Adjusting to a new baby is a big change for everyone in the household. But what about when your child has sensory needs and/or requires a structured routine? Wondering how to introduce a new sibling to a sensory-sensitive kid or a child with Sensory Processing Disorder?
Newborns, as we know, are unpredictable and they can be incredibly loud. As they grow older, it might be easier for the older sibling to handle, but that’s still no guarantee. Guest blogger Kori from Just Another Mom offers some of her personal tips for introducing a newborn to a sibling with sensory needs.
how to introduce new sibling to a special needs kid
Get Them Prepared
The most important thing that you can do is talk about the upcoming changes that will take place. And once the baby is home, keep talking to your child.
Let them know what’s going on or tell them why the baby is crying so much. Explain this to them at their level, and let them have the time that they need to adjust. And if they need a break, let them have a break.
For us, my sensory needs child (Sweet B) was 13. And here she was, having to get used to having a crying, fussy, newborn (Squeaker) around. One of the biggest things that worked for her was developing a social story with her support team at her school.
Another thing that worked for her was slow introductions. We would have her exercise ball nearby, and that’s how I would work on introducing her younger sister to her.
Give Them Space
Another important thing to remember is that this will take time and patience. Who knows, maybe your sensory needs child will bond instantly with their new sibling. And maybe they won’t.
We still have our days where Sweet B would rather not have anything to do with Squeaker. And I’m okay with that. It’s one of the reasons she has her space in the house. Whether it’s her room or another area of the house that her younger sister can’t get to, we make sure that she has areas that are her own.
Another tip to try? Involve the older child as much as they’re willing to be involved. I’m not suggesting that you let them give a bath unsupervised or change a diaper, but let them help out in practical ways.
This one didn’t really work for us, but that’s mostly because of Sweet B’s own needs.
How else can you help your older child?
1. Make sure that you spend time with them one-on-one. It may not be every day, but at least make it a point to spend some one-on-one time with them every week. Make it special and let them pick as much of your planned time as possible. Once Sweet B is home from school, I make sure that we do something together. I’ll sit with her at the table while she has her snack and let Squeaker play nearby.
2. Don’t forget about dad! Maybe dad can’t do everything in terms of feeding if you’re breastfeeding, but dad can certainly do a lot of things when it comes to taking care of a baby. Likewise, don’t discount grandparents or other family members if they’re close by.
3. My mom helped us out a lot by being there to keep an eye on Sweet B when she wasn’t in school and until Squeaker’s dad got home from work.
4. If it will work for your child, maybe you could also consider getting a baby doll. This may help them in terms of being gentle, and a little more responsive to their new sibling.
Do you have a child with sensory needs? What tips would you like to share?
Albany, NY mom blogger Kori is a stay at home mom of 3 (17 year old son with Ataxic CP, 13 year old daughter with classic/severe autism, and a curious daughter who will be turning 2 in December). She is the sole driving force behind Just Another Mom.