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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Siblings and Autism

I had a bunch of posts lined up but I can't seem to get all my thoughts organized. Hmmm. Lets see if I can remedy that. 

At first I hated Tikaani. I was only seven when first met him. He bit me and he drooled a lot. Momma had to nurse him all the time because he would spend hours crying. He was clingy and destructive. I hated him...but I was also jealous too. 

Rahmet opens this topic tonight. He was Tikaani's cousin and Hanai's youngest son. He was also a waterbender which if you are not familar with the Avatar the Last Airbender universe, is talent in which members of the Water Tribe are able to manipulate the element of water by doing martial art stances. Tai Chi was uses as a base for Waterbending. Anyway I am getting off topic. 

He was the only member of his family beside his father Maka and his uncle Amana that can bend. So he was pretty special in his family and he did get a lot of attention and praise from his parents and uncle, and all of that was torn away when Tikaani arrived. He was no longer the center of the house. So you can imagine how bitter Rahmet was when not only did someone took away your place in the sun, but this someone: 

-Breaks your toys, screams in the middle of the night, pees in the middle of the house, steals your prized possessions, bites you and makes outings and special events almost non-existent and on top of it, all your friends now desert you. 

It was no wonder Rahmet was pretty irritated with Tikaani and bullied him often. 

It was the same for me and Katie, only I was the eldest. However because of my constant habit of causing trouble and the fact I had hard time comprehending anything, I was the butt-monkey of the family and Katie's favorite chew toy. 

This doesn't apply to me or my fictional characters. Many kids with autistic siblings feel "outsourced." They often have "Normal Kid" syndrome. In which the NT or abled child feels shadowed by their special needs sibling/s and react with jealousy or contempt. This isn't uncommon, my sisters hated me. I was the family enabler and shit-stirrer I was the one that got sent to the principle's office regularly, I embarrassed them often.  

But what about Tikaani. How did he feel about his cousins? 

Rahmet was frustrating. He always wanted to see me cry. He yelled at me for no reasons or reasons I didn't understand. He always called me names. I hated it when he pulled my hair or ruffled it and it confused him when I reacted to it with pain. I didn't know how to relate to him. I was jealous he could bend make the water dance. He gloated all the time how 'easy' it was to bend. Maybe he would like me better if I could bend. I wanted him to like me. 

Autists often feel aloof around their NT siblings. We can't relate to them and we have hard time figuring out what they want from us. My sister confessed to me one day on the way to thanksgiving that the reason she was so sarcastic and mean to me was she wanted a reaction out me since I could never react typically. I just wanted to know if she loved me. When we got older we grew up a little bit but in the end we still fight and butt heads. Yet I matured greatly and Katie gained some understanding.s

I understand why NT siblings often feel angry and sometimes can be the biggest pro-cure nut balls out there. I think deep down they are still resentful of their siblings. I think subconsciously if they were 'cured' they would be easier to understand than easy to dislike. In the same concept I can understand why autists feel so frustrated and apathetic to their NT sibs. They seem to  no understand the principle of being disabled. Or the frustration of being "Llama" among other sheep. They can't empathize with use and we in return can seem get them to understand.

It's vicious cycle of bitterness and disconnect and it affects siblings of all ages. While the media paints a sweet picture of siblings wanting to help their siblings and love them. They miss the fighting and arguing, tantrum and bulling that goes behind scenes. I wouldn't be surprised that some siblings when the find out that their autistic brother and sister goes missing, subconsciously wish that they never come back. It's common. Not pretty and sweet but it's honest. 

So what can we do to connect the NT and and the autistic siblings. The first thing is to admit that not everything is going to be perfect. The second is forgiveness. I forgave Katie, Katie forgave me. We're a lot better together now that we're not living under the same roof. Which will probably help thing with other siblings. Not competing for the same affection and affirmations makes life a lot less stressful. Eventually with time, we can learn from our past mistakes and walk forward. Heck I even forgave Katie for admitting if she had an autistic child she would put it up for adoption, brave of her to state, but not something you would mention to your autistic sister, really. That was classy Katie <.< 

So what about Tikaani and Rahmet? 

Now? I am Tikaani's greatest advocate. I grew up. I spent most of my time with Shaman Jaki when I was thirteen. I studied all the time and I found strength with my faith in the ocean spirit Tui. With that I was able to shed my disdain and finally see the beauty inside my cousin. I started to appreciate his laughter, the way he rocked and wiggled his hands. As I and he grew I wanted nothing more than to be his strength. I still get frustrated with him and I feel like some days I should just jump in a canal. Yet I despite those days I wake up and start the day knowing that Tui made him for a reason and perhaps it's to teach me imperfect beauty. 

Something to think about. 


  1. I had a thoughtful, wordy comment, went to hit post and my internet had gone out, so it was lost. :-(

    Your post is thought-provoking. Sibling relationships aren't going to be perfect, ever, and there's always going to be a tug-of-war, but parents can work to minimize sibling rivalry.

  2. They can, but often I see, that the can incite it too.

    I thought about sibling rivilary when I was drawing Rahmet (and all his tattoos).

  3. Yes, unfortunately, parents can make it worse, both intentionally and accidentally.