Supporting Siblings of Neurodiverse Kids: A Parent Perspective with Katie Higgins

Supporting Siblings of Neurodiverse Kids: A Parent Perspective with Katie Higgins

You may have heard it said, “Your sibling is your first friend” or “A sibling is a built-in best friend”. And while these common sayings can be true, sibling relationships are often complex and messy - swinging from loving, supportive, cooperative to jealous and fighting, then back again! Add into the mix a child with neurodiversity or complex medical needs and the relationships can get even more complicated. In today’s episode we hear how Katie Higgins, a mom of three, supports her children and their unique relationships.  

During the episode Katie discusses her son’s journey to a diagnosis, the dynamic between her twins and their brother, the steps she’s taken as a mom to support her children - like setting up special mother-daughter time for the girls - and how they navigate the emotions and changing relationships that come with having a neurodiverse sibling. Throughout the episode, Katie’s honesty, love for her children, and authenticity shines. Her story will leave caregivers feeling both seen and hopeful. 

About Our Guest

Katie Higgins is a mother of three and co-owner of Vintage Hope Boutique in Richmond, Texas. She has twin daughters and a son who has been diagnosed with epilepsy and autism.  

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Stephanie Landis (00:06):

Hello, and welcome to Unbabbled. A podcast that navigates the world of special education, communication delays, and learning differences. We are your hosts, Stephanie Landis and Meredith Krimmel, and we're certified speech language pathologists who spend our days at The Parish School of Houston, helping children find their voices and connect with the world around them.

Stephanie Landis (00:26):

You may have heard it said "your sibling is your first friend" or "a sibling is a built-in best friend." And while these common sayings can be true, sibling relationships are often complex and messy swinging from loving, supportive, and cooperative to jealous and fighting, and then back again. Add into the mix, a child with neurodiversity or complex medical needs, and the relationships can get even more complicated. In today's episode, we hear how one mom of three supports your children and their unique relationships. Katie Higgins is a mother of three and co-owner of Vintage Hope Boutique in Richmond, Texas. She has twin daughters and a son who has been diagnosed with epilepsy and autism. During the episode, Katie discusses her son's journey to a diagnosis, the dynamic between her twins and their brother, the steps she's taken to support her children - such as setting up special mother daughter time for the girls - and how they navigate the emotions and changing relationships that come with having a neurodiverse sibling. Throughout the episode, Katie's honesty, love for her children and authenticity shine through. Her story will leave caregivers feeling both seen and hopeful.

Stephanie Landis (01:34):

Welcome to our first episode of Unbabbled for this new season. We're so excited to have Katie Higgins on we're talking about siblings, sibling dynamics, sibling relationships, and how you bring the siblings and build that relationship together. Talking about siblings is hard enough, and then when you throw in some neurodiversity or difficulties, then it's a whole new ballgame. So Katie welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.

Katie Higgins (02:01):

I am absolutely honored to be here. Thank you.

Stephanie Landis (02:04):

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

Katie Higgins (02:06):

Sure. Yes. Okay. So my husband and I, Steven have been married for 14 years and our son, Michael, and he is going to be 10 years old next week. And he is our super special kiddo. He I've said before, like he completely changed my life when he was born, but then when he was diagnosed, my life completely changed forever. The way I see the world, the way I see people, he changed, he changed everything for me. He has autism and epilepsy. And then shortly after Michael we had identical twin girls. They were born when he was about 21 months old and they are, their names are Mary and Maggie and they just turned eight years old and they, you know, I was so I was like, oh my goodness, I cannot, how am I ever going to twins with a special needs kiddo? And I know now that they, they were exactly what he needed, but yes, it has definitely made all of it. Very, very interesting.

Meredith Krimmel (03:13):

So how old was he when he was diagnosed? Did you already know at the time when he was 21 months old,

Katie Higgins (03:18):

We did not. Michael's first delays were an 18 months old at his 18 month. Well-Check his speech started to decline at that appointment, or that's the first time we ever started seeing anything on his milestones start dropping off. So I was pregnant at that time and on bed rest, he wasn't diagnosed until he was three. We got him into speech therapy right away, right at like two years old after I'd had the girls. But then when speech therapy wasn't progressing as quickly as we'd hoped, it became apparent that we needed more evaluations. And then he was diagnosed with autism at three.

Meredith Krimmel (03:55):

And when did you figure out the epilepsy?

Speaker 3 (03:58):

The epilepsy didn't come for a couple more years, as I got to know other special needs moms, they were all very you know, you need to see a neurologist, you know, that like, go get checked that, get that checked out. So we went to a neurologist that was, we were referred to. And in hearing Michael's medical history, our neurologist suggested doing an EEG. And I remember thinking why he's never had a seizure. Well, come to find out he was having on a 60 minute EEG. He had seizure activity the entire time, a sub sub-clinical seizure activity. The entire time, what our neurologist said was he said, "Katie, if I didn't have the video to go along with this EEG, I would tell you, this child was having grand mal seizures for 60 solid minutes." And so there was major stuff going on with him. And we immediately started treatment and saw a significant improvement in his speech due to the anticonvulsants. And then within a year or two, he then started having clinical seizures. So he has these types of seizures where he just drops. He'll just all of a sudden kind of pass out, have a seizure and just drop. And but right now they're managed though. He has not had a seizure in over a year, so that's been really, really great.

Meredith Krimmel (05:17):

That's amazing. That's great. Yeah. You had mentioned that the girls were exactly what Michael needed. Can you talk a little bit more about what you meant by that?

Katie Higgins (05:26):

Sure. They, you know, at the beginning I just thought, oh my gosh, I have three kids under the age of two. What the heck? I can't do any of this. And believe me, it was hard. And it still is. It still is hard, but they, they are his biggest advocates. And that's saying something, cause I'm a, I'm a pretty, I'm a pretty in there mom. They are his biggest advocates. They're his biggest cheerleaders. They also are, you know, we've had, one of the things we've really had to deal with recently is that they don't have be his mom, you know, but they are so protective of him and they take that responsibility very seriously that when I'm not there, or my husband's not there, that they are our eyes and ears. And that is an amazing thing for me and for my husband, because Michael was nonverbal until he was three and he still struggles to communicate with us. And so having them who communicate excessively, having them be able to be our eyes and ears in certain situations is great. But that also puts a whole lot of responsibility on them as eight year olds that we don't want them to have to have. You know, we're learning those boundaries and those areas where we need to protect the girls as well from, from taking on too much responsibility. But more than anything else, they are, they're his cheerleaders. They're his advocates. They watch out for him when, you know, on the playground. If I can't be there in all those little, you know, I'm trying not to be a helicopter mom, you know, they are on the playground and they can help out with stuff. And they also, they, you know, they can, they also challenge him so much because you better believe they aren't going to win. They want to play, they don't give up, you know, they're like, you will play with me, you know? And Michael has always been real, he enjoys, he enjoys his sisters and he's comfortable with them and safe with them. But like, yeah, they're not going to let you just sit back, you know? So they've been amazing for him to challenge him and support him.

Stephanie Landis (07:26):

But them being younger at what age did they start to notice that they were a little bit of differences between them and Michael?

Katie Higgins (07:34):

I'd say it's probably first grade. In kindergarten, they're just one grade apart. So like Michael, when he was in first, they were in kinder. They were at, they were at the same school up until this year. And they probably, when they were in first grade is when they started realizing like the dynamic at school was different for him than it was for them. And we had an incident and incidents even too big of a word where there was just some, maybe some teasing. I don't wanna use the word bullying because that's such a big word, but just some, some stuff going on, like in the lunch room or in the car rider line, like before and after, you know, like as they'd be waiting for school to start after being dropped off and Mary and Maggie recognized that Michael was maybe being teased a little bit. And I think that's when they started realizing we've got to watch out for our brother. He doesn't understand these things that are going on. He doesn't understand all of the social cues, all of the social things going on around him and we do. And so that was, that was hard. And I, that was really hard as a parent really kind of grieving that my baby girls and their big brother really, and truly those roles were very much reversed because while they were the younger sisters, they're very much his protectors, you know? And so there is, there is a a bit of a dynamic where they are really the older, It's almost that they're the bigger siblings than he is. Even though he is, he looks like a 13 year old and they look like eight year olds. They really are the big kids in a lot of ways. And so that, that was, that was hard. It was hard for them and it was hard for us. We had to really grieve that.

Stephanie Landis (09:36):

Did you ever sit down and discuss any of the diagnoses with them?

Katie Higgins (09:40):

Yes, we did. Our school at the time was always incredible. Michael was in the PPCD program which is preschool programs for children with disabilities. And he was in there from the time he was three. And so he, he had a reputation at his school that everyone loves him. He was a great kid. And the school was amazing with him, amazing and really embraced autism and diversity and all that kind of good stuff. And so actually when the girls were kindergartners for light it up blue like for world autism awareness day, Michael actually went to their class. And because we've always been really open with Michael to that, you know, Hey Michael, you have autism, and this is just a part of you. And you know, recently it's become more difficult as he's realized that some of his struggles are, hey, he's made that connection now that his struggles are often due to autism. So that's been different, but when he was little, you know, we really just tried to make it like, this is, this is a part of you. Yes. But you're amazing and meant to be celebrated. And so we made, you know, autism awareness was a big deal in our house. We all wear blue, all that kind of stuff in the school did too. And Michael went to Mary and Maggie's kindergarten class and he, you know, I was with him and I, you know, they asked questions about autism and Mary and Maggie, you know, it was more like he was a little celebrity as opposed to a child with a disability who started talking about it from an early age. And then later as they started like first grade, when things, when they realized that their brother struggled and that he needed help sometimes, that's when they started asking questions. And we always answered them honestly, on their level, but honestly later it became more difficult. With Michael's epilepsy, for example, I'll never forget we had to cancel a play date because of a seizure. And they both came up to me and they said, mommy, we don't like Michael's epilepsy. We always have to change the plans. We, we want go see our friends and we can't. And we just had a really honest conversation and, you know, and I, I told them that day, I said, y'all, I hate epilepsy too. This and your brother does too. And so letting working really hard, always to be a safe and honest place for them to say this, this is not so fun to put it nicely. And because you know, they need to feel that too, you know, that, that, yeah, this, this isn't fair that, you know, you have to change a lot of your plans and your day around your brothers, your brothers diagnosis. And then now Michael's biggest stem is scripting and it is all the time. 24-7. We work really hard on it and work with his therapist to, you know, have scripting time and when it's appropriate and all that kind of good stuff, but the girls hate it. Sometimes I just laugh because I have to, but because I'll hear them and they'll be Michael, you have got to stop scripting. It is just so annoying. And I cannot listen to it anymore today. To them, he is just, they're annoying to nine-year-old brother. And whether it is scripting or whether it is, you know, whatever else nine-year-old boys do, you know? I don't know. Like they, it's just annoying and he, you know, oh, okay. Or he'll tell them sometimes no, I have to finish. And cause there'll be like a scene that he's, he's doing and he'll say, no, I have to finish. So yes. All that to answer your question that yes, we do talk to them about his diagnosis is, and also what he's working on in therapy and what he's struggling with and what he's doing well with, which they often can see, you know, they're really good at, I mean, just the other day, actually at at dinner he was doing really good with just going back and forth in conversation and asking them questions and responding and all that and staying on topic. And they were like, Michael, you've never done this before. This is awesome. So we try to really be honest and keep all of them in the loop with what's going on.

Meredith Krimmel (14:07):

You mentioned that it was like the play date example is really hard for the girls to have to change their plans, but have you seen jealousy towards Michael and the attention he gets with his services or needs?

Katie Higgins (14:19):

Yes, 100%. Actually this over the summer, we started specifically doing a little time called mommy Monday with Mary and Maggie, where they each had one hour with just me not, and not the both of them. It was Mary and mommy, Maggie and mommy because we actually married, Maggie are in therapy as well. They're in play therapy. They have a lot of anxiety, Michael eloped, a lot as a child, as a young child, he eloped a lot and they have a lot of anxiety from that. And as well as other things in our lives. And so in therapy, it came out that they have some resentment towards their brother and some very valid feelings that are very normal for siblings. And so one of the things we started after kind of learning about that was this mommy Monday, where it was just one-on-one time with them and me because Michael gets tons of one-on-one time with just me. And he always has, it was just what needed to happen. He often takes priority because he just has more needs. And and so that was something we did to start to try to meet them there and, and recognize, yeah, your brother needs a lot of help and that's not going to change, but here's something I can do. And we actually, we aren't doing it right now because of the school year. And just this weekend, my girls were like, mommy, I need some kind of mommy Monday. My girls are really into fairy gardens right now. And so we went and we got all these adorable little fairy garden things, and we came home and we had this old bird bath and we made this whole super fun, this adorable fairy garden all together, just the three of us and just something. So, I mean, at the end of the day, that's a 45 minutes, you know, and like we got to go shopping together and then do this activity. And so like, you know, I'm trying to now get it in where I can, even though we don't have that same Monday schedule with the summer, you know,

Stephanie Landis (16:22):

Did you notice a difference?

Katie Higgins (16:23):

Huge, absolutely huge. They had started acting out a lot of tantrums and attitude and things like that. And when we started the mommy Monday, it took them a little while they, for them to trust me that it was going to happen, you know, but it took a few Mondays of them. Oh, wow. She's really going to do this. You know, it really is. This is on her calendar, just the same way Michael's therapy is. And they, it really did it calmed there, there that those behaviors went away pretty quickly. I mean, there's still, there's still kids, so they're still there. Don't get me wrong. My kids are, they're still kids. They still have, they still have tantrums all the time, but the severity and the frequency did go down.

Stephanie Landis (17:08):

Yeah. So you work and you have three kids. How do you fit that into your schedule?

Katie Higgins (17:14):

Oh my gosh. Well, thankfully I work for myself and I have a business partner and she actually is also a special needs mom. And so I am never at a loss for like gratefulness that we understand that for each other, that like, this is just something that has to happen. We've gotta be able to, you know, yes, we'll get it. We've got responsibilities and we'll get our work done, all that kind of stuff. But we've gotta be able to meet these needs for our kids. And it's often not on a, just easy, perfect schedule. So I'm very thankful for that, that I have that flexibility and that understanding from my business partner,

Stephanie Landis (17:55):

Very intentional about carving out that time and blocking it into your schedule.

Katie Higgins (17:59):

I've gotten a lot better. I used to not be, it definitely was something that I realized over the years like, oh, dang it. If I don't make this really intentional, it is not going to happen because I'm tired. You know, like, like all of us, we're all exhausted. We're all living in a pandemic, but then man, you throw in special needs and it's like, we're all just keeping our heads above water, you know? And so I was not intentional at the beginning, but I've learned I have to be. And that, that took time.

Meredith Krimmel (18:28):

I imagine getting the girls, you know, some support outside of the homeless, super helpful as well, because these are big things. They're hard for adults to process. And then, you know, having little kids at home needing a way to express that.

Katie Higgins (18:39):

Oh my gosh. Yes. I, I, of course, you know, never going to tell anyone what to do, but I cannot say enough good things about how impactful it was to get my daughter's help to give them that support for them to be able to share about these things that they didn't, they didn't, and we have a pretty open relationship and my girls are pretty comfortable asking me a lot of questions and telling me when they're upset or, or even if Michael's making them upset, but they needed, they needed the support of a trusted therapist and they, they do play therapy. And it has been some of the things that they've been able now to articulate to me some of their fears that they have for their brother. Those were huge fears that they were carrying around as little, I mean, they just turned eight. And so for them to be able to be in a safe place and then be able to articulate those spheres and then share them with me as well was huge. And then we were able to talk about them and, and I'll just share this, this one, one of them was that they were worried that one day, if Michael maybe had some behaviors when he's older, if he would get arrested. And if what if a police man didn't understand what he was doing? Or what if Michael started scripting because he's scared and the policemen thought he was disrespecting them. I mean, those are, I was blown away when they shared that with me and my one daughter, Maggie, she had been carrying that around for at least a year and we were able to then talk and I was able to tell her how we did have one time where Michael called 9 1 1, cause he was curious and how the police officer was so understanding and how he pulled us aside and said, does your son have autism? You know, he was trained. He was compassionate. And so we were able to then have that conversation with Maggie and she was able to finally let go of that fear. And we wouldn't, I don't think we would have ever had that conversation or maybe we would have it would've just been way later that, because she, she was in that environment where she felt safe, that she could, and also she could process, you know? Cause it takes time to, like you said, it's hard for even adults to process these big things. Much less a seven-year-old.

Stephanie Landis (20:55):

Yeah. That's definitely an adult. I know many adults that have similar, similar fears. That's an adult fear for a loved one. That's that's heavy. But it's amazing that they've gotten to a place and you've recognized that, that they need the space to, to be able to say like, I'm frustrated about this, I'm jealous. I, and can hold space for their negative feelings. Sometimes even with neuro-typical siblings, you almost want to force like everybody loves their brother. Everybody loves her sister. No, you can't be mad at them. They're your brother, them like, say you love them. And so I can imagine that they, the temptation is there to try and force the positive feelings, but that would only kind of backfire and allowing to have space for the. Like yeah, this, this does suck for

Katie Higgins (21:46):

Yeah. Well that's what I was going to say. Yeah, this does suck. It's not, it is not fair. You know, and yeah,

Stephanie Landis (21:55):

Since you were in a unique spot, you have the twins and your son, do you notice that they have different relationship between each other and then with your brother? I mean, I know twins have their own unique relationship anyway,

Katie Higgins (22:08):

Right, um yes, for sure. I mean, for sure, my, my girls have a very close relationship, identical I'm learning, especially as they get older that, oh wow. Identical twin girls, that that's a whole other deal. But with their brother, it is, it is different. Definitely. they play with him so well they all three really. And truly they do get along really well. They can, I mean, they fight like cats and dogs, but like they, they really do get along. But yes, it is different. It's a different relationship, but I don't, I don't know if that's more of a twin thing or if that's more of an autism thing. So I don't know if I can speak to that exactly. As well as if they weren't twins

Meredith Krimmel (22:51):

Earlier, you mentioned that you guys are learning how to set some boundaries on being a parent or being a sibling. Have you guys, for the girls specifically, have you found anything that has worked? Are there ways that you're talking to the girls about it that have been beneficial or helpful that you could share with families who might be trying to do the same thing, helping them understand that they don't have to be responsible?

Katie Higgins (23:13):

Okay. So even just recently this happened Michael loves the show, Baby Boss. And he's been watching the show on Netflix and the scripting has gotten out of control and there's been a little, there's a couple of topics in it that we just thought were they're by no means inappropriate. Cause it is a kid show, but it was just maybe a storyline that we weren't thrilled with. Or maybe some, there was an attitude in there that we didn't, we didn't want our kids copying well was scripting at a time. And so we said, okay, okay, bud Boss Baby is off limits. Like you can watch the movies, but you cannot watch the show boss, baby. He was so mad. Well, the first thing out of Maggie's mouth was, and I love her for this, but it was also like my sweet girl. You're eight years old. Um she said, mommy, don't worry when we're at grandma's house or at lolly's house. So both grandparents, I will make sure that Michael does not watch Boss Baby. And I literally, my reaction to her was, oh my goodness, my sweet girl, I love you so much. And I love that. You want to help me? I said, but I will tell grandma. And I will tell lolly because you don't need to worry about that. You just worry about you and having fun. And so then we told both parents, both sets of grandparents, like, Hey, he's not allowed to watch boss baby. And then we also told them what and Maggie had said about they're going to watch out for him. And so then at their sleepover over the weekend, Maggie said, grandma, Michael cannot watch boss baby. And she said, honey, your mommy told me, and I will handle that. You don't need to. And so just really like open communication with everyone involved to help verbalize to the girls like, hey, we want you to just be eight years old. And you know, so I mean now is it perfect? No. Does she still tattle? Yes. But or at least trying to communicate it to her and we'll do both of them that you don't have to do this. You, you don't have to. But it's hard cause they, you know, at, at two years old he was eloping and they, I mean, there were times I'll never forget there's two or three that are burned into my head and you know, they did, they had to grow up. We had to do training when he was an ABA with them, for what to do when he eloped. If I had to go run into a parking lot and leave them in a store and they, they were trained for that. You know, we literally did training for them to handle that. And so they did, they had to grow up and they watched things they shouldn't have to watch. Michael had an aggressive phase. And so now we're kind of trying to adjust that. I mean, thank God every time it happened, there was always an adult around that would just come up to me. I'll never forget one lady. She was perfect stranger. And she came up to me and she said, look at me, you can trust me. I'm going to stay here with your girls. And I ran into the parking lot after Michael because he was gone. And so thankfully there was always someone around, but they, you know, they knew they, they had to go through a lot. So it's, we're, we're working on correcting that now and putting new, new things in place where they, at least we're trying to communicate to them that they don't have to be the mom.

Meredith Krimmel (26:36):

That's really tough though.

Katie Higgins (26:37):

It is hard. It is hard.

Meredith Krimmel (26:40):

Because they do worry I'm sure for him and want to help him it's that they necessarily feel obligated. They probably want to, but they're eight. They need to be eight. So that's quite a balance you're trying to strike there. Yes. Yeah. I don't, I don't want to go any more time without talking about the book that has come out You're a Superhero Too, right. Can you tell us a little bit about how that idea came and, and a little bit about the book?

Katie Higgins (27:10):

Sure. So my, a friend of mine, Brittany Blackburn is who wrote this book. And she reached out to, we knew each other. We'll each other from just moms just moms in the same neighborhood, same area. But we both had special needs kids or what, when my son Michael was diagnosed, she reached out to me and was a very big lifeline for me of Hey, been here. You know, I know what I'm doing, ask me all the questions. And she, so when she finished this book, she reached out to me and said, Hey, can I send you a copy? And when she told me all about it, I just was like, I was blown away because Brittany has a way, her heart is just so authentic. And she captured this sibling relationship, the good feelings and the tough feelings so well that I was just super excited to help out in any way I could. So as soon as so when she said, can I send you a copy? I said, oh my gosh. Yes. You know,

Stephanie Landis (28:24):

Have you read the book with your family?

Katie Higgins (28:25):

Yes. So this was really cool when it came in the mail you know, it says You're a Superhero Too. Well, I opened it and I, I said, Hey, y'all come look at this. And they glanced at it. And they said, oh, is that a book for mindful? Because they're so used to that kind of a conversation about Michael. And I said, girls know this books for you. And they both were like, wait, what? I mean that was literally, their reaction was like, this is a book about me? And so we, we immediately sat down and read it and oh man, it for a mom. It it, it, it hit me in my, I mean, my heart was just bursting the whole time reading it. Like I said, the way Brittany captured the, the, the amazing things, but the really tough things too, in a, in a way that Mary and Maggie could like process. It was incredible.

Stephanie Landis (29:21):

Yeah. It's a, it's a beautiful book. She did a really great job of capturing that, that dynamic. You've said that the kids kind of flipped roles and it seems like they're the older and he's the younger sibling. As they do get older, do you guys have any plans set in place of like what that might look like in the future?

Katie Higgins (29:46):

Yes. So actually this year we put them at different schools. My well, last year I homeschooled all three of them due to COVID. That was special. So, but what that did is it really also made it apparent how much the girls need their own space. So Michael is at a new school this year. That is, that is great for him by no means. Did we just move him for the heck of it? This kind of all just happened and it happened pretty perfectly. The right school came available for Michael. And so he is there and then Mary and Maggie are also at a new school this year. And it has been, it was really interesting. Mary and Maggie were really scared at first that they weren't going to be at school with Michael. Like, but mom, what are we going to do? What happens if something happens and we're not there. And, you know, we just talked to them about it and said, you know, his new school is, is a lot smaller and it's exactly what he needs. And, you know, he is going to be safe and taken care of, but you don't need to worry about that. You need to worry about your school. And each week as they've settled in, it has been the most amazing thing to see them blossom in their own environment that is theirs. It's not their brothers. Every teacher doesn't know their brother. They are not referred to as Michael's sisters. They are just Mary and Maggie. And I know that that's not something that every kid, every family could do, like be able to just put their kids at different schools or anything like that. But I think for us finding a way for Mary and Maggie to have something that was just theirs, I think going forward, especially as they continue to get older, looks like it's, we're on the right track because it's just already made such a difference in them in just about four weeks. So I imagine we'll continue with those kinds of things, having them do their own things in their own spaces.

Stephanie Landis (31:54):

Yeah. I've mentioned this before on the podcast, my brother-in-law has cerebral palsy and the keys that he just, when he was, he was two two weeks old, ended up getting like meningitis. So he's always lived with my in-laws and my husband, his, the middle child, but his always act like the older child and then a younger brother too, and watching the sibling dynamics as an in-law kind of the outside of it, but it's, it's always interesting to see your in-laws dynamics, but having added pieces of him living at home and even now from listening to their stories from childhood and now growing up into adulthood, that it's just, it's, it's an interesting dynamic. And there've been a lot of really wonderful things that I've watched my in-laws do to be very thoughtful and purposeful and trying to, you know, like keep that going. And then other things that like you just can't plan for in life, they just pop up and you have to go with them that are, that are tricky. His life continues to go on that they jumped new hurdles through each age gap that the kids hit everybody being in high school to then like the other siblings getting married and how suddenly there's other people. And then now we've both had kids and just the dynamics, they just keep twisting. And it's, it's, it's always interesting to watch and process how even my husband looks at things differently than my, than his younger brother. And I love that you, you hold space for them to be able to say, even at a young age, like, yeah, this isn't fair. This is frustrating. Without them feeling like they're saying something negative against the him, that they can objectively say, this situation is hard, but we still love him.

Katie Higgins (33:53):

Yes, yes. I, that, that was just really an accident. I don't know how we happen to do things that way. And I'm just really grateful that, that has been the way we've communicated it. Because yeah, that didn't that w I wouldn't have known how to do that. I just, gosh, her face, I remember I'll never forget their faces, you know? And it was like, how could I not agree with them that this was hard? You know? So yeah. We're, I'm, I'm think I've, as I've seen it play out over the past couple of years, I am very grateful that they know that they can express those feelings and that they, and that it is exactly, like you said, it's, it's separate. They, the situation is terrible sometimes, but their brother, they love their brother, you know? I mean, heck I have to look at it that way. I love my son, but there are days the autism, I don't love the autism, you know? So, I mean, I have to be objective about that too, you know,

Stephanie Landis (34:57):

And I think, and maybe I'm speaking for myself. I think every parent goes through that. My mom used to tell me, like, I love you, but I don't like you right now.

Katie Higgins (35:06):

Exactly. Like, I love you. But that choice you just made, not so good.

Stephanie Landis (35:11):

I don't like this specific situation.

Katie Higgins (35:13):

Exactly. Yes. I think I agree. I mean, yes. With Michael, with his autism, with Mary Maggie and their SAS. Yes. I would agree.

Stephanie Landis (35:21):

And I think that's great. I think that's a great piece of advice to all parents is to be able to separate those feelings of frustration within the moment or the season of life with their feelings of, of their children, or even feeling like you're a bad parent or something like you're having these frustrations.

Katie Higgins (35:39):

Oh, definitely. I, I, I have a lot of really good friends that are special needs moms too. And I know that that is a, that's a tough feeling that like, feeling like a bad quote unquote bad mom, because I am really frustrated with this situation, but the kid, I mean, my goodness, he's my heart, he's everything, you know, so

Stephanie Landis (35:59):

You've given such great open, honest responses and relatable feedback and the, you know, coming about some of this was accidental. I think that's so relatable that like most of what parents are going through is they're just like figuring it out one step

Katie Higgins (36:17):

One step, One minute at a time often. So yeah.

Stephanie Landis (36:24):

Yep. Yep. All right. Well look, the end of every podcast, we ask our guests the same question and we ask them, and if you had one piece of advice to give to other parents, caregivers, or like therapists, and it can be specifically on this topic, or it can be whatever you really want people to know about, or you had one piece of advice, what would you give?

Katie Higgins (36:43):

Trust your instinct as a parent, trust your instincts, especially if you're at the beginning of this newly diagnosed about to be diagnosed, in the evaluation progress process, trust your instincts. With Michael, I knew, I knew I knew the autism diagnosis. Wasn't the last piece. It wasn't, it just was always just something wasn't right. And then when we got the epilepsy diagnosis and the, all of the information that came with that, I, it was one of those moments like, okay, I fought for this. And because there's a lot more to that story, but I fought for it. You know, I didn't, I didn't stop. You know, I was led to question, you know, ask about neurologists and what else, what else, what else? Because I knew we were missing something, even though other people told me I was being naive. And so just trust your instincts and then use these, you said, therapists, those kinds of things be kind, you know, so kind with these moms and dads who are there, you know, and now I have been lucky I've I have had the greatest therapist and the greatest teachers, but my heart was so fragile for so long. It still is. And I'd say, so trust your instincts. And then just kindness goes a long way.

Stephanie Landis (38:08):

Yeah, that's great. Well, thank you so much for giving us your time.

Katie Higgins (38:13):

Oh my gosh. I'm honored. Thank you so much for asking me.

Meredith Krimmel (38:16):

Thanks so much.

Meredith Krimmel (38:21):

Thank you for listening to the Unbabel podcast. For more information on today's episode, please see our episode description for more information on the parish school, visit parish If you're not already, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on your app of choice. And if you like what you're hearing, be sure to leave a rating and review a special thank you to STIG Daniels, Amanda Arnold, and Stella LivWell for all their hard work behind the scenes. Thanks again for listening.