Lynn Browder , I am not the parent of a autistic child…but…I am a sibling to a autistic brother. Being a sibling is, far and away, vastly different from being a parent…but…when your sibling is autistic…you sometimes find yourself having to ‘parent’ them…which can be a strange dynamic…especially when your autistic brother is two years older than you are! I had ‘grown-up’ responsibilities at a very young age. Sometimes it was scary and stressful because I would be left ‘in charge’ of taking care of, and watching over, my brother while my parents went out (grocery shopping etc.) My mother never took my brother out to crowded public places and if he couldn’t go I couldn’t go either. My brother is severely autistic and non-verbal so I understand ~to some extent~ why she did things the way she did. It was difficult to take my brother anywhere where there was lots of people…he was prone to have temper tantrums…really bad tantrums…the likes of which made a Mnt. Saint Helens eruption seem like a cozy campfire by comparison. So I truly did, and still do, understand my mother’s perspective and fears when it comes to her autistic son’s/my brother’s needs and well being. Most people cannot, and some simply will not, try to understand…what it is like to love and care for a family member that is autistic. They will never know the sacrifices that must be made or the strength it takes to get through each day. They will never know how having a loved one in your life that cannot communicate with you makes you work harder to try to understand their perspective and in doing so it opens your mind to new ways of thinking and seeing things. They will never know the high and lows of being bonded to someone who will never say “I love you” back to you when you say it to them…but yet you learn to be okay with that because deep down they don’t have to say it back for you to feel it.
One of my brothers favorite things to do when he was young was to sit on the lawn and pick individual blades of grass. I would sit beside him sometimes and talk to him about all kinds of things. It was calm and peaceful. Sometimes I would just sit with him quietly and imagine how he was observing the world. It was during one of those quiet moments that I noticed how he would take each blade of grass and dissect it…he would slowly peel the grass apart strip by strip…one impossibly slender piece after another…until -poof- it was no more…and then he would snap off another fresh blade of grass and do it all over again…and again…and again. How many people know that a blade of grass can be peeled into so many green strips? That a tiny blade of grass is more than it appears to be at first glance. So many things in life are just like that blade of grass.
I enjoy reading your writings about your beloved child. I find some of your experiences and situations familiar to me but also understandably distinctive . Autism is a wide and varied spectrum…so there will always be similarities and variables.
I wanted you to know that I appreciate you writing about you and your child’s experiences. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy and hectic days to let us, the readers, share in your triumphs and struggles…and in doing so…reaching out to those who may not ‘get’ what autism is all about but will now have a first hand opportunity to learn.