Saturday, July 23, 2011

SNSS: Happy to Be in the Middle

Every week I tell you that *today's* SNSS guest is particularly wonderful or special. And I really mean it, because they all are (they're all special needs bloggers, after all). But TODAY? Wow!

Today I bring you Jen of The King and Eye (her personal blog) and Irish Autism Action, a community blog that Jen runs along with their other social media. 

Jen is the mother of three children, the middle of whom is on the autism spectrum. And, to quote her tag line, she writes about "family life with a dash of autism." Jen is also my second international SNSS guest, as she lives (and is involved in the autism community) in Ireland.

But also? Jen is my friend. I met her (and her mother) when she came to New York for a special trip last winter. I was a guest host of her Blog Gems link-up feature, and will be taking it over for her while she takes a break this summer.  

But enough of MY words about Jen, come read about her wonderful family in her own words, here:


Happy to Be in the Middle – by Jen

My name is Jen and I have three, fabulous, children. Firstborn is 9 years old, HRH (His Royal Highness) is 3 years old - with autism, and Her Cuteness is 2 years old. Having a special needs child in the family has never really been an issue for us because we don't know any different.

For my neurotypical children HRH 'just is who he is' and they have adjusted well. I blog often about HRH, the issues he faces and how he overcomes them. I don't often blog about my other children and how brilliant they are so I am delighted to have this opportunity to specifically write a post about my neurotypical children, the ‘special needs siblings.’

Firstborn, at 9, understands that HRH has difficulties and likes to be involved in any way he can. When HRH started a new school last January Firstborn visited the school to see where HRH sat, works and to meet the teachers. The school were very accommodating with this and it meant a lot to Firstborn.

We also occasionally, at Firstborns request, bring him to therapy appointments so that he can know the therapists and see what happens during therapy sessions. He likes to do 'work' with HRH so we tend to assign him his own personal task to work on with HRH (a small task).

This is all at his own request, so if he has a difficult day or wants some alone time then either myself or my husband will just pick it up. He worries about his little brother but also celebrates all of his achievements with gusto.

Her Cuteness, at 2, has no idea what autism is or that HRH has it. To her it is perfectly normal that he uses a PECS book and when she started using PECS at 12 months old we just went with it. It actually came in very handy because she could show us the pictures of what she wanted when she didn't have the words to express it and I think we avoided a lot of frustration tantrums because of PECS.

She is a bossy little girl. Luckily HRH loves her bossing him around and they have great fun together. Although there is a 16 month age gap between the two of them, developmentally they are very similar and I can see them encouraging each other.

Recently HRH showed an interest in being able to sing his alphabet and Her Cuteness followed. While she was doing this she discovered other nursery rhymes and HRH followed her with that interest.

Often I see Her Cuteness looking after HRH, particularly in the case of him not understanding a verbal instruction. She takes him by the hand and shows him. They do argue, mostly about turn taking and who gets to play with which toy. Not much different to any set of siblings!

The interesting thing is that Firstborn and Her Cuteness have a much different relationship. While both of them are very gentle and considerate (mostly) of HRH, when they get together the pair of them cause fireworks.

Her Cuteness regularly goes out of her way to annoy her eldest brother and said brother does 'big brother' things like saying 'oh, look, a spider' and laughing while she runs away screaming. There is a pair of them in it, I can't say which of them starts the fireworks, I just know how often I have to put an end to it! (Too often!)

It amazes me that each of my children has such a good grasp on where their siblings are and what they can handle. Their intuition leads them, they trust it and, mostly, get it right.

It may not always be like this. Things may change as they get older, I realize that, but I choose to enjoy what we have now rather than worry about things that haven't happened yet.

I would like to think, in 10 years time, I will still be able to say how close my children are to each other…… and that maybe the eldest and youngest will have put out their fireworks!


Jen, can I just say, for the record, how much I love your family? And I also love how your love for and deep knowledge of your children shines through in every word you write. I am honored to have had you here as my guest today.

OK, people, now that you've gotten to know them a little bit here today? Jump across the big pond and follow Jen home to her blog, The King and Eye.

Try this, her very first post, about the light-bulb moment when she realized her son was autistic, or this post listing 10 things she thinks HRH wants you to know about himself.  And do read this really, really funny one about a particular, um, kink in HRH's earliest language development. 

Jen is also (unlike me) a techno-gal. She does her own coding and even posted a tutorial about how to make your own custom favicon. That's how I learned to make mine. (Thanks, Jen!) 

You should know that Jen is taking a little break from blogging for the rest of the summer. This spring her family went through a crisis when HRH became extremely ill with a mystery disease that required a lengthy hospitalization. So Jen really needs to recharge and focus on her family right now. 

This means things will be very quiet on her blog for a bit. But that's OK, because her archives are a lovely place to root around in until she's ready to post again.

Also? You will certainly want to follow Jen on Twitter as her charming self @jencull, and also as @Irishautism, for news on that front.

And finally? Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jen, for being such a wonderful member of the blogging community, and most importantly, for being my friend.

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