The Other Three Kids

No pull
their hands are full
I don’t want to be a brat
but we need more than clothing on our backs
That’s just how life is
When you’re the other three kids

The lines above are from a rock musical called Day After Day by Steven Allen, playing in the New Jersey area now but perhaps coming to a community theatre near you soon. You can get a flavor of the music here. Brings tears to our eyes–to research the emotions and challenges, this guy interviewed real families with autism. He’s nailed it.

But the sentiment is true. A family member with a pervasive condition such as autism often sucks up the spare energy and attention of the available parents. Particularly when the autistic child is second or third in line, this impacts the existing children pretty hard. “The other three kids” are relegated to afterthoughts, perhaps at a vulnerable time in their lives, when parents would normally be closely supervising where they go, who they’re with. After dealing with the complications of their one child’s day, many parents may just be glad their other children don’t have special diets and TSS to juggle. They’re left on their own.

I’m not less guilty of this than anyone else. My daughter K was in junior high school when we received our double whammy diagnoses on the children. We couldn’t pick her up from activities because we had to be at OT or speech, or had to be home for the TSS to come; she had to find her own ride if she wanted to participate. We delayed family trips because we weren’t sure the children could handle things. We expected her to babysit often when we simply had to get a break.

Did it change the course of our lives, K and me? Most teenagers begin to separate from their parents at that age, keep things private, spend more time with their friends. Inspired by her drama teacher, she was an above average student who became the school’s stage manager her junior year, responsible for both school performances and rentals. She fell in love. She wrote a senior project about autism–nearly an expert by then. She carried a college class each of her two senior semesters. She can change the oil or a tire in her car, install a dishwasher, rewire the fuse box…

But she did this with minimal attention from me. Clothing on her back, sure. What she needed? Yes. Maybe not everything she would have wanted. Damage control on the little ones took precedence.

The story is the same with my grown daughters, my grandchildren. If I didn’t have these children with issues, I’d be a very different Nana. I’d actually remember birthdays on time, and have the ability to travel to visit them in their far-flung homes.

What’s the answer? I don’t know. Third parties can be a blessing–like K’s drama teacher. Grandparents, especially those too freaked out by the children with autism, can spend their attention on the others. Extended family, friends, churches could play a part.

We tend to isolate ourselves, we parents of autism, feeling overwhelmed and not wanting to deal with one more thing. But we need to remember…the Other Three Kids.


If you’d like to buy a CD of the Day After Day show, ($20 includes shipping), go to: or email


13 thoughts on “The Other Three Kids

  1. I can only imagine. I can’t imagine having more than one “typical” child, much less having a special needs child(ren) plus siblings. I think it would be incredibly difficult. Although we kind of only wanted one anyway, we made a conscious decision not to have any more after we had C – we just didn’t think we could handle any more than what we were handling. And some days, of course, we don’t even feel like we’re handling that! 😉 Lovely post, as usual.


  2. Alex has called himself The Other Son for as long as I can remember; in his high school application essay, I think he wrote something about “escaping autism only by a genetic luck-of-the-draw.” The first time I read it, it brought tears to my eyes.

    Our special-needs kids need so much time and attention that we often forget that our other just-as-special kids need as much, if not a little more, sometimes. While Alphonse is oblivious (most of the time) to taunts and jeers, it is Alex who carries this to heart and who remembers.

    I remember a conversation I had with him years ago, when we lost our last baby to a miscarriage. He was only ten, I think, and said that maybe God meant it to be that way so my attention would not be divided. “Oh, no, son,” I replied, “love is never divided; it is always multiplied.” He replied, “I wasn’t talking about love, Mom. I meant time and attention.”

  3. I know my boys (4 total) have similar feelings even though they may not express them outright. Your blog –poetry and other — comforted me, as well as your comment. I think we are all so indivdual and have our own special differences, but in our collective world today, when your child needs extra help, understanding, or just a bit of your time, it’s necessary. I try to divide the time as best I can. One doc told me 20 minutes per child everyday without fail, doing whatever they want to do with them would be more than they could ask for in the long run –and it seemed insulting, 20 minutes — but he was right. A year and a half later (and with a possible double whammy coming up on two of my other sons) it is working and the boys know that I am “with” them every moment. I hope that made sense. Private thought: Now that two of my other boys may have issues, I worry that I didn’t notice signs along the way, but these ambiguous behaviors are not easily seen in the beginning…

    (You can delete this long comment, but I felt touched by your time, attention and words).


  4. I was just sorta mentioning that to my hubby. I’ve been so wrapped up lately in my recovery from the hysterectomy and keeping track of Matt that the other three have falled to the backburner and I hate it! I had a good system for us to all get 1:1 time in with the kids and it has fallen to the wayside. We are working on picking it back up because it is soooo important!!

  5. I’m Steven Allen’s manager. Steven is the writer/director of “Day After Day” about autism. We are just thrilled that his songs are causing parents and others to talk about their experiences with others. We hope you all like the music and we want to thank Babs who started this blog. We want to raise as much hope and awareness with this show as possible. We hope one day you will all be able to see it in your area. Thank you again!!!

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