Far, far away, there once was a magical forest. In that forest lived all kinds of animals: squirrels, hedgehogs, birds, and even bears.
In the middle of the forest, in a warm and cozy den, lived a family of rabbits: Mommy Rabbit,Daddy Rabbit, and a little bunny boy named Springy.
Springy loved the magical forest where he lived. He enjoyed going on little adventures with his friends, and he especially liked running and jumping competitions. Springy jumped like a little spring, and he was the champion in high jump!
One day, Mommy Rabbit told Springy that a baby bunny was growing in her tummy. “Soon you will have a younger brother!”
Springy imagined his little brother – his downy fur, his long ears, and his huge eyes looking at Springy with admiration. (After all, he was the older brother!)Springy imagined how they would play together and how they would nuzzle each other with wet noses, as bunnies do.
Springy waited and waited… and waited some more… until his little brother was born! His name was Tiny.
Springy was very happy. He already loved his new brother, and he wanted to take him on exciting new adventures.
“But,” he told his parents,“Tiny is so small. There is nothing we can do together.” And Mommy Rabbit and Daddy Rabbit said, “Just wait a little while. He will grow fast.”
Mommy Rabbit and Daddy Rabbit were very busy with Tiny, and now they rarely had time to spend with Springy like they used to.
“Mommy, will you play catch with me?”
“Maybe tomorrow?” said Mommy Rabbit.
“Daddy,let’s have a high jump competition!”
“Later,Springy,” said Daddy Rabbit.
Time passed and Tiny did grow,but he was not like other bunnies in the forest, and he certainly was not the way Springy had imagined his little brother to be.
Tiny did not look at his older brother with admiration. Truth be told, he did not look at Springy at all.
Tiny did not like the nose nuzzles that all bunnies do.In fact, he turned his face away every time Springy’s nose came toward him.
Tiny was not like all the rest of the bunnies in the magical forest. He did not want to go on adventures with friends. Mostly, Tiny played alone.And he didn’t even like carrots!
He liked listening to the birds singing and, sometimes, looking at the ants crawl. He could spend many hours doing so.
All of that made Springy sad and hurt and confused. One evening, he told his parents that it was no fun being an older brother.
Springy asked them why they no longer had time for him like they used to, why Tiny did not look at him with admiring eyes or want to explore the magical forest with him.
Mommy Rabbit and Daddy Rabbit hugged Springy tightly. Here is what they told him:
“Springy,our dear son, it really is different now that there are two of you. We can no longer spend as much time with you as we would like to. We know it is hard for you to have a brother who is not like the rest of the bunnies in the forest and who is not like the little brother you had imagined. It is true that Tiny is a bit different, but he is your brother, special and unique.”
Mommy Rabbit and Daddy Rabbit told Springy that his brother liked games and adventures, too, just different ones.
Sometimes, he liked playing together with other bunnies, and sometimes alone. Sometimes, he wanted to play together with his brother but did not quite know how.
Music was one of Tiny’s favorite things, and he could spend a long time listening to the birds singing. “Springy, you can listen to the birds with Tiny, or even sing him your own song.”
So Springy tried. Sometimes, it worked – then Tiny glowed with joy, and Springy hugged him, and they were happy together. Other times,Tiny wanted to be alone.
Time went by, and Tiny continued to grow. He began to like more things and activities. Springy learned how to have fun with his little brother in Tiny’s own special ways. They explored the magical forest together and discovered some things they both liked.
Sometimes, Springy and Tiny played catch, threw nuts into the lake,climbed trees, and picked wild berries together.
And sometimes, Mommy Rabbit and Daddy Rabbit even found time to play with Springy alone – just like they did before Tiny was born.
“Tiny is special and unique, and he is my brother!”
In our book, we have attempted to shed some light on the experiences and challenges of children whose younger sibling is diagnosed with communication problems. These siblings of children with communication problems share the difficulties and concerns their parents face. This triggers a wide spectrum of feelings in a child, who is trying to adjust to, get along and play with a sibling who does not necessarily respond as might be anticipated. It is only natural that such an experience will raise feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, frustration and other feelings. The children may wish to play with their new siblings, but may not always know how to do so. Furthermore, experiences of perceived failure may reduce future attempts.
It is important that parents encourage communication and interaction between the siblings. However, it is as important to ensure that each of the siblings have their “one-on-one time” with the parents, as well as an opportunity to do his or her favorite activities on their own, alone.
The story of Springy and Tiny can serve as an opening for an open discussion, and can help the kids ask those “difficult” questions that may have been running through their heads. Openness and open-mindedness of a family dialogue can improve adjustment of the child, the sibling and their relationship. Here are some questions you might find useful for initiating such a discussion:
- What were Springy’s thoughts and feelings while waiting for his brother to be born?
- How did Springy feel when Tiny was born?
- How was Tiny similar to other bunnies and how was he unlike them?
- What would you advise Springy to do together with his little brother? What can you do together with your brother/sister?
You can brainstorm together to think of activities that might be good for both siblings.
The activities can be pretty basic – after all, they just need to be enjoyable for the participants.
It is recommended to first provide modeling of the shared activity via a parent or a professional therapist. It is important that the activity you select accommodates the feelings and desires of both siblings.
Here are some activities/games we can recommend:
Playing with balloons
Computer/tablet games (taking turns)
Playing musical instruments
Dancing or jumping to favorite music
You can figure out many other activities that both siblings like.
Siblings need time to play together. However, don’t forget that each one of them also needs time to play one-on-one with their parents, as well as alone.
Ifat Shuster has three kids: Yohav, Aya and Itamar. Itamar, who is now 13, was diagnosed with autism. Ifat is a clinical social worker. She has been working with children affected by autism and other developmental disorders for 16 years. [email protected]
Katia Levitski is a teacher at a kindergarten for children with communication problems. She has been working with children affected by autism and other developmental disorders for 9 years. She has BA degrees in Psychology and Education, and is currently working towards an MA degree in Special Education.
Irena Brodeski is an artist who works in the field of animation and comics. You can follow her at: http://brodeski.blogspot.com.
The picture on the right was painted by Yohav Shuster, 8, whose brother Itamar has autism.