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Ben’s Happiest Time

  • Posted on July 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

When Alex leaves the house, the Ben comes out to play. This is not to suggest that Ben doesn’t play when Alex is in the house or that Ben doesn’t play when he goes out of the house. Ben is a typical kid, at least in the sense that he can play wherever he is and will do so without the least bit of encouragement (as long as you don’t account “typical play” as the only kind of play).

Still, it’s hard to say who enjoys Alex’s respite time more. Alex has a blast, whether he goes with his respite therapist or whether he goes with my mom. Ben has a blast because Alex is gone. They both enjoy their time away from each other.

Now, when things are reversed and Ben is out of the house, Alex enjoys Ben’s time away, too. The difference is that Alex, while having more fun than usual, is also calmer than usual. He doesn’t have to worry about Ben bursting in on the scene and stealing his fun away. When Alex is gone, Ben has his fun without trying to be the least bit calmed by it.

I swear, these boys’ ability to aggravate each other is epic. The term “epic” has become so overused I’m pretty sure it’s not “cool” any longer; but really, there is definitely something epic about the Ben/Alex battle. There is the typical sibling rivalry, of course: They like many of the same movies, toys, and activities, but don’t want to share them with each other. It’s more than that, though.

Alex exacerbates Ben’s sensory issues. Ben exacerbates Alex’s sensory issues. They have mutually exclusive coping strategies. Ben’s been such a bully for so long that Alex has given up the nice-guy routine and let’s loose on him. Ben is more vicious, but Alex is bigger. Alex still loses unless he’s willing to go all out; luckily, he has a genuinely gentle nature; unfortunately, that means Ben wins more often. It’s sibling rivalry on autism and I don’t like it.

So, Ben’s happiest time is when Alex leaves and my happiest time is when they’re both having fun, even though it happens when one of them isn’t here. It’s not that I want one or the other out of the house; it’s just that I want them to be happy—both of them at the same time.

Summer’s going great, let me tell you.

Sibling Rivalry: The Legos Addition

  • Posted on February 26, 2014 at 10:00 AM

All the Legos have been in Alex’s room since we cleaned his room up and reorganized it. While the other boys will play with Legos now and then, Alex is rather compulsive about his Lego creations. He uses a lot of blocks, he’s made a lot of artworks, and he wants to keep them all—all the ones he’s finished and satisfied with—exactly how he wants them.

Ben entered stage left. Alex wasn’t there and Ben had a go at the Legos. That would have been fine, as long as he used blocks Alex hadn’t already used. But Ben was on an American flag kick late last week and Alex had a completed structure that included two American flags. Ben tore apart the structure to get the American flags and carried them downstairs without Mark or me realizing quite what he’d done. (We innocently assumed Ben had made his own.)

When Alex got home from his outing, he went upstairs and saw the destruction. He was rather upset. When he came downstairs and found Ben playing with the American flags he’d made, he went ballistic.

This is where effective communication skills would come in handy. We didn’t know those were Alex’s American flags. We didn’t even know, at first, that Alex was upset about the American flags. All we knew was that Alex and Ben were going at each other and since Alex “started it,” he wasn’t the one we most empathized with. He couldn’t tell us what was wrong and we didn’t know. But Alex’s behavior was strange—he refused to go in to his room and he couldn’t leave Ben alone if they were in the same room. Alex ended up hiding out in Willy’s room, sulking. But he couldn’t tell us what had upset him.

Eventually, I realized that Ben’s American flag Lego creations were a bit suspicious considering Alex’s behavior. So, I checked on Alex’s structures and saw the damage. I took the flags from Ben, gave them to Alex, and escorted Alex upstairs. Together, we fixed the damage and won’t be the last time.