Difficult Conversations With My Child – Part 1

 
I knew it would happen, I just didn’t expect it would be today.
 
Instead of chatting about his day or having a snack, my boy took his sister right upstairs after school. I could hear him asking her to repeat after him as he named objects around his room. I’ll be very surprised if this child doesn’t end up going into teaching when he grows up.
 
He suddenly came downstairs, looking frightened, saying he was having “bad feelings about Avery.”
 
“What if Avery choked?” he asked. “What would we do? I’m scared something bad is going to happen to her.”
 
He looked so sincerely worried it scared me.
 
“Why do you think she’ll choke?” I asked him, trying to determine the source of his anxiety.
 
He said kids at school were talking about choking and Epi-pens. They asked him if Avery had one. This is when he spoke the words I knew would eventually come. The words I wasn’t quite ready to hear.
 
One of his classmates asked, “What’s wrong with your sister anyway?”
 
This child wasn’t being cruel, he was merely curious as kids are. Though Avery’s delays aren’t visible at first, she definitely stands out at school. She has an EA with her at all times. She’s friendly and active and LOUD. (Avery that is, not the EA….haha)
 
“What do you mean?” he asked his friend.
 
“Does she have asthma?”  the boy asked.
 
“No. If she had asthma, she’d have a bigger head,” another friend advised.
 
This made me laugh. Asthma? I think maybe he meant Autism? I have no idea how the “big head” comment fits in. He informed them his sister has seizures. With their question answered, they were satisfied. 
 
This was an innocent conversation, but it hurt to hear because I know this the first of many to come. And the words may not always be innocent or harmless.
 
My husband and I decided we would tell our son as much as he needed to know. He shouldn’t have to worry about his sister or feel more protective of her than he already does. He knows she has “special needs.” We explained years ago that Avery has a special “talking teacher” and a “walking teacher” who are teaching her be the best talker and walker she can be. These are areas she needs help with…her special needs.  He is also aware Avery has some medical concerns, but outside of her seizures which he’s witnessed first-hand, he needn’t be burdened with all the details.
 
Now that he shares his school with his sibling, it’s time to give him more information so he’s prepared if questioned again.
 
Last night, we told him the truth…a less complicated, age appropriate truth.
 
We explained how children learn by repetition. As an example, we told him that when he was little, when we showed him the colour red, it only took two or three times before he understood red. We explained it takes Avery twenty or thirty times before can understand what red is because she has a difficult time remembering. This is why it takes her longer to learn new things. It’s called a learning disability.
 
It was like a light bulb going off. This made perfect sense to him.
 
So now he’s armed and ready with the simple truth. If only I could learn to keep it simple and stop obsessing over the details.
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