This is Part 5 of our 10-Part blog series about the challenges and experiences of the siblings of kids with a diagnosis. Be sure to check back for future posts in the series.
Written by Jess Urcuyo
Growing up my younger brother had an intense fear of his belly button being touched. No bathwater above his hips, no showers, no spot cleaning. Lots of swimming!
My parents had tried in vain to tackle this from all angles and there was no solution coming from any of the autism professionals we’d consulted. My sibling sense was growing strong…he needed us to turn bath-time into a mad science experiment. Thankfully, my parents gave me free rein to try my crazy idea.
I made a trip to Lush, a handmade cosmetic store that could hold a sensory seeker under detention for days without complaint. Returning with a menu of weird and wonderful bath bombs and bubble bars, I ran the tub for my little brother. He watched in awe as the water turned amazing colours, fizzing and bubbling like the day a prankster had filled the city fountain with dish detergent. Through laughing, learning, and letting him go at his own pace, we emerged victorious.
We replicated the success several times in the coming weeks. But the real success story wasn’t cleanliness. It was the trust that had been built between my brother and me. I was finally starting to understand how his brain worked and he was allowing me to push his boundaries. It wasn’t until his language developed sufficiently that he could explain the true nature of his fear. He thought his belly button was a hole directly into his abdomen. That’s some trust!
Since then there have been many situations where when others have hit a brick wall, my brother and I have been able to work together to a solution. Many siblings have a special bond, but in my experience of families with children with exceptional needs, often a sibling becomes their closest ally.
Where siblings choose to go further to understand and support their brother or sister with exceptionalities, I encourage parents to provide opportunities and space for the relationship to grow on their own terms. To cultivate unconditional security between siblings, in which parental priorities can be skewed and house rules bent a little. And to encourage creativity to experiment for solutions.