Big sister has magic touch for brother with autism

  • By Kendyl Galbraith
    Public Relations/Communications Intern

    As the sibling of a child with autism, one may have a handful of feelings. Some children may feel that their parents spend too much time with the sibling who has autism, making them feel left out. Other children don’t quite understand why their brother or sister can’t speak or has difficulty playing with them.

    Public outings can be stressful for families that have a child with autism. Betsy Gingrich, age 9, knows this feeling. Betsy’s favorite place to eat is Friendly’s, but she agreed with her mom, Erin, that sometimes going out to eat can be tough with Betsy’s 6-year-old brother, Ben, who has autism and attends The Vista School.

    Betsy has that big-sister magic touch that helps Ben calm down when he’s crying. Their mom, Erin, said, “Ben can be crying and crying, and Betsy walks into the room and he stops.” She added, “Betsy likes to do silly things.”

    At her young age, Betsy knows that Ben has challenges. Erin said that “Ben likes to do his own thing.” Betsy always asks Ben to throw a ball with her, but Ben hasn’t quite mastered the throwing skill yet. Betsy said, “He hands it to me.”

    When Betsy sees her friends play games with their siblings, she’s “kind of sad,” she said, because I want my brother to do that. But someday he will!”

    Together, the siblings sing “Wheels on the Bus.” After hundreds of times of hearing the song, Betsy said, “I’m very tired of the Wheels on the Bus!”

    Throughout Ben’s time at The Vista School, Betsy has attended several Vista functions, such as the siblings group. Over the summer, the children in the sibling group visited The Vista School and interacted with students. One of the activities was making homemade ice cream together. Betsy was able to play a leadership role in helping out the students. “The students would request something from Betsy and she would give it to them,” said Erin.

    “He makes me laugh,” Betsy said of Ben. At Betsy’s school, there’s a refrigerator where students can display personal items they’re proud of, such as a math test with an A+ on it. Betsy said, “We can bring anything in. So I brought a picture of my brother.”

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