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Discussion of Speechless Episode: Dynamics of a Special Needs Family

Hunter from Come Roll WIth Me and his brother, Nghia

My brother, Nghia

Last week’s episode of Speechless, S-U-R–SURPRISE!, examined the complex relationship dynamics that occur in special needs families.  All relationships within a special needs family have unique challenges.  On this episode of Speechless, the dynamics between brothers and the dynamics between mother and daughter were examined.

Every year, Maya plans a surprise birthday party for her daughter Dylan.  It is her intention to make her daughter feel special on her birthday.  Dylan told her mother she did not want the yearly surprise.  Maya ignored that and set up yet another surprise birthday party.  During the party, Dylan conveyed to her mother that she did not want to share her mom on her special day, she simply wanted one-on-one time.  My disability took a great deal of my mom’s time.  I know my brother missed out on that time with her.  When they take special moments together it makes me happy.  Even as an adult, he needs that one-on-one time.  I know my mom is stretched thin, but she still tries to make special moments for them to enjoy.  Special needs families have this challenge when there is more than one child.  Effective communication of needs and effective listening skills is the best way to face this challenge.  On this episode of Speechless, initially Maya did not listen to her daughter and conflict resulted.  In the end, Dylan was able to convey her needs and she had her special time with her mom.

Last week Speechless also examined the complicated relationship between brothers, JJ and Ray.  JJ is the oldest child; however, Ray helps take care of him.  In this episode of Speechless, JJ was bothered by that.  JJ felt that it was his duty to guide and protect his younger brother.  Again, this was not communicated between the two brothers initially and that caused a great deal of tension.  JJ took off to the mall without Ray in search of a birthday gift for Dylan.  Along the way, he found ingenious ways to communicate with others even though he is non-verbal.  A funny example of this was when he pointed his red laser into the bus driver’s rear-view mirror to get him to drop him off at his stop.  Actually, he was technically thrown off the bus!

When Ray finally caught up with JJ, they were able to get the shoes for Dylan.  Again, JJ used his laser and a lady’s German Shepherd to convince a very large, muscular man to sell them the last pair that he just purchased.  During this adventure, JJ and Ray were able to talk about JJ’s feelings.  Additionally, through this adventure JJ was able to teach Ray to be bold and to be kind to strangers.  He also taught him to “shut the H-E-** up”, you will have to watch this episode of Speechless to find out about that lesson!

I have a younger brother and although he is able-bodied, I really never had the same feelings that JJ had with Ray. I always felt secure in my role as his big brother.  We have a unique situation as my brother did not enter my family until he was five.  Additionally, my brother is also disabled.  Our disabilities are very different, my disability is strictly physical and my brother has a hearing and cognitive disability.  That did not stop us from torturing each other or from getting into mischief together.  I guess we just accepted our “role” in the family.

Hunter from Come Roll WIth Me and his brother, Nghia.

My brother, Nghia

While writing this blog, I remembered back to the time my brother locked me in the bathroom when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  When my parents rescued me, I expected my brother to get into trouble.  Instead, my parents turned to me and asked “What did you do to him to make him so mad?”  I don’t remember what I did to him, but I do remember laughing when my parents asked that question, so it must have been something good!  I also remember my brother teaching me swear words in sign language.  Of course, I was not very good at signing, but it was definitely a bonding moment.  Despite disabilities, parents should make sure to encourage a normal sibling relationship: the good, the bad and the ugly.   My parents always stressed to both of us to look out for each other and to be good brothers.  We may not be very close now, as our interests are so different, but we do love and trust each other.

The importance of family dynamics was examined in this episode of Speechless.  In special needs families with multiple children, it is important to be sensitive to the needs of all.  It is also important to set boundaries and instill respect for those boundaries.  Every family and every relationship within those families will have challenges to overcome.  The most important thing is to work together and keep the lines of communication open.

Until next time, Keep Rollin’ and Keep Smilin’!

Photo Credit: Sandi Kelch


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