Having more than one child with an autism diagnosis can be a struggle. The number of children you have that are on the spectrum multiplies everything you normally have to research, study about, become familiar with and help them to get through.
But then again, the rewards and successes are also equally multiplied!
Having one child that is a high functioning autistic and another that is a lower functioning autistic presents some interesting challenges. While you may have adjusted your routine and knowledge base to the older child, who usually receives the diagnosis first, all that has to change a bit when the next diagnosis comes along.
High Functioning Autism
Higher functioning autistics are technically those with an IQ of 70 or greater and typically have the most difficulty with communication and social interaction. They are often harder to diagnose than those on the spectrum who function at a lower threshold, which can often delay a diagnosis.
High functioning autistic children are also much more likely to receive an additional diagnosis of other disorders as well.
These can include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Bipolar Disorder and anxiety. These are usually managed with medication and therapy.
Lower Functioning Autism
To say that one child is lower functioning than another, with respect to autism, can mean a vast range of things. They may be less functioning than the other in a single situation, or in more than one.
Usually, when referring to “low functioning autism”, one usually thinks of those children on the spectrum who do not talk, have little awareness of those around them and suffer from extensive impairments. While this can certainly be true about some autistic children, the term “lower functioning” when comparing between siblings doesn’t always come down to just that.
With two autistic children, you may often want to categorize the younger by the older. In other words if the older, previously diagnosed child has extensive trouble making eye contact, it is likely that you will expect the same of the younger autistic child.
In actuality, each child will have their own high points and low points in different activities. The higher functioning child may be able to be very social, within his own boundaries, while the other may become more ritualistic and introverted.
The biggest piece advice I can give is that you allow yourself to experience each child as they are. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself as well as your children.
Comparing one to the other, or expecting one to be like the other, will only bring more stress on you and them. Success can only be reached as you help each embrace their own strengths and work through their own weaknesses.
When our higher functioning autistic son was just starting elementary school, we were advised to start thinking about institutional placement. He was very self-injurious and often had to be taken to the floor in order to calm him down. He suffered from sensory dysfunction as well, which made it incredibly hard for him to calm down. It took time.
With the aid of an exceptional psychologist and a nurse practitioner who was able to get him the exact medications he needed, we were able to work through that.
As he grew, the self-injury disappeared and has never again been an issue.
With our lower functioning autistic son, we also wondered what the future would hold. Nearly as high functioning as our other son, his limitations revolve primarily around communication and he does have some ritualistic behaviors that we hoped would not impair him to a great degree.
Also, over time, our expectation were exceeded, as he is now currently 25 years old, living in a group home, holding two jobs and has a wonderful girlfriend whom he loves to spend time with.
Every single child with autism is different, and the parents can avidly testify as such. Thinking that the experience you have with one child will repeat itself with another usually doesn’t work.
Allow yourself to celebrate their differences, hone them, work with them and allow them to be themselves. In doing so, you are giving them the freedom to spread their wings and become all that they can be. At the same time, you are freeing yourself from stipulating a particular stigma on them that they might not accurately fall under.
And most of all, love them.
For more articles by Stacey-Lynn Wells, visit her website http://staceylynnwells.com/category/manic-monday/special-needs-parenting/