When parenting children with different needs, it’s common for a parent to wonder if you give each child enough time and attention. This often becomes an even greater issue if one of those children has Autism. When you are consumed by therapy and doctor appointments for your Autistic child, how can you be sure your non-Autistic child is getting enough of your time and attention?
Make them part of your solution
It can be tough to juggle this, but with a few adjustments, you can make sure everyone gets what they need. Talk to your non-Autistic (neurotypical) child. Allow them to be honest about how they are feeling. It may be difficult, but try not to judge or take personally what they say. If they feel left out or resentful of the time you need to spend with your Autistic child, listen to what they say. Then ask them to help you develop solutions to improve things.
Create ‘dates’ that make them feel special too!
Maybe you and your neurotypical child can make a date once each week to have lunch together. If possible, try to secure childcare for your Autistic child so you can have one-on-one time with your neurotypical child. Ask a spouse, friend, grandparent, or church member to stay with your Autistic child while you do this. If lunch isn’t possible, try and set aside time to do something you and your neurotypical child both like to do. Play a board game, do a puzzle, or watch a favorite movie or streaming show.
Be open with your child about the demands on your time while reassuring them
Explain to your neurotypical child that you realize their sibling takes up a big chunk of your time and energy, but assure them that you will always make time for them. They may need to be flexible with when that happens. Interruptions may occur. You may have to “pause” a conversation and pick it up later. But assure your child that the conversation will always be resumed.
Prioritize quality over quantity
In my house, I strive to give every child what they need. This is different than giving everyone what is fair. Fairness is often perceived as an equitable division of time – for instance, each child gets 2 hours of one-on-one time per day. But that might not be what your children need from you. Maybe you have a 24/7 total care Autistic child. Obviously, that will take up a larger share of your time. However, their neurotypical sibling might only need a check-in with you each day and possibly a longer segment of your time once each week. Maybe to some, this isn’t a “fair” division of time, but it is giving your children what they need – and that’s far more important.