Each of my 4 children need different things from me. My oldest son likes to spend time sitting together, listening to music, or watching a movie. My second son needs to be able to occasionally sit and have deep conversations. But at other times, he likes to be moving. My only daughter wants lots of hugs and to spend time making things. All three of them do not mind my endless hugs and “I love yous.”
My third and youngest son who is on the Autism spectrum is a totally different story. It used to break my heart when I would say I love you and he would reply, “I know.” My husband and I both tried spending time with him doing the things we thought he would enjoy, but it always ended in a meltdown.
He does not like shopping or being in crowds. The noise bothers him. He does not like to sit for a movie and he has trouble with his vision. He hates to be touched so giving lots of hugs is out of the question. I felt like we were so disconnected from him and that he did not feel loved.
I was blessed with some wonderful insight from a dear friend. I was having one of those “poor me” days. She looked at me and said, “You are one of the luckiest people I know. You have four children who absolutely love and adore you.” I objected, saying that our son didn’t say I love you or want hugs.
She then shared a glimpse of what she sees. Our son always stands close and keeps me or his dad in his sight. She also stated that maybe his way of saying I love you was something I needed to listen and watch for. I had expected him to love like my other children, but he is his own unique self.
I began watching and listening to him a lot closer and I found that his way of showing love was in his small gestures. He will take your plate to the sink or put your shoes in the basket. He will show you the things he is most proud of, like when he gets an award at school or Special Olympics. I no longer just grab him and hug him. Instead, I stop and ask if I can have a hug, and to my surprise, he usually does let me hug him.
On the first day of school this year, he was getting out of the car and he stopped at my car door. I asked him what he needed, and he said, “a hug!” I jumped out the car so fast and I smiled the rest of the day. Turns out, I am the one who needs hugs!
Spreading your attention between a child with a disability and their siblings is something many of us deal with. Check out the information on Siblings of Children with disabilities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.