Just the way you are
Our son, Hayden, just turned five years old. I remember when we were thinking about having another child, I was a little overwhelmed by the thought at that time. Emma was about 3 1/2 years old then and I was consumed with all things autism. But deep in my heart there was no doubt that I really wanted Emma to have a brother. I wanted her to have someone to share her childhood with, and someone who could help her and be there for her.
I couldn’t help but think of the wonderful closeness my younger brother and I shared. Our childhood spent together is so precious to me and ended all too soon when he passed away at the age of 13. It’s hard not to think of your own childhood when you start a family. It left me always wanting someday for my own children to have such companionship in their lives.
The possibility that we could have another child with autism wasn’t really in my mind. I just wasn’t sure how much I would be able to give to another child.
But when Hayden was born, he brought a whole bunch of life and sunshine into our home. He is the happiest and most and fun-loving child I’ve ever known – such a sweetheart with the sweetest cherub cheeks that I could just pinch all day long.
And just like Emma, Hayden was also diagnosed with autism. It came when he was around 15 months old during which time he was quickly thrown into all the early interventions as soon as possible. And like Emma, I really didn’t see the earliest signs of autism that I could have seen in Hayden. Maybe some people might say “should have” . Maybe I just didn’t really want to. This is when things got really hard for me emotionally. Hayden’s diagnosis hit us hard.
Despite the kids both having this label we call autism, they could not be any more different. They always happily run around each other. They haven’t always appeared to be on the same page – when Hayden wanted Emma’s attention, she wasn’t giving it and vice versa. But the bond is natural and strong. Their closeness isn’t hard to see and it brings joy to my heart.
One day Hayden was in his room with the ABA therapist and not happy about it at that moment. Emma and I sat on the couch with the keyboard.
Me: “Do you think Hayden still needs therapy?”
and then she typed more..
Emma: I wish he talked more
I was caught off guard by this comment. She was expressing sincere worry and love for her little brother and this was the first time I had seen it this way. She was the big sister.
Me: “Do you think he will?”
Emma: I don’t know
Me: “Do you think he understands everything that we are saying to him?”
It was then that I realized something else. While all of this is going on with Emma, I have still been having a hard time thinking differently about Hayden. I’m still this confused, desperate and stressed out mom when it comes to him. Yet Emma believes in him. She knows that he understands!
What touches me most is knowing that she can relate to him. She can empathize and understand him. What a gift that is!. It’s helping me to have a whole new outlook on having two children with autism.
I asked her if she wanted to write a note to him on his birthday. She typed it out on the computer and did it with minimal assistance I might add.
You are fun and sweet just the way you are
Sometimes our kids teach us things when we aren’t expecting it. There’s such beauty in Emma’s unconditional respect, love and acceptance for her brother just the way he is. It reminds me that we should all be so lucky to have someone love us just as we are. My children are blessed indeed to have each other.