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DS unkind to autistic DD(27 Posts)
At my wits' end here and looking for ideas... DS (6) is constantly unkind and cruel to DD (4) who has autism. There's the usual sibling stuff and DD can give back as good as she gets. But DS teases her poor speech/pronunciation, whispers taunts at her and sometimes mocks her for having autism.
It's worst when there are other children round to play. We just had a pair of siblings round who are the same age as both DS and DD, and DS ring-led a game of DD being the monster, and everyone crying to escape her/force her out of rooms. It culminated in DS egging her on to do dangerous activities like jumping on top of a bunk bed (I'm getting rid of that bed, I can't take the anxiety it gives me that DD might fall off it).
This kind of cruelty towards DD led by DS when other children are around - it's been happening for about a year now. We always call DS out on it, explain that it is not kind and not acceptable and yet he keeps doing it.
After the other children left, I burst into tears and sobbed for over half an hour.
What can I do to teach DS about kindness to his sister, especially when other children are around? It just breaks my heart that DD doesn't even have her brother on her side when other children are around. I'm crying again as I write this. Does it get better?
I wonder if he is feeling (completely unintentionally and it’s certainly not a dig at you) a bit pushed out and he is doing this to get attention?
Are you able to give him some more 1-1 time away from his sister? It must be hard work being a sibling of a child with additional needs sometimes.
@Sirzy yes a lot of time gets taken up with DD's appointments and helping to manage her behaviour. We do try and snatch time on his own with him, and he always enjoys it when we do.
He's generally better these days when they're on their own - most of the time they play nicely (they're playing nicely together now the friends have gone home).
But it's when they're playing in a group or he thinks I'm not watching that he can be really cruel and unkind.
Is it a manifestation of his frustration that she's different? That she behaves differently?
He's always been a reluctant brother - he intensely disliked her for the first year of her life and then was upset and frustrated with her a lot of the time until she started talking (which was only in the past 6 months). We've tried to explain autism as simply and clearly as we can to him, and we always intervene if she is being unkind to him/we try to avoid making him more 'responsible' or held to a different standard.
Is there something else we could do, I wonder? Or keep at it? It's exhausting and upsetting.
I think you could go to a support meeting and see if anyone has a fiercely protective older brother of an autistic child and invite them to play. He needs a good model and frankly for someone he thinks is cool to look disgusted at his behaviour.
School can help too. Ask them, explain exactly the problem, they will help.
Everyone makes the wrong choices sometimes. Keep helping him to do better.
Books and stories about people who stand up against the group and defend the weak.
Being a mum is hard. Being the mum of a disabled child very hard. You will find a way.
Thank you @zzzzz those are great suggestions. He has a lovely teacher so I will speak to him. His teacher said he noticed DS was intensely emotional and got very upset at seemingly insignificant things so I guess he has a bunch of unresolved feelings about DD and how to interact with her.
It's trying to find the balance between understanding that it's hard for him and also not tolerating unkind and cruel behaviour.
We were at the park yesterday and DD came up with a sand icecream she had made for him and DS said to his friend "here is the ugly stupid monster". I hauled him off to sit out from play immediately and gave him yet another bloody firm talking to about how being unkind is unacceptable. My friends were at what he said, I was nearly in tears again.
He gets quite lost in his imagination and stories so I think books, as you suggest, would be helpful too.
Thank you xx
At the autism support organisation we're part of there are indeed support meetings for siblings. I'll get on to arranging this. An older boy modelling good behaviour is indeed something that would have a lot of impact on him.
If you go into waterstones and ask whoever covers the children’s section, or into your local library and ask the librarian, explaining the sort of book you need, most of them will find that sort of challenge really interesting and might come up with some good options.
It would be helpful to share solutions here, as I’m sure this is a fairly common problem for some children.
Has he been checked as well (I am sure he was)?
We are now on our fourth generation of people on the spectrum and it shows in very very different ways.
Or it may be insecurity / low self esteem / jelousy if he is like that in front of friends and playmates - being NT does not mean no problems. Especially if the autistic sibling gets most of the attention when they are together in a social situation (not 1:1). He is sure to get attention when he is mean.
Has he been checked as well (I am sure he was)?
None of my other children have been “checked”. . Here you are only assessed for ASD if there is a reasonable expectation that you have it. I don’t know anywhere that routinely assesses whole families for ASD.
I could have written this as at exactly the same ages, it almost unnerved me like I was reading my own words.
All I can say is over the last two years it’s got better by far, they are mostly good friends. She’s moved forward a lot and he’s socially matured too by understand empathy more and feeling better about himself without needing to run her down.
It was a shit phase
I am in a different country and here assessment for AS (and ADHS as well) includes extensive background checks (to exclude other reasons for the problematic behaviour like trauma, abuse etc.).
That'll teach me not to assume, sorry.
I think he may feel that his sister's autism makes her somehow 'special' to you, more than he feels he is. Rather than keep focusing on your DDs autism and trying to get him to accommodate it more, I think you should focus more on giving him more undivided time and supporting him to feel special and valued in some way that builds his self esteem, maybe by getting him into a specific activity such as judo or junior mountain biking, giving him your time and attention for that activity and lots of praise for his achievements. Also lots of praise and noticing for when he is being kind or nice to his sister. Of course clear nastiness shouldn't be tolerated.
Background checks? How does that lead to assessment of other family members? What degree of relationship do they extend to? How do they afford that? How do you overcome the ethics of that?
Can I ask what country you are in??
Have you ever read the book 'Siblings without Rivalry'? I think it could be very helpful to you.
One of the interesting techniques that I have used with my own children is to give the child permission to share the negative feelings they may have towards their sibling, whether that is jealousy, annoyance or whatever. It sounds counter-productive but the authors argue that giving children the space to express negativity can then allow more positive feelings to flourish. I have used this with my own children and it does work.
One of my dc has special needs that results in my other dc having to have less of my time than they otherwise might, and put up with quite stressful behaviour at times.
We as parents had to fill out lots of questionaires and were interviewed, we gave permission in writing for other people (family, teachers, nursery etc. to be interviewed/questionaired), family history, our praenting styles, pregnancy history, thorough physical examination of the child inkl. bloods, EEG, EKG, etc. to exclude other physical reasons were done. (I've got copies of all the paperwork/results on file) - which in our case - as everybody was open to cooperate - led to interesting results and explained a lot.
Germany here (NRW and Berlin)
Yes but would that really include assessment of siblings ?
Well, the interviews / information gathered gave enough indications that looking at DD, too, would be a good idea - and it was.
Of course, I do not know if they do it routinely or only if there is enough "evidence".
anecdote: we all thought our DGM's behaviour was normal until she went to hospital for her bloodpressure at 80y- and they would not let her go because she was "confused". Eh, no, the dr. tried to have a conversation with her including eye contact. Neither was possible and never had been...
I think it’s interesting to hear the “normal” process in different regions. The nice guidelines are fairly good I think. I’m sure lots of people question in themselves if their other children have similar issues. I think the idea that autism is genetically inherited is fairly entrenched but I’m not sure how much research there is to corroborate that. It seems to have moved into a “given” in the last 10 years.
DGM, DF, DB, DN, DS, (DD just missed the cut off point - being a girl)- growing up at different times and in different environments, vaccinated and unvaccinated, male and female, with and without cognitive impairment - no allergies, no food intolerances, no other health problems + a number of family members with ADD.
I'd be surprised if our genes were not involved, but how exactly - I keep reading but it does not (yet) get any clearer.
My own opinion is that the genetic element is over egged and that if there was a clear connection it would have been found years ago. I think the “damage to mothers X chromosomes from grandmothers exposure to environmental factors” may float but I suspect that’s partly because the sneakiness of it appeals to me. I have a very very large family that is unusually well documented and there has never been a child born like my son in previous generations. The criteria is fairly all embracing though so it’s possible we aren’t seeing different presentations of the same condition but a motley jumble of “different” and so cause is unlikely to be any more focused.
I think Asperger has been treated rather oddly in the press and the intolerance of his contribution is very unhelpful.
I suggest siblings without rivalry too. Its a good book.
I also think some sort of young carers group would be good.
I do think that there are genetic factors involved + environmental influences (Not the Bettelheim kind.) . But I cannot, of course, take my family as a basis for conclusions. My DSis and her GP thought her son was a spontaneous occurence until they started to investigate further and found strong hints to AS and ADD in all generations and branches (In my DF generation any sort of "impairment" could get you killed, so everything was hidden as best they could.)
I try to keep up with research as far as my abilities and time allow and try to keep an open mind - after all it's the practical help that counts.
Have a good year!
You could share the problem with school and see if there is any support for emotional literacy. We have ELSAs who are TAs who have a bit of extra training. They help out children who need extra support (eg difficult family circumstances) or who have skills gaps (eg my anxious and autistic son).
I think it may well get better. His empathy will grow a lot in the next couple of years. But it sounds to me like you need to get to the bottom of why he is like this in groups. Also maybe look at Young Carers activities when he is a bit bigger. Here they start at 8.
In addition to the excellent suggestions already made, I wanted to note that maybe DS feels an extra weight from being the elder one out of your DC. We have these dynamics in reverse: DD with ASD aged 9 and DS (NT) aged 7.
Along with supportive teachers and trying to make sure DH or I spend enough 1:1 time with DS, I also encourage him to tell me when he feels sad/frustrated/annoyed with his sister and say I, too, feel like that about the autism sometimes a) because I do and b) to validate his feelings. We also praise him/positively reinforce all his kindness towards her.
Could rewards work for your DS, too, for when he is especially loving towards DD? Your DS is young and making the wrong choices at times but with your wonderful parenting and his own better instincts, I am sure he will change. We had other bad behaviour from DS when he was 6 but who knows, it may well have been him expressing his frustration that his sister was different, just in another way. Things will get better - and in the meantime, I'm thinking of you.
@TheMincePiesAreMine he has some recognition that his behaviour around friends is different. He said "When other people are here, I have a different brain. I have nightmares and they take over my brain and it makes me be mean to DD". Which is a bizarre explanation that doesn't make much sense but at least he has some recognition.....
When I find some book recommendtions I'll share them, and I'll check out Siblings without Rivalry.
What's really bittersweet is that his best friend from school is on the spectrum, but DS doesn't know it. The boy's mum told me about his diagnosis because she suspected my DD had ASD. But the boy's doesn't want his classmates to know (her family's choice I suppose), so DS has no idea. I of course won't tell DS about his friend, but I think it would improve his attitude a bit if he did now!! He doesn't know any other children on the spectrum other than DD.
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