Our son was diagnosed first with sensory processing issues, then autism, then ADHD. The common behaviors that come with these issues are familiar to us. But not to our family members. They do not have our knowledge or our experience. Our son can seem unruly. And sometimes, he is!
Our son has varying degrees of anxiety. Some days are better than others. When he was an infant and toddler, he didn’t want to be held by other family members. They thought we were “withholding him.” We were told he needed to be “passed around” to get used to them. To accept other caregivers. Because “this is how we have always done it with the other kids.”
They didn’t grasp the impact of loud voices. Or of other kids running around. The unfamiliar odors and all the usual family gathering sorts of things. Or that these things over-stimulated him to the point of meltdowns in the days to come as his nervous system tried to “reset” itself.
He did not want me out of his sight and insisted that I hold him constantly. He slept with me either holding him or lying right beside him. As a mother of 3 other homeschooled children, it was very, very hard on the whole family. We limited our visits to as few as possible. It was hard on the relationship with our family.
How could we deal with these challenges and keep that vital connection with extended family? We found that if just one member could understand, it helps! In our family, it was our child’s grandmother and aunt.
Sharing his diagnoses helped a lot. So did sharing information after doctor’s visits. Sending them articles and links to learn more helped, too. By trying to draw them into the plan, calmed the relationship. They might not fully understand our methods, but by acknowledging his differences helped them to understand why we do things as we do.
It also helps to have shorter, more frequent visits. He regulates easier after a 3-hour visit than a weekend. As he ages, he handles visits much better. He knows how to say, “It’s too loud in here - will you take me outside?” He also enjoys the interaction with the other children more and loves seeing his grandmother.
I won’t say it’s all great, no issues, we get along, and we agree seamlessly on everything concerning him, but it has greatly improved. I anticipate things to continue as we know more and share more in our love for this boy.
Connecting with other families, sharing issues, ideas and experience can help find solutions.