be a bit more tolerant?

Incidentally J received his DX a couple of years ago and my sister and her DH are largely in denial about it as far as I can see. He gets extra help at school but they have not sought any support for them as a family, have only told immediate family and don't like to talk about it so it makes the subject very difficult to raise. I'm not criticising their difficulty with dealing with the DX - I have no idea how I would react if it were me - but it does exacerbate the situation.

2rebecca Sun 06-Sep-09 16:58:10

Autistic kids can get very hung up on personal posessions and if I was visiting a kid with Aspergers I'd make sure any kids I took had toys of their own to play with and knew not to play with other toys unless they asked.
Kids with aspergers do however need to learn to interact with others though and often having special needs of any sort can be used as a general excuse for poor behaviour. If I had a child with Aspergers I would want them to learn how to get on with other people and maybe have a few toys that they had to share. Having said that I wouldn't normally expect a 2 year old to be playing with a 9 year olds toys anyway. There is no reason for your sister not to tidy away her son's toys before your visit. The washing up bowl and sponge balls sound too young for a 9 year old to be interested in anyway if he has Aspergers and not more generalised autism.

crokky Sun 06-Sep-09 17:15:49

Children diagnosed with Aspergers are all different so it is hard to answer your question.

However, I would guess that the key to helping the 9yo would be for your sister to try to discuss with him the fact that you and your DS are coming round, what is likely to be happening etc etc and to set aside some toys that the 9yo wouldn't mind sharing etc. If he has very special things, I'd put them away before a toddler came round. Generally, people who have autistic spectrum disorders do not like change and prefer to understand what will be happening and why. I always adopt this approach with my own DS (who is 3.5 and may have some sort of ASD, not yet diagnosed) and recently it has been really successful. He does not like being plunged into a situation that he is unprepared for.

crokky Sun 06-Sep-09 17:17:39

I also agree with 2rebecca when she suggests that you should take some of your DS's own toys with you in the hope that he will not go for DN's toys so much.

spicemonster Sun 06-Sep-09 17:38:08

Thanks, I appreciate your responses. I do know that personal possessions are important to kids with aspergers so I do try and cut him some slack on that score. And I always take a bunch of toys for my DS with me whenever I visit. But kids like other kids' toys and J doesn't tidy anything away before we get there. So there are toys all over the floor, on the kitchen table, on the coffee table.

And although I do tell my DS not to play with J's toys, he's 2 and he is surrounded by toys which are interesting and different. It's very, very hard for him to understand why he can't play with them.

I think the crux of it is that I don't think my sister does really prepare J very well. He doesn't tidy anything away and almost seems to encourage situations which will make J (and me) anxious.

For example, J has a new hamster. He was very anxious about my DS disturbing his hamster. But the hamster lives in his bedroom, a room my DS never visits - he knows it's out of bounds. But my sister suggested that we all go and look at the hamster. So J is massively anxious and my DS is not allowed to get closer than about 2 foot which he finds very frustrating because he can't really see. So he got frustrated which made J even more anxious. It was horrible. And entirely avoidable.

in my experience with dd1, who is 6 years old and also has mild asd, its very differicult. We also have dd2 who is nearly 2. DD1 gets herself in a state when dd2 goes near her special things but she knows the rules, that if left in dd2;s reach its not fair to get upset. We are working hard on sharing and would never blame her asd for me not trying to teach her to share.

I would suggest as others do and take your ds some toys. Also maybe exlain to your sister how hard it is. Ask if its possible that maybe J could sort a box of toys he is happy to share with your ds, so he is comfertable with it.

spicemonster Sun 06-Sep-09 19:12:27

Thanks lisad - hearing your perspective on having an older child with ASD and a toddler (blimey - that must be hard work!) is really helpful. I think I need to talk to my sister and explain to her how stressful I find it. I think she is just used to J reacting to things but hate it when he gets upset and I don't want him to - I want us all to have a nice time together. He is in theory very fond of my DS - it's just the reality that he struggles with! I'm sure it will get easier as my DS gets older and is less into everything.

glad to help. Its odd she finds it harderto share with her sister than anyone her own age, I think its more the fear of them being broken. We are very early into dx tbh, and havent got to any support groups yet, so try not to be hard on your sister, its sometimes easier to cope as you always have done, especially if it works ok for you. Im still not sure if i want dd1 introduced to other girs with asd, in a formal way as i dont want her to feel bad about herself or feel shes different. Plus we havent told her yet. Its a hard choice to make so maybe your sister hasnt made her mind up yet. Im sure your sister finds it hard to know what to do, but she really does need to ave some disapline with him otherwise its will be even worse in years to come.

HTH

spicemonster Sun 06-Sep-09 20:35:59

Yes that does help

I do try not to be hard on my sister but I think what she's doing at the moment is compensating a lot by letting him get away with behaving not very well (not all of which is down to his asperger's I suspect) but not actually making life easier for him by preparing him for our visits. What's difficult for me (and the rest of our family) is that none of us really understand enough about aspergers to be able to appreciate what J finds challenging and so adjust our way of interacting with him.

This thread has really helped me because it's given me some ideas of how to broach things with my sister. Your idea of asking J to collect a box of toys for my DS to play with when he visits is genius. I think J would enjoy doing that and more importantly, give him some measure of control over things where now he just feels that my DS is a force of nature/chaos (which is fair - he is!).

J is actually very generous with my DS - he has collected up and given him all his Thomas the Tank Engine track and engines (and he has loads) and really enjoyed handing over the box to him and showing him all the trains. So I think if I suggest to my sister that he does that and also puts away his toys in the kitchen and living room (I can easily confine my DS to those rooms - shutting the playroom off is no problem) I think we will all have a much happier visit.

Thanks x

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