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I quarreled with my sister with developmental disorders

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a 16-year-old schoolgirl. I had a quarrel with my elder sister, who has developmental disorders, and I have no idea how to mend our relationship.

My sister can’t refrain from saying what’s in her mind. She frequently and noticeably jiggles her legs. I’ve asked her many times to stop doing these things, but she won’t listen to me.

She isn’t careful with her clothes or appearance and doesn’t want to interact with people. She doesn’t go out other than going to work. When my mother and I persuade her to go out with us, she soon throws a tantrum and says, “I want to go home now.” Last year, she was diagnosed as suffering from Asperger syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

She does household chores for our family, such as cooking meals, washing clothes and making a bento lunch for me. Despite her contribution to our family, I expressed my honest but thoughtless opinion to her: “My friends’ older sisters are careful with their clothes or appearance. Why don’t you do that?”

My sister was deeply hurt and said, “I’ll never talk with you.” I apologized, but then she said: “Our good relationship was ruined. It can’t be restored.”

I don’t want that to happen. I want to accept her disorders and have a good time with her again.

N, Hiroshima Prefecture

Dear Ms. N:

It must be painful for you that your relationship with your sister has soured. You should first understand that she feels her relationship with you can’t be restored and have the leeway to convey your feelings to her slowly without forcing her to accept them.

She can’t refrain from saying what’s in her mind and can’t stop jiggling her legs despite making efforts. These behaviors may be caused by her disorders. She isn’t interested in wearing fashionable clothes and it’s hard for her to go out. She is probably more sensitive to loud sounds and smells than other people.

Despite having these problems, she goes to work. That’s great. She also does all the household chores for her family. She’s probably suited to do these things.

I suggest you respect what she can do and talk to her with positive words, not negative ones. Also, tell her you are grateful by, for example, referring to the specific things she does for you.

Dealing with your sister is probably tiring. Join hands with your mother and find another adult whom you can depend on and ask for advice.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from April 20, 2016, issue)Speech

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