Large families

If you are one of these people who, like me, automatically answers when someone shouts "Mum" regardless of where you are or who is with you, if you have to count your children when you are out, or you go through a few names before you hit on the right one...then undoubtedly you have mayhem in your house too! As parents ofmore than one child, the difficulties we face and the fun we have will differ from those with only one or maybe even two children, and the presence of any shade of adolescence, autism, AD/HD and AS can sometimes be...entertaining!

When reading snippets in magazines (OK so it is only when I am sitting in a doctors', or hospital waiting room!) or on the internet about large families, most say that what they cherish about having a large family is that the younger children learn from the older ones and they all become self-sufficient far earlier in life. It seems that unless my parenting skills are seriously defunct then autism has stamped its hobnail boots over this theory too!

As Luke teaches Anna on the computer, Anna works with Joe and tries to help him with his behaviour and school work, Sarah and Rachel help Luke with many aspects of his life, Matthew acts as the resident taxi service and gives lifts to his younger brothers and sisters, and Joe teaches Ben, it would seem at first glance that this theory is true. However Anna at twelve years old is still teaching Luke at nearly fifteen how to tie his shoelaces or explaining the meaning of certain phrases or facial expressions, Rachel and Sarah patiently endure a barrage of playful (in Luke's mind not theirs!) insults and his spidery mass of arms and legs, and put up with more than their fair share of destruction and mayhem from Joe and Ben. When my self-absorbed teenagers drop their sweet papers on the floor and carry on watching television or playing on the computer, little naked Ben carefully unwraps his own sweets and wanders off to put the papers in the bin. the teenagers could learn a lot from his tidiness. As Matthew and all of his friends sit around the PlayStation, there are often frustrated cries as they struggle to get on to the next level of a particular game. Their solution.. .to go and get Ben to do it for them! If we are out and the girls want to ask a shopkeeper about a product then they invariably get Joe, with no inhibitions whatsoever, to ask their questions whilst they stand by nervously.

As you can see, there is nothing age specific about who learns from whom in a multicoloured household. One outstanding part of autism is that people with it usually have an 'uneven profile'. There are definitely deficits in some areas whereas other areas can be developed far above their years. Parenting such a family is therefore slightly different to parenting your average large family, and one of the advantages is definitely the fact that each family member learns to accept each other for who they are rather than assuming any responsibility merely due to their position in the family.

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