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Kim Jenkins

Kim Jenkin's son has Autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities. In the interview, Kim discusses how her son's challenges have allowed her daughter to develop greater empathy and affected her behavior. Kim explains how she has supported her daughter and gives advice to other parents who are striving to do the same. 

Interview 10/10/2023

Background: They're really close in age. Cooper's 13, and Piper is 11, so they're 20 months apart. So it's something that Piper has been dealing with her whole life, really. I think that, in a lot of ways, she has mimicked his behavior because that's always what she's seen. And she's seeing how he might react in situations and how he talks to us in a neurodivergent way. Cooper has ADHD and has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum. He has learning disabilities as well. 


What is what is their relationship like with each other? 


I feel like they do have a pretty typical sibling relationship. So there are times where they, you know, they get along pretty well, but then there are a lot of times when they aren't. But I would say I don't get any point relief from any other sibling relationship.


Do you explain Cooper’s conditions to Piper? 


We've definitely explained everything. I think sometimes we explain things so that she will understand why they happen, such as why Cooper acts a certain way or why he has so many appointments. We have talked with her about Cooper’s diagnosis, and I don’t know whether or not she has a total understanding of all of it. But then, if there's somebody else who she encounters and then if she realizes they also have that diagnosis, maybe she can relate to that. But we try to be open and use those terms with Piper.


How do you support Piper through her experiences as a sibling of a child with developmental disabilities?


Definitely one-on-one time, and we've always done things as a family, but we do try to have time for each kid individually. I think that because of the nature of having a child with a disability, it does require more attention. So we’ve really tried to keep the attendant equal with both the kids so that Piper doesn't feel like she's not getting the fair share of attention.


Are there any positive traits that you feel Piper has gained from her experiences in relation to Cooper’s challenges?


I would say, I think growing up with Cooper, she definitely has a different perspective towards other kids with disabilities. In school, they would put her kids, who might have more challenges because she has a calm and accepting personality. And I think the teachers felt that. But she does seem to have more empathy now toward other people. When she sees a kid who is upset, she will defend them against the other kids.  


How does she react to strong Cooper’s actions?


She still just gets super frustrated. As much as we've explained everything to her, I think that she still doesn't totally get it. Cooper will get upset over something that is so small, and she will try to talk him down in an attempt to help him. But Cooper does not respond well to that. So I think when she was younger, she would get really upset, but now she focuses on trying to help. 


Do you allow her to get involved with Cooper’s reactions?

When she gets involved, I try to get her to leave the room. I try not to have her parent Cooper. I think she's trying to help, but Cooper doesn’t like it because she is his younger sibling, and he feels like she is trying to tell him what to do. I also think that it’s not very healthy for her to act as a parent at a young age. 


Is there any advice that you would tell parents of children with developmental disabilities who are looking to improve support for their other children? 


My advice would be to encourage supporting everybody’s interests by enrolling them in activities and attending games and dance recitals, even if it’s difficult. But especially giving attention to all the kids equally as best as you can.

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