By Nathalie Lizé
When autism first came into my life, my son was 4 years old and I had 2 other children; a 7 year old daughter and an 8 month old baby. This diagnosis hit me very hard. I could tell my son was different. But autistic …
I didn’t know much about autism and the little I knew about was kind of scary.
From diagnosis to diagnosis, I had never imagined autism. Language disorder, comprehension disorder, hypotonia and so on. Finally, at age four my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
To help allay my fears and to better understand, I read pretty much everything It was possible to read. I asked questions, I knocked on a lot of doors. I turned to two essential resources that were comforting and helpful; Autism Montreal and Quebec Federation of Autism.
For residents of canada, there is autism canada that could provide you with a lot of information.
You can Also count on autism speaks and its section for Canada; autism speaks Canada to answer all your questions.
My son worked very hard in his childhood and teenage years with physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. I am really grateful to all these professionnels that my son has worked with. They really helped him to develop and progress.
Having a child with special needs also brings changes at work. When you have to choose between your child’s needs and your work, the choice is simple. So I quit my full-time job to take a part-time one because, of course, he had to be accompanied to all these appointments.
What about my other children?
They too will have to live with this new reality. It’s not easy to be the big sister or the little brother of a child who mobilizes all the energy in the house. When it is not the repetitive crying, it is the appointments or the tired and worried parents. It takes a lot of place a brother with spécial needs.
The big sister
My daughter was incredibly patient with her little brother. How many times did he throw toys at her and pull her hair because she had the misfortune of being too close to him or his toys. Always, she remained gentle with him and continued to help him. She was the only one who understood the incomprehensible language of my autistic son. She was the only one who managed to stop the crying of this inconsolable little boy. We put him near her and, miraculously, he stopped crying.
The little brother
It is not easy to grow up with a brother with whom it is impossible to play. Whereas in a typical family, the big brother teaches a lot of things to his little brother, in our house it is the youngest who taught his big brother to tie his shoes. It is the little one who watched over the big one in the park. He too was mistreated at times and had to negotiate with his brother’s anger. Despite everything, my 2 boys had a language of their own. They understood each other.
The other little brother
Then, a few years later as I could not resign myself to no longer give birth, another boy arrived. He came at a time when our autistic son was doing really well. So, for this fourth child, he was a playmate. He had grown up and made good progress so he finally was a big brother. They played together, read stories and this time, It was his turn to teach the little one to tie his shoes.
What they become?
My son is now 21, he does a lot of things that we could not even imagine when he was little. We are very lucky. He takes public transport independently and can stay home alone for short periods. He even has a part-time job in a grocery store. He met in his young adult life, extraordinary people at Autisme sans limites. With them, he learns a lot of things, he socializes, he has fun but above all, he feels accepted and respected. Check out what they do, they are amazing!
Today, all these little humans have grown up. They became tolerant and open minded young adults. They look at marginalized people with an understanding gaze. My youngest child, who is in elementary school, never hesitates to play with the kids that are alone and isolated in the yard. He does not care much about what other people think of his friendship choices. He understood rapidly in his young life that some children are just victims of their differences and deserve to be known.
Of course, having a different brother when you’re neurotypical isn’t always easy. You often come second and you grow up a little faster than the others. You are the understanding big sister, the big brother of your big brother, you have a playmate much older than you. However, you learn great lessons in life. You meet people that others prefer to ignore. You understand the human being in all his beauty.
And now …
Today my children have a great relationship. They have conflicts like all siblings of course. However, they help each other and look out for one another. I will never really understand what they are feeling. After all, their reality is not exactly mine. On the other hand, I know that my children will always be there for each other. That they will watch over their brother when we can no longer do so. That’s all I need to know and it’s pretty reassuring.
Happy National Autism Awareness Month
Talk to you soon
Educator and family coach