Siblings and Autism

Siblings are wonderful, they look out for each other, they offer companionship, support and unconditional love. But when both siblings are affected by autism as in Mei and Min Min, it was more a case of a sisterhood brought together by special diets, shared therapies, yucky supplements and scary visits to the doctor. There was a grim equality to it all; if Mei had to take yucky vitamins, so did Min Min. Neither were spared from the dreaded blood draws and MB12 shots. They went through it all together. Though circumstances often excluded them from birthday parties and playdates, they always had each other. Initially, the connection wasn’t as apparent. But as they both slowly recovered, they both drew each other out of their autism-induced shell. They may not have been able to show their love and affection in typical ways, but they always had each other.
The girls are only 1.5 years apart in age, so it is only natural that they should be close in many other ways too. When she was a wee toddler, Min Min adored her big sister, always trailing after her, wanting to play and engage with her. But Mei regressed into autism very shortly after Min Min’s birth and barely even noticed her little sister. I was saddened to see the many times Min Min’s attempts to engage her big sister were continuously ignored. Or worse, Mei became quite aggressive and would hit or bite her little sister.  To see Min Min’s very typical sibling behaviour and affection continuously unreciprocated was very sad for me to witness.
Rejected.
By her older sister Mei. 
Ignored. 
By her mother, who spent most of her time recovering Mei.
Can you just hear the guilt piling on here? The remorse piled on even more so when Min Min too regressed into autism. Was there anything else I could have done to prevent it? I thought I did everything possible. But as you may well know, there are many causative factors and triggers to autism. But wallowing in guilt and rehashing the ‘Coulda, Woulda and Shoulda’ doesn’t recover 2 daughters on the spectrum. I didn’t have the luxury of remorse. I figured, I can wallow in my suppressed grief and guilt later when the girls are recovered right? I had a plan or so it seems. 
Min Min’s regression was shockingly swift. From a sweet and loving child, she turned into a screeching, stomping, angry toddler. The transformation was startling. So now we had 2 girls on the spectrum. Both extremely hyper, self-injurious and uncontrollable. We were barely able to cope with Mei, how were we going to cope with Min Min too? I needed a bigger and better plan obviously. 
I had dreams of my daughters being close sisters, somehow we had to work harder at it. We did sibling play as part of the girls’ therapy program. It helped to a certain extent, but between Min Min’s mood swings and Clostridia-fuelled rages, and Mei’s hyperness, cognitive challenges and auditory sensory disorder, it was not conducive to sibling play. How can I expect them to be friends when one sister keeps trying to bite the other one, and the other sister’s screams are so piercing it was agonising for the other one with auditory sensitivity? Most days, we had to keep them physically apart for fear that one would injure the other sister.
I don’t know how I did it, but we got through it. Ok, I do know how I did it, but I choose not to remember, it brings up too many unwanted memories. Remember, I’m still far to busy to wallow in sadness. Grief can wait. For now, I’m basking in the joy and contentment of recovery.
Now that they are both recovered, Mei and Min Min’s bond is apparent. They find love, joy and companionship in each other. They fight like cats and dogs sometimes, but they truly love one another. Siblings are the greatest gift ever for a child with autism. Even when both siblings are affected by autism, the unconditional love and acceptance meant that they never felt the other sister was different. Mei and Min Min are so lucky that even though both of them were impacted by autism, they still found ways to support each other.

Siblings are wonderful, they look out for each other, they offer companionship, support and unconditional love. But when both siblings are affected by autism as in Mei and Min Min, it was more a case of a sisterhood brought together by special diets, shared therapies, yucky supplements and scary visits to the doctor. There was a grim equality to it all; if Mei had to take yucky vitamins, so did Min Min. Neither were spared from the dreaded blood draws and MB12 shots. They went through it all together. Though circumstances often excluded them from birthday parties and playdates, they always had each other. Initially, the connection wasn’t as apparent. But as they both slowly recovered, they both drew each other out of their autism-induced shell. They may not have been able to show their love and affection in typical ways, but they always had each other.

 

The girls are only 1.5 years apart in age, so it is only natural that they should be close in many other ways too. When she was a wee toddler, Min Min adored her big sister, always trailing after her, wanting to play and engage with her. But Mei regressed into autism very shortly after Min Min’s birth and barely even noticed her little sister. I was saddened to see the many times Min Min’s attempts to engage her big sister were continuously ignored. Or worse, Mei became quite aggressive and would hit or bite her little sister.  To see Min Min’s very typical sibling behaviour and affection continuously unreciprocated was very sad for me to witness.

 

Rejected.

 

By her older sister Mei. 

 

Ignored. 

 

By her mother, who spent most of her time recovering Mei.

 

Can you just hear the guilt piling on here? The remorse piled on even more so when Min Min too regressed into autism. Was there anything else I could have done to prevent it? I thought I did everything possible. But as you may well know, there are many causative factors and triggers to autism. But wallowing in guilt and rehashing the ‘Coulda, Woulda and Shoulda’ doesn’t recover 2 daughters on the spectrum. I didn’t have the luxury of remorse. I figured, I can wallow in my suppressed grief and guilt later when the girls are recovered right? I had a plan or so it seems. 

 

Min Min’s regression was shockingly swift. From a sweet and loving child, she turned into a screeching, stomping, angry toddler. The transformation was startling. So now we had 2 girls on the spectrum. Both extremely hyper, self-injurious and uncontrollable. We were barely able to cope with Mei, how were we going to cope with Min Min too? I needed a bigger and better plan obviously. 

 

I had dreams of my daughters being close sisters, somehow we had to work harder at it. We did sibling play as part of the girls’ therapy program. It helped to a certain extent, but between Min Min’s mood swings and Clostridia-fuelled rages, and Mei’s hyperness, cognitive challenges and auditory sensory disorder, it was not conducive to sibling play. How can I expect them to be friends when one sister keeps trying to bite the other one, and the other sister’s screams are so piercing it was agonising for the other one with auditory sensitivity? Most days, we had to keep them physically apart for fear that one would injure the other sister.

 

I don’t know how I did it, but we got through it. Ok, I do know how I did it, but I choose not to remember, it brings up too many unwanted memories. Remember, I’m still far to busy to wallow in sadness. Grief can wait. For now, I’m basking in the joy and contentment of recovery.

 

Now that they are both recovered, Mei and Min Min’s bond is apparent. They find love, joy and companionship in each other. They fight like cats and dogs sometimes, but they truly love one another. Siblings are the greatest gift ever for a child with autism. Even when both siblings are affected by autism, the unconditional love and acceptance meant that they never felt the other sister was different. Mei and Min Min are so lucky that even though both of them were impacted by autism, they still found ways to support each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author:
Marissa Bagshaw is a mother of 2 children who are recovered from autism. Her blog Spectrum Mum in Malaysia is inspired by her daughters’ journey through autism. Marissa is the founder of KL Biomed, a support network for autism families doing biomedical intervention in Malaysia and neighbouring Asian countries. She is also a co founder of Thinking Moms’ Revolution
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