Middle Child Syndrome - multiplied by Claire

[advert:mpu] I’m worried about my middle son Thomas, the ‘normal one’, or to put it in context, the one who isn’t under investigation for an Autistic spectrum Disorder. Now, I know that he is a middle child and according to family psychologists, he is at a disadvantage being in the middle. However I believe that he is suffering from the added pressure of being sandwiched between two autistic brothers.

I’ve had complaints this week from Thomas’ schoolteacher that he is being disruptive at school. Some examples are standing up in the middle of a story and saying ‘well if it was me, I’d kick him in the balls’, taking his watch off and flapping it about, and yesterday he actually punched another child because the child called him ‘stupid’. Now taking each incident in isolation I’d say that that it was mildly amusing. But this is little Thomas I’m talking about: sweet, hypersensitive, mild mannered, angelic little Thomas who wouldn’t hurt a fly. What’s perhaps more worrying is that when I tried to talk to him about the punching-another-child incident, he started to cry and said, ‘mummy I feel like jumping out of the bedroom window and hitting the hard ground’. Now if that isn’t a little boy trying to express how unhappy he is then I don’t know what is.

I’m having to put myself in this little boy’s shoes and walk around a bit. I’m trying to look at life through his eyes so as to understand what he is going through. Added to that, I have to remember I’m dealing with a child, a little one who hasn’t got a lifetimes’ experience or vocabulary to express himself and make himself and his needs and wants understood. I’ve also been reading around the subject of siblings of Autistic children and have found an excellent book from the ‘Topics in Autism’ series called Siblings of Children with Autism – a Guide for Families by Sandra Harris and Beth Glasberg. This book takes an in-depth look at what it is like to grow up as a sibling of a child with autism (let alone two!) and offers some solutions to the problems of juggling the balancing act and ensuring that each child feels valued and important.

I’m sure that little Thomas feels neglected. He’s bound to, as he sees me spending more time with his disabled brothers than with him. This obviously leads to jealousy and a feeling that he is loved less than them. Not only that but Thomas has spent much of his short life being bossed about by Jack and now by being beaten up by Samuel. He gets bitten, scratched, pinched, kicked and head butted by his little brother. I’m sure that Thomas’ view is that his brothers often get away with ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ behaviour and that life is sometimes very unfair.

According to the book, the solution lies in good communication within the family. Just spending a few minutes talking to Thomas about him and his feelings could make all the difference. So too would taking time out to talk to him about his brothers’ autism and why they need such attention. Of course it goes without saying that he needs to be reassured that he is wanted and loved. The book concludes that although demanding, family life with an autistic child can be profoundly rewarding and Thomas may well ‘emerge as a richer adult for having been part of a family that included a youngster with autism’.

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