Special Needs of the "Normal" Sibling

It happened again. Another seizure that required meds. But this one had a twist: Sarah wanted to be put to bed in the middle of it by Brian – and Brian was holding Catherine.

“Daddy put you to bed,” she whimpered at the door. That’s how she tells us who she wants to put her in bed. She confuses her pronouns, and it’s kind of cute – unless Daddy’s not available – and then it’s a relentless whine.

Ironically, I’d just had a conversation with a potential client and we discovered that each of us was walking this “parent of a kid with disabilities path.” He is way ahead of me on it as his son just turned 21. But he had told me the story of their daughter who is three years younger and had a hard time with her brother’s disability when she was about nine years old. Initially, she hadn’t. But as she matured, she became angry. She finally turned the corner when she got to go to a psychologist and realized, “You mean this is my very own doctor?” Seemed she had some “special needs” too.

That conversation played in my head as I knelt down to Sarah’s level. “Hey Sarah? You know how sometimes when you’re sick, you want Daddy to hold you?”

“Yes,” she nearly whispered.

“Well, Cackie’s sick, and she wants Daddy to hold her. And I want to hold you and put you to bed and tuck you in really special. Can I do that?”

“OK,” she accepted, and willingly let me put her down for the night. I said a quick “thank you” in my mind to my new friend for helping me remember that Sarah has special needs, too. Privately, if I really confess my deepest thoughts, I think I hoped this one conversation would spare us any anger when Sarah is about nine. Crazy, huh?

But then Sarah got up and came to the door again. “Daddy put you to bed!” she whined a little louder.

After asking me to videotape Catherine since we’ve not taped the seizures that require meds in a long time, Brian got up from his chair and began carrying Catherine to her room.  “What are you doing?” I asked in confusion.

“I’m going to put Sarah to bed,” he said.

And I stood with the video camera, watching Catherine seize, amazed at my husband who calmly figured out how to balance all the special needs of both our girls last night.

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  1. Ellen, again you’ve hit it on the head. So heartbreaking to realize the needs of our other children and try to meet them in “a special way.” And what a beautiful picture of your husband — as a parent of a special needs child is so often called to do — meeting the extreme needs of both your girls all at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

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