Let’s talk about siblings.
How do they digest the whole "sibling with special needs" issue? I don’t know about you, but having a special needs child definitely shifted the balance in our family.
My two oldest children are 18 months apart. Everyone says that having kids close in age is good for them. "They'll be best friends!", they say. When will this happen? I’m still waiting.
I don’t know how my oldest knew his brother was annoying from birth, but the minute he came home from the hospital, Natti (my oldest) rejected him. It was his sixth sense. When Ashi was just 2 weeks old, I was getting ready to take both kids out. For those of you who have more than one child, do remember how terrifying and impossible it seems to go out with 2 kids? It takes an hour per child. I was getting Ashi ready to go out. I turned around to grab something, and Natti had put an adult shoe on his face. This, in short, summarizes their relationship to this day. Oil and water.
Ashi frustrates the living $&%# out of Natti. And Natti has made it his mission to make sure that Ashi pays for it. This has really had an impact on our family dynamic. Having children in general is hard. But, having a child with special needs is a whole other story. No one tells you how hard it is. So, I have spent a good amount of Ashi’s life trying to “make it up” to Natti.
Recently, when I re-designed Ashi’s room, Natti said- “Now his room is cooler than mine! I want a swing too.” Side note: I re-designed Natti's room just before Ashi's. Major eye roll- I can never win with this kid.
So naturally, what do I do? I put myself in Natti's shoes, and I try to think of a place that would be ideal for him to have a swing. Swings are the most perfect piece of equipment for children. They are soothing and they re-balance the vestibular system. When a child is overexcited, put them on a swing and they will come back downstairs an entirely different person- whether they have special needs or not.
Natti has a different type of ADHD than Ashi. He is easily triggered, frustrated, impatient and easily bored. So much fun to endure. Other than that, he's a wonderful child. He's a very sweet, considerate and bright child. Smarter than me, that's for sure. I actually really enjoy spending time with him. But when he gets frustrated and moody, god help us all.
Now, you might think I’m over sharing. But the truth is, that unless we share these thoughts, challenges, and difficulties we have with our kids with each other, we will never know that other parents are going through similar situations. The grass always seems greener on the other side. It’s not. It’s how we deal with it. And I am sharing this with you because we can always learn from each other, myself included.
Back to my design.
So after much thinking and planning, I realized that the closet in his room was currently being unused, as he and his brother share clothes. Sharing clothes is a whole other story that I won't get into.
In short, I removed all the wire shelving in the closet. I covered the wall with a green leaf wallpaper, and added string lighting to soften the feel. I also added a soft ivory shag rug.
Technically, this type of design is called biophilic design. It is meant to bring the outdoors and the tranquility of nature into the space, and create a calm environment.
I immediately fell in love with that wallpaper. Not only is it beautiful, but just looking at the pattern helped me feel calmer. And when the wallpaper was finally up, the entire space felt serene. The power of color.
The best part of the story is that this whole concept actually works! It's not just for show. This space is beautiful, but it's functional and therapeutic as well.
Natti goes on that swing ALL the time. He particularly likes to use it before bed, when the other siblings are already sleeping. It's his way of soothing himself from the day, and maybe get his body ready for bed.
Now, the next challenge I face is to teach him to use this space appropriately, when the negative feelings arise; because that’s the real problem. How do you calm down a child who turns as red as fire when he’s frustrated. It’s as if they are possessed and can’t snap out of the anger. And if you try to interrupt, they direct it towards you. Stay away...
Calm space it is. A small constricted space, with dim lights, soothing wallpaper pattern, a soft shag rug, and a swing to climb on. Every child needs their space, and to know they have a space to go to. From what I learned, most little kids are emotionally dysregulated. They often grow out of it, but we need to facilitate this growth process and offer practical solutions.
Parenting is not easy. We learn a new lesson everyday. If we can find new ways for our children to calm down, cool off, and recenter- then let’s do it!
I dare you to try this at home.
Figure out a calming space for your child and sensorize™ it. Remember- every child has different needs. What works for my children might not work for yours.
If you need help, don’t hesitate to get in touch! And let me know how it goes, I’m curiously optimistic this will help many children :)