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Sibling challenges

In the beginning stages of the diet, we removed fruits, except for lemons and limes when I would use the juice for popsicles. My family only ate fruit for a treat on holidays or special occasions and so we all thought it tasted like crack cocaine! Our daughter Thalia was not happy with this new diet, so I would sneak her fruit. It was difficult to get her alone without Tula in sight, but on many occasions, Thalia, (knowing full well this was a secret from Tula) would run to her with a smirk on her face after she devoured a piece of fruit, yelling “Guess what I just ate?” Then she’d fill her in on all of the yummy details. Tula would cry and I would get mad, and this went on for years. Not just with fruit but with any treat. I felt guilty because Thalia had to hide somewhere in the house just to eat an apple or some grapes. I knew Thalia was angry, not only with this new lifestyle, but also because she felt like the second fiddle. I expected more out of her in terms of behavior, and when I was more lenient with Tula, Thalia threw a fit.


Tula also needed more sleep than Thalia or the frequency of the tantrums would increase. She was still napping at age four and would nap for another year—and these naps were incredibly important. I would lie with her until she fell asleep. Thalia, on the other hand, did not need a nap but would see us lying together and purposefully make loud noises to get my attention. She seemed to be getting more and more frustrated when my attention was being pulled to Tula. I had read that siblings of special needs kids can become more empathetic, wanting to help their sibling and feeling a sense of accomplishment themselves being of service. In contrast, they can feel embarrassed, angry that they may have to leave an event early, frustrated when they have more responsibilities and have to manage their own feelings and needs. Thalia seemed to be the latter. I know that having a sibling, and in this case being a twin, really helped Tula catch up with her social skills.


There was one time when Thalia and I picked Tula up at ABA right before her schedule went down to one day a week. Thalia ran back to join Tula in the ball pit. After they had played for a while, it was time to go. Tula came out happily ready to go home. Thalia refused and started having a massive tantrum that continued on the floor in the lobby and out the door. The therapist was watching all of this and joked “I think Thalia has the autism now!” She still talks about how unfair it was that Tula had all the fun! Mike and I started taking the girls out separately once a week for one-on-one time and this was something Thalia looked forward to all week, especially since she always picked somewhere to have a treat!


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