When your first-born child is diagnosed with a disorder as a toddler, it is life altering.  The thoughts and dreams you have had for years about being a parent are completely changed.  Challenges you never thought you would be faced with are now very much in your face. Almost three years later, a second little one is added to your family and the sibling has her own challenges. The little sister’s attitude, determination and moodiness do not mix well with the first-born son’s diagnosis.

Sibling rivalries are normal, but try sprinkling in the dynamics of this recipe:

The first-born cannot cope with the ever-challenging, pushing-every-button person who is his little sister. The little sister, in turn, is unable to understand why her big brother does the things he does.  Why is he always going to the doctor, the therapist or a specialist?  What about me? Because she is feeling left out and needs to gain attention, bad behaviors begin to rear their ugly head.  As a parent you give her a lot of attention, but the little sister is unable to understand the big brother’s diagnosis and special needs. She cannot comprehend he might actually need more of mommy’s and daddy’s attention.  That is just not fair!

What is a parent to do when faced with those dilemmas?  Where is the handbook for those challenges? (A book For Dummies or Monarch Notes preferred, because there is no extra time in the day to read.)  At what age will the little sister be able to show empathy and grasp the challenges her big brother deals with every day?

It is exhausting being a parent of a typical kid. Now, throw in a child with a diagnosis and try having a harmonious and peaceful family life.  It is overwhelming and exhausting, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. My kids are just perfect!

—Diana, parent of two children and education advocate