Supporting the siblings of a special needs child

Learn about: Supporting the siblings of a special needs child from Esther Hess, PhD,...
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Supporting the siblings of a special needs child

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I have yet to meet a child who lives alone. When a child is impacted by Autism, the whole family is impacted. I have so many parents come to me, guilt ridden. It takes so much time, energy, money patience, that I spend on my child with special needs. I can barely do the housework around the house that has to happen. I just don't have enough time to give to my typically developing child. What I say and teach my parents is try to make a date with all their kids. What I mean by that is to approach a child and send them an invitation to do something that you have to do anyway. For example, going to the grocery store. You invite your child by telling them that you want to take them to the store and no one else. Once you are shopping, stop asking questions about how they are doing in school. Too many "W" questions, and kids kind of turn off. Instead, slow down your conversation. Begin to have a story an emotional connection. Let's say that child reaches for a box of Captain Crunch in the aisle. Well start your story right there. "Captain Crunch. I love Captain Crunch when I was a kid." Kids think this is hysterical that we were once kids. What you are doing is having a shared emotional moment. You have enough of these moments, and over time, that opens up the doorway for that child to tell you their story, their feelings about having a brother or sister on the Autism spectrum. That creates bonding and, ultimately, a great date.

Learn about: Supporting the siblings of a special needs child from Esther Hess, PhD,...

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Esther Hess, PhD

Pediatric Psychologist

Dr. Esther Hess is a developmental psychologist. She specializes in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with developmental delays, regulatory disorders and language impairment, specifically autism, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified.  In addition, she treats various psychological ailments including, affective disorders, selective mutism, school phobias, attention deficit disorder, non-verbal learning disorders and difficulties as related to childhood response to parental divorce. Her expertise is in the utilization and application of a developmentally based psychotherapy (the DIR model) as devised by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. This model, conceptualized as Floor Time, takes into consideration the various underlying elements that may be impeding the child including where he/she is at developmentally, various biological constraints, and the relationship between the child and the parent. 

In addition to working with the impacted person, Dr. Hess interfaces with the entire family and coordinates the efforts of the various members of team specialists who assist in boosting the impacted individual’s developmental lag.  She is currently one of Dr. Greenspan’s Senior Clinicians on the West Coast, certified in  D.I.R./Floor Time and has trained parents, interventionists and clinicians both nationally and internationally in the developmental/relational method known as Floor Time.  Dr. Hess is the executive director of a multidisciplinary treatment facility in West Los Angeles, Center for the Developing Mind.

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