Who would we be without our sisters and brothers?

When Leila was four years old she must have decided that one younger brother simply was not enough and so she confidently asked me to provide her with a set of twin siblings, a boy and a girl.

I smiled at my young daughter in the knowledge that Nick and I were hoping to have a third child and said,  “I’ll see what I can do.”.

A few short weeks later I found out to my shock and later delight that I was indeed pregnant with twins and as it turned out they were the requested gender combination.

Two years after the twins arrival Leila asked me if I’d have a set of triplets,

I said “NO!”.

Having a larger sized family comes with its ups and downs.

For a start off, its expensive! We’ve had to get a larger car and a larger house not to mention the increased food bills and the university costs which are looming on the near horizon.

Secondly, as with any larger group, it’s difficult to please everyone all the time and I can certainly identify with the phrase, “You’re only as happy as your most miserable child”. As a result we’ve tended to divide up and do things in smaller units as a way of making life more amenable for all of us.

But there are also many positives to being part of a large family.

Firstly there’s always something going on and someone to do something with if you want to.

There’s plenty of toys, clothes and books to borrow and swap.

For Edward, our autistic son, being part of a large family has helped him learn a lot about fitting in with a group and interacting with others.

Having a slightly older non autistic sister has been a game changer for him. Leila’s been looking out for Edward her entire life.

I can still remember Leila at the age of 6 realising with horror that Edward was only weeks away from starting reception. She didn’t think he was ready and she didn’t think he’d cope.

Both of my daughters are super proactive people. If they want something to happen they make it happen. Leila wanted Edward to fit in and do well at school and so she set to work.

The summer before Edward started school Leila made him play schools with her every day at home. She laid out the room to make it more like the reception class and told him in great detail about all the different parts of the school day. She made him sit on the floor and put his hand up when his name was called. She made him help with “tidy up” time. She showed him how to take off his shoes and put on his pumps. She did a good job.

Roll forward a few years and my teenage Leila took a long critical look at her younger brother who was a few months shy of starting high school and she announced with brutal honesty,

“Edward you’re a bit weird and you are also gross. You need to reduce the gross. People will be ok with you being a bit weird but they will not be ok with you being gross.”.

And so began an intensive social etiquette training programme directed by Leila and targeted entirely on Edward.

Nose hygiene and eating style were the main areas tackled by Leila and once again she did a great job. We had of course tried to teach Edward how to blow his nose in a timely and appropriate manner and eat in a non-gross way throughout his childhood but he seemed to listen more when these instructions came from Leila.  Leila has shown some tough love to Edward over the years because she wants him to fit in and be included. It has worked.

Having three siblings and also living next door to some close friends who have similarly aged children has been great for all of us but especially for Edward. We have merged our back gardens together to make a large outdoor space and there’s often various combinations of children and teenagers around. This has meant that  Edward has had plenty of opportunities to have frequent short bursts of social interaction  where he’s learned how to behave and interact with people his own age. He’s also been able to slope off to his room to be by himself when he’s had enough.

On those rare occasions when he did have a friend round whilst he was at primary school his siblings helped him out without even realising it. If Edward became tired of being with his friend he had a habit of abruptly abandoning them but Seb or Ivy invariably came to the rescue and just played with Edward’s friend instead. If the twins hadn’t been around I’d probably have tried to force Edward to carry on interacting with his friend which would undoubtedly have ended badly.

Edward has at times reduced each of his siblings to sob tears of frustration when he’s been in an argumentative and pedantic mode. My children can all argue with each other fiercely and I often feel like a failed wanna be peacemaker.

Thankfully there’s also a lot of love between them.

These days Leila and Edward often stay up talking together late into the night putting the world to rights; they’ve become firm friends.

In September Leila will leave home for university and we will all miss her terribly despite being delighted that she’s getting on with what she wants to do in life.

I wonder if she’ll be back giving Edward some essential pre university training when his turn to move on comes in a few years time.

I have a strong feeling that she will be and I have no doubt that once again I will be truly grateful for her input and support.

Edward, whether he ever realises it or not, has a lot to thank his siblings for.

In turn, it is through growing up with Edward that my other three have learned to be tolerant and accepting of people who are a little bit different.



Spectrum Sunday



Mother of Teenagers


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25 thoughts on “Who would we be without our sisters and brothers?

  1. You must be so proud of Leila and how she has helped Edward to adapt to new situations. We have a large family too and I also feel that they have helped each other to varying degrees and I know for a fact that my younger kids are more tolerant to as result of it. #spectrumsunday

  2. Very interesting and we see exactly the same from J’s elder sister.
    However we are also very aware of the time and effort J sometimes requires and worry if this is having a negative affect on his sister. She does sometimes vocalise feelings of jealousy and unfairness. It is hard to know how much of this is normal childhood feelings or if some of it is due to J having autism.
    The ‘A’ word program very clearly highlighted this issue and made us more sensitive to be on the lookout for any possible negative impact as well as stimulating us to look out for ways to affirm and build up his suster’s self esteem and give her some special one on one time.
    Yet another additional challenge for parents of children with autism and their siblings!

  3. Lovely post, and what a fab big sis!
    I only have the 2 kids, so there is a always going to be a different dynamic to your family, but we do have a close extended family and it’s lovely to see the cousins interact, support and learn from each other. #SpectrumSunday

  4. Oh my goodness Leila is leaving home soon. Which means her peers are too. Great observations Lynne and a well written ,moving post.

  5. I’m stuck in you blog!
    Another lovely post! Leila sounds such a lovely girl. You must be super proud of all your children but how thoughtful as a 6/7 year old! Wow. I remember teaching my sister to read aged 4 playing schools. I’m now a teacher. Has she thought about teaching as a profession?

    • Thanks for leaving a comment – I have no idea what Leila will end up doing yet to be honest but I’m looking forward to finding out.

  6. This is just so ,so lovely. I have 4. 2 girls 2 boys. My boys are just the best of friends and that makes me so happy ,by eldest and youngest also have a really nice relationship there’s 7 years between them and he is her idol.He can talk her down from a tantrum immediately!! I don’t know what we’ll do when he goes to uni next year !!! Also my sister is still my tough love person… I really need it!! #tweensteensbeyond

    • Hi kelly – good to hear that your four get on so well. I’m sure we’d all benefit from having at least one tough love person in our lives! thanks for leaving a comment.

  7. Popping back to this great post! #blogcrush

  8. Sisters! Forever bossing each other about, with the absolute best of intentions. I have a sister, step sister and half sister. I think what we learn for our siblings is incredible. There’s no one else in the world that can tell you that you’re being gross, and that’s not cool! #BlogCrush

    • Thanks for your comment Helen – it sounds like you’ve got more than your fair share of honest sibling input! x

  9. What an amazing young woman Leila is and what a lovely family you have. This all makes sense to me. I have three kids and they get so much from each other and will take things from their siblings that they would never accept from me. Thank you so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    • According to my mother my much younger brother listened more to me than her when he was a teenager! I think siblings can have a huge influence for good.

  10. What a gorgeous family and such therapy for Edward too to have such a supportive group of siblings and friends and parents. Leila sounds like a little star and of course they will miss her but think of when they are all reunited again. You must be very proud #tweensteensbeyond

    • Thanks Nicky… I am a proud of all my kids… but honestly the truth is that they argue in about equal measure to the time they spend getting on really well. At least I can say there’s depth between them!

  11. Oh Lynne I love this post for showing us the true meaning of sibling love. Leila is clearly a hugely supportive and loving big sister and I am sure as you say that Edward will miss having her around when she heads off to university but how wonderful their reunions will be. Thanks for sharing this with us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. This is such a LOVELY post. Sibling relationships are just so precious and so wonderful to watch. It melts my heart when my 2 girls play together and sing together and hold hands. It sounds like Leila has done an excellent job as a big sister and I wish her well on the next chapter of her life.

    Also, congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the #blogcrush linky party. Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” badge #blogcrush

  13. Another post that I relate to so much. My daughter is 2 years younger than my asd son, but she is already teaching him so much, and he will make her more accepting too. I can tell. Thanks so much for linking with #spectrumsunday. We hope you join us tomorrow.

  14. Excellent article. I absolutely love this site. Thanks!

  15. […] so hard to choose a winner but this week we have chosen a post from Raising my Autistic Son called Who Would We Be Without Our Sisters And Brothers. Please do check it out if you missed it in the linky. It is a lovely description of how siblings […]