I think that lost in all of our talk about autism is the way it affects the entire family, not just those with the condition or the parents. Specifically lately I've been thinking about how our current situation is affecting our other two children, Alicia and Ian.
Alicia turned four in December, and aside from some pretty serious food allergies when she was a baby, she has been healthy and developed on schedule. In fact, one of the strangest moments for us as parents was about a year and a half ago when we started to see Alicia pass up her older sister developmentally. Since then there have been many times when Alicia seems like the oldest in the group. This is totally unfair for her because it has led us to occasionally expect more of her than we probably should. I often have to remind myself that despite her apparent maturity she is only four and still just a little girl. Her high intelligence and overall good nature led us to start her with kindergarten lessons when we started homeschooling Anahí this past January. She was actually making really good progress with both math and reading when we started Brain Balance and packed up the books. Now she just plays throughout the day, and we really don't talk at all about letters or numbers. While I'm sure she would do great in a preschool, the things she is doing now, and the relationship she is developing with her siblings, far outweigh any benefits she would have had from "starting" kindergarten or even preschool as a barely four-year-old. She will be just fine :)
Ian will turn two in July, and while his development was far more like Alicia's than Anahí or Kimball's, I have to admit that early this year I started to worry about whether he might also have autism. Most of my worry stemmed from the fact that Ian hardly ever talked. He would babble a lot, but nothing he said was at all comprehensible. He also suffers from the same food allergies as Alicia. Since we started Brain Balance, Ian has been watching his siblings do the exercises and he actually participates in some of them as well. The first one he picked up on was superman. Now he does Star Fish as well. And since we've been doing the exercises, he has really come out of his shell.
First he started talking more to his siblings. The boys' room is directly adjacent to the girls' room, and at night when we put the kids down, Alicia started this nightly dialogue with Ian:
Alicia: Do you want to play with me tomorrow!?
This went on for a few weeks and continues even now. In the morning it is the same thing. Even before they have climbed out of bed – while Betty and I are still trying to get as much done before we have to take care of the kiddos – I will hear in the hall:
Alicia: Do you want to play with me today!?
While the interaction is between Alicia and Ian, it is great because they are modeling good behavior for the others.
I grew up in what was basically a Brain Balance home. When I wasn't reading or working on school work in our homeschool I was playing sports or other games with my siblings. I have some very dear friends, but none are as close as my brothers and sisters. Whatever else comes of the Brain Balance program, (and we are already seeing so much great progress in so many areas) it will have been worth it because all of these kids are growing closer together. We see them spending more and more time playing *with* each other instead of *alongside* each other. Even Anahí, who used to by default go to her room to look at books or play with her dollies, has started spending more and more of her time playing with the other kids. Ian has started talking more, and we feel much better about his future.
Sometimes people have questioned our doing homeschool with the kids because it seems like they really need opportunities to socialize with other kids. We have always responded that if our children aren't capable of developing deep relationships in our own home there is little reason to expect them to thrive in a group of twenty or thirty other kids. On the other hand, if they can develop and grow in this setting, we have every reason to believe that they will be able to do so with other people. For now we are happy to see our kids playing together, teaching the baby how to speak, and just having a great time with each other.