Helping your kids understand when you have a SN adult in the family - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 01-08-2011, 02:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure where to put this, but since it does have to do with parenting, I guess it fits here best.

I believe my BIL has special needs. It has never been addressed although he's in his 30s, and his parents (whom he lives with) are in denial about it. He had a neurological illness years ago and I think it made him just different. He does not seem to have the ability to read any social cues, interact in a spontaneous way, or make or maintain relationships. (He pretty much stays in his room alone all day, and WAH from there, no friends, only interacts with his parents and my DH, and that is often reluctant.) He also has a lot of physical tics, like flicking his wrists and arms, coughing, moving his neck and shoulders oddly. His parents being in denial & making excuses for him means he is unaware that what he does is not common practice. Everyone who comes in contact with him (like at our birthdays) asks me if he is special, so it's pretty obvious to most people I think.

The problem is that my kids do like him and get excited when he does come over. He does seem to enjoy them, he sits on the couch and watches them and seems amused. DH & I want to foster some kind of relationship with our kids, & think it's good for him to have practice being around people anyway. Unfortunately, he has no idea of how to connect or interact with them. For example, DD showed him something he bought her for Christmas and was telling him how much she loved it and look she drew a picture of it and named it and etc etc---and his reaction was to stare at her for a minute, then turn to me and say "My mom said to say hi." The kids are old enough that it does hurt their feelings now. DD was just not sure what to make of that and kept trying to show him her stuff, and finally he said, "Oh....kaaaaay...." in a weird way, like he didn't understand what she was doing. It's very difficult to know how to react and I feel a little off-balance talking to him. I usually ignore the oddness and try to stay kind and encouraging, but how do you explain that to a kid?

I'm looking for any kind of of suggestions on how to help him learn to interact with my kids? Or to help the kids interact with him better?

Also, I'd love any suggestions on ways to explain to the kids (ages 4 and 2) that their uncle acts and says things differently. My kids are very sensitive and I'd like to start teaching at least my preschooler about how to handle his rudeness. I haven't figured out how to word it yet!

If you have a SN adult in your family, how did you explain it to your children?

Thanks!
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#2 of 16 Old 01-08-2011, 09:35 PM
 
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I do think it is different when someone is aware of their own needs, and what they are.  That said, I'd probably open up a conversation with my kids (both of whom have special needs of two very different types by the way):

 

"DD, I noticed the other day that Uncle ___ didn't say anything when you showed him how much you loved the Christmas present he got you, and when you showed him your drawing.  I wonder how you felt about that..."

 

"I hear you.  That was confusing [frustrating/sad/whatever she says].  It might help to know that Uncle ___ is still learning how to ___."

 

Is it easier if she shows him something, tells him why she wanted to show him, and then asks him a question?  For example, "This is the picture I drew yesterday.  I wanted to show you because I'm really proud of it.  Do you see the rainbow?"  If so, perhaps you could rehearse those kind of conversations with your kids, explaining that it will help their uncle know the response they are looking for.


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#3 of 16 Old 01-08-2011, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sierra, Thank you!! Those are great ways to open up the conversation with her, and I really like the phrasing "he's still learning how to___." That will really make sense to her.

You're really onto something with the question thing. I didn't think of that to teach her, but it's true he doesn't really respond unless he's asked a question. That will help DD a lot.

I'd love to hear more suggestions, if anyone's got them. smile.gif
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#4 of 16 Old 01-08-2011, 09:57 PM
 
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I doubt there is much you can do to teach him better social skills, but you can explain to your kids that his brain grew differently than most poeple's. You could talk to you kids about how they "wished" he responded, but that with some people, we love them even though talking to others isn't easy for them. You could use the situation to teach your own children better social skills and compassion, even though they are young.

He sounds like he might be on the autism spectrum. I have a dd on the spectrum.

I wish your family peace.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#5 of 16 Old 01-09-2011, 07:39 AM
 
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My younger brother is autistic (he's 29) and your bil sounds like he might be on the spectrum.  We don't see my brother much (he lives with my parents in the midwest and we're on the east coast).  My ds is old enough to see that his uncle is different.  When he asks about it, we usually just talk about how Uncle B's brain works differently, and he thinks about things in a different way.  I should be asking more follow-up questions about how that makes ds feel. Honestly, I am having a hard time figuring out what kind of relationship the kids will have with their uncle.  Right now it's mostly a non-issue, since we rarely see him, but I feel like I need to be more intentional about fostering a relationship. 


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#6 of 16 Old 01-09-2011, 07:46 AM
 
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We have a family member who is blind. My newly turned 4 year old son hasn't recognized it yet and still tries to show her things. Your kids might just be too young to grasp that he is "different". W/ my older dd, at some point she realized it, but, we just say "let X feel it to see it, she see with her hands"... but, ds just hasn't caught on yet. When dd realized it, she had many questions, which we were happy to answer. Come up with a few key phrases you can use and they'll figure it out on their own, too, at some point.

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#7 of 16 Old 01-14-2011, 10:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for all the input and ideas!

I had a chance to spend some alone time with my DD the other day, so I brought up BIL's most recent visit. I asked her how it made her feel when he didn't look at her drawings or answer her, and she told me how sad she was. I was able to explain how his brain works differently and he's still learning what to say when people talk to him, so maybe next time we can ask him more questions so he'll talk more. She seemed satisfied with that.

It sure made me feel better to have begun the discussion with her. smile.gif
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#8 of 16 Old 01-15-2011, 07:59 AM
 
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I just explain to them about people being different and having special needs. There are some kids books out there on this too. I will see if I can get the names of some of the books.

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#9 of 16 Old 01-15-2011, 02:50 PM
 
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I'm glad you've started the conversation and feel good about it so far, Spring Lily.  Good for you for being proactive! 


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#10 of 16 Old 01-17-2011, 06:37 PM
 
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Quote:
We have a family member who is blind. My newly turned 4 year old son hasn't recognized it yet and still tries to show her things. Your kids might just be too young to grasp that he is "different". W/ my older dd, at some point she realized it, but, we just say "let X feel it to see it, she see with her hands"... but, ds just hasn't caught on yet. When dd realized it, she had many questions, which we were happy to answer. Come up with a few key phrases you can use and they'll figure it out on their own, too, at some point.

 

Agreed.

Little anecdote from my own childhood...I have an uncle with down syndrome, and I clearly remember my mother telling me he had a handicap (I must've been 5-6 years old or so) and being sooo confused.  To me, "handicap" meant in a wheel chair.   I really didn't see anything different with my uncle.  It took me a while to ''get" it, to be honest. 

 

So I would let them open up...we tend to forget how a child's perspective is different than ours!

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#11 of 16 Old 01-19-2011, 06:35 AM
 
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i have always brought up my dd to understand that all people are different and that they respond in a different manner. just coz we are not familiar with how they respond does not mean we should assume they dont care.

 

watch the movie 'adam'. i havent seen it yet but its something i would like to watch. 

 

our nephew is who he is. but he also loves, loves, loves, loves dd.

 

but growing up dd figured out a way of understanding it in her own way. i dont think we really worked with her on it. 

 

just because they dont show social cues doesnt mean they are not responding. just have her talk more about it. about their feelings so he can see the process. 

 

i dont think you should worry much. children are amazing. they figure out ways to deal with the situation in a far better manner than we do. at 4 dd found ways to touch a dying gmas heart. they had a unique relationship happening without any adult interaction. sometimes my stepmil really enjoyed dd's direct question as it was something everyone was wondering but it wasnt a polite question to actually ask. 


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#12 of 16 Old 01-19-2011, 08:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I worry because of her own reaction. She looks at me a lot and looks confused and kind of defeated when he ignores her and is rude to her. Also, our situation is kind of unusual because the whole family is in denial about there being anything out of the ordinary, so questions aren't really encouraged. greensad.gif I'm not really sure that BIL does care, either. I told DH about this thread and some of the suggestions here, and he commented that he doesn't think his brother sees any value in human interaction. I think that sums it up well. The situation is just difficult all around!
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#13 of 16 Old 01-19-2011, 09:33 AM
 
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spring lily its the same here. ex's family is in total denial too. 

 

in my heart i really truly believe it touches their heart. they may not be interested in teh piece of art or anything like that. but the fact that your dd is talking is the key. children touches people in a way that is so magical and pure. 

 

dont feel sad for your dd when she looks over. remember she will pick it up from you. first work on yourself. if you believe he doesnt care how can you tell your dd otherwise. so look and watch and work on yourself. 

 

make sure you dont throw in the towel yet. i never would (but then that's me). dd has been around a lot of different people - even as a 2 year old so she always figured out different approaches. she finally hit upon computers. and a random colour matching game that her cousin reacted to. 

 

i know it hurts to see our children hurt. but i think its a good kinda hurt. your dd will be a fabulous human being because she will know how to be with all sorts of people. 

 

just explain to her that people react differently. instead of making suggestions ask her to try other things. maybe tactile. give him a toy to hold so he can touch and feel instead of relying on just his sense of vision. use all the 5 senses. encourage your dd to think for herself and try different things. and perhaps one may work. 

 

and dont look for typical clues. even if he responds in a rude way - its still a response. if he touches it its still a response. 

 


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#14 of 16 Old 01-24-2011, 06:34 PM
 
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hmmm well....I know when I was really little my grandma's SN brother lived in the basement of their dad's house.  I don't remember exactly how he (and his sister) were explained to me, but I remember always 'knowing' they were 'different' and it was just OK.  (Oh by the way that was another sister not my grandma! lol)  I do remember talking with my mom about how different things were back then compared to now when I started working with kids with SN.  We're talking these people would have been little children roughly 80 years ago, in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest, one room country school being the norm.  I think *maybe* they went for a year or 2.  My mom said the brother had an easier time of things because he was able to go out and help Grandpa on the farm, where the mother mostly let the girl live in her room and do her own thing--didn't teach her even basic household stuff.  I remember occasionally seeing them when they'd moved into town into a group home.

 

Anyway, however my mom explained them to me when I was little, what I remember of it is always understanding that they were 'different' and it was always fine...it wasn't anything weird, scary, anything like that, it was just who they were.  (And apparently something went 'right' in the conversation, I went on to work with children with special needs as an adult...)


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#15 of 16 Old 01-24-2011, 06:34 PM
 
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hmmm well....I know when I was really little my grandma's SN brother lived in the basement of their dad's house.  I don't remember exactly how he (and his sister) were explained to me, but I remember always 'knowing' they were 'different' and it was just OK.  (Oh by the way that was another sister not my grandma! lol)  I do remember talking with my mom about how different things were back then compared to now when I started working with kids with SN.  We're talking these people would have been little children roughly 80 years ago, in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest, one room country school being the norm.  I think *maybe* they went for a year or 2.  My mom said the brother had an easier time of things because he was able to go out and help Grandpa on the farm, where the mother mostly let the girl live in her room and do her own thing--didn't teach her even basic household stuff.  I remember occasionally seeing them when they'd moved into town into a group home.

 

Anyway, however my mom explained them to me when I was little, what I remember of it is always understanding that they were 'different' and it was always fine...it wasn't anything weird, scary, anything like that, it was just who they were.  (And apparently something went 'right' in the conversation, I went on to work with children with special needs as an adult...)


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#16 of 16 Old 01-24-2011, 11:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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peaceful mama, thanks for the positive story!

Your post for some reason sparked a thought. I wonder if, when she goes to school and meets a wider variety of kids, she will understand better? Maybe if she knows other kids in the school have SN, it will help her understand that it's not just her uncle. She knows one little girl who's blind and we've talked about why people are in wheelchairs or have prosthetics, but that is pretty different than her uncle. Maybe I could help her widen her perspective a bit to understand it, get some books at the library to better see people's differences. Autism has some similarities, and I'm sure there are some books dealing with that at the library.
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