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What I Told My Son About His Big Brother's Autism


PB200076_1 My beautiful babies are about to turn 10 and 8. This brings me to a time of serious reflection. I’ve been watching the endless slideshow of photos on our computer, sobbing, remembering, loving, feeling grateful — all those emotions and more, at once.

It makes me remember our path towards an autism diagnosis for “Big Brudder.” You may or may not know that Big Brudder was born with a cleft lip and palate. We thought this would be our primary area of concern for him. For a long time it was. It still certainly occupies quite a bit of our parental thoughts and concerns, but little did we know, autism would become our main focus.

Big Brudder from very early on only liked to be held in a certain way. I would describe it as “snug.” He loved being swaddled and held firmly. He was always alert – looking around and sometimes through you it seemed. He progressed normally and hit his milestones on time, mostly. Except language. Here he was hyper verbal. He didn’t really babble much, perhaps because of the speech therapy he received for his cleft lip and palate. Or, it could be that we didn’t baby talk. He spoke in complete sentences and loved showing what he “knew,” which was a lot.

Beginning at his two-year checkup, I asked every year about autism. He was a toe-walker, he had a compulsion about lining up his toys a certain way, he would get lost in his own little world for hours at a time and not hear us, his food aversions were severe and the meltdowns… they could last for days. I was told every year, “He’s too social.” They didn’t see him at home. Yes, he interacted with us, but it wasn’t reciprocal. Until we had the “Wee One.”

The other day, the Wee One was in the midst of a rough patch. We talked through it, and then I told him this: “You know how Big Brudder sometimes (OK, a lot of times) seems lost in his own thoughts? Well, when he was almost 2 and you weren’t quite born yet, it was much more severe. We could call his name, we could talk to him and it was as if he couldn’t hear us. All of that changed when you came in to the world. Suddenly, Big Brudder was connected to someone in a way we hadn’t seen yet. He loved you more than he loved anyone before. I tell you this not to give you a burden but a gift. That is how much you are loved.”

The Wee One had tears rolling down his cherubic cheeks. I said, “Baby, what’s wrong?” The Wee One replied, “They are tears of joy. I want to tell this story to Big Brudder.”  To him I said, “Baby, this story is for you to hold in your heart. Hold it close now and always. Remember it when Big Brudder doesn’t seem to be listening. You are his best friend, forever.”

Happy Almost-Birthday, my loves.

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This post originally appeared on Autism in Our House.

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