Maybe He’s Just Three

R doesn’t get a lot of entries here, if only because most of the time, I’m dealing with the Monster’s own behaviors, challenges and successes.  But… there are times where R needs to be talked about, as the younger brother of a child with Autism.

Because sometimes, you just can’t tell if he is just the sibling of a child with Autism, or if there’s a reason we should be worried.

KidsAtSesamePlaceR goes to a summer camp at the JCC, and they post pictures on a daily basis for us to enjoy.  As followers of my Twitter feed are well aware, I occasionally have (more than) a little fun with the situation we’re in…

#youmightbeanautismparent if you look at a pic of your NT child from camp and appraise his fine-motor skills, not if he’s having fun…

Which is very true at that moment – he was stringing Cheerios onto a string at camp, and I was just tickled that he looked so intent, but was doing it very well from appearances.  It’s a skill that we worked a lot with the Monster to get him to handle.  That he was having fun while doing so, with his friends at camp?  Secondary importance to me at that moment.

On the other hand, being the parents of a child with Autism also means that we second-guess ourselves a lot when it comes to how R is developing, given our experience with the Monster as our first child.  Is R showing too much rigidity in schedules?  Is he developing obsessions at a level that’s not normal for children of his own age?  Is he running on his toes, or flapping?  And how can you tell if he’s not just imitating his big brother?!

Seriously.  It drives you mad after a while.

We’ve already once done the intake dance with Infants and Toddlers for him, when we were concerned at 18 months that he was seemingly delayed in his speech.  (The team, most of whom had seen the Monster, were quick to reassure us that he was fine, but just needing more interaction, because it was normal for a second child to be slightly delayed, but that he clearly was using and consuming language appropriately for his age.)  And at three and a half, he’s quite loquacious – he can talk for hours about his day, about what he saw along the way, about who his friends are and what he’s going to be doing next week.  This is coupled with my swiss-cheese memory, so he’ll see something, and three minutes later have forgotten details about it.

Or on the flip-side, there are times where his narrative tone goes off into very literal use of language and analysis of the situation.  I make a joke about him riding in the trunk of my car to take him out for ‘recycling’?  I get a pseudo-literal interpretation of the fact that children should ride in a car seat with a seat belt, and that kids don’t get recycled.  (Okay, so that’s the point where the line between ‘three year old’ and ‘teenager’ gets blurred into ‘threenager’… but I digress.)

On the other hand, there are clear moments where he’s doing things only because the Monster does them.  He acts like he has sensory issues, just so he can wear the Monster’s headphones.  He likes to shriek and the like because he hears the Monster doing it (though… most three year olds shriek a lot anyway).  He resists eating at times until we bribe him with M&Ms, since he sees the Monster getting them for his “food friends”…

To be clear, if it’s not been through this whole post – we’re fairly sure that R is neurotypical.  Every screening he’s had says he is.  But there’s always going to be that freaking-out point in the back of our heads.  It’s on a very regular basis for us where we’re questioning if we’re missing something, and I think that it’s absolutely normal for parents in our boat, more so when we spend so much time emphasizing that each child is “normal” for themselves.  (The whole “there’s no such thing as normal” crossed with “if you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism”.)

On the other hand, I could really use a bit of an emotional break from having to be so vigilant so often that my mental alarms are constantly going off…

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