When I’m browsing on line, I see a lot of great stories about how some siblings of children with Autism help to advocate with their peers for more understanding or help their siblings cope…
Well, but R is 3, despite any of his illusions to the contrary, and it’s going to be a good long while before he’s doing a lot of those things. He’s not “aware” in an informational sense that the Monster has Autism – we’ve not yet figured out how to have that discussion with him on a level that we think he’d understand – but we do realize that he has to understand that there’s something different about his brother when compared to other children.
But then there’s his own way of helping other children with Autism.
Like most threenagers, R can be extremely bossy. If you do his bedtime routine incorrectly, he’s going to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. I have never had a backseat driver as bad as R, who has at times demanded that I take a very specific route home because “Mommy goes that way” (even though Mommy told me after we got home that she always goes the way I was going to go). And in most cases, I worry about how this is going to affect him in the next few years unless he learns to take it down a few notches, as his playmates get tired of dealing with the bossiness. (Or maybe I’ve just not yet been around enough bossy-at-the-same-time threenagers…)
But unlike a lot of kids, stimming and other behaviors associated with Autism don’t throw him. He’s used to the Monster stimming in the living room, or engaging in parallel play, and that’s perfectly ‘normal’ to him – being the younger brother, it’s all he’s ever known. He’s made an art form out of figuring out how he can play ‘around’ the Monster, how he can incorporate himself into the Monster’s games, and so doing, he’s turned it almost into playing with the Monster instead of beside him. There are a lot of evenings, for instance, that the two of them just go racing randomly around the house (usually up to the Monster’s room where the crash pad is) giggling and having a good time.
This comes in useful, though, outside of the house.
Last week, the wife took R over to a classmate’s house for a playdate. Said classmate was recently diagnosed with Autism, and my understanding is that he apparently exhibits a lot of the stereotypical behaviors, which has led to issues in the past on other playdates. (We see it when kids meet the Monster too – they don’t quite know what to make of the fact that he doesn’t engage in conversation the same way, or engage with them, and the stimming throws them off.) But to R, it’s just the same as when he’s with the Monster, and apparently he had a grand old time with his classmate (even if he was apparently his usual bossy self). He doesn’t get flustered about stimming or being ignored, or the lack of conversation, and he’s more than happy to guide interactions to get “play” going.
It’s definitely good for R to get out and play with friends, and it’s definitely good for the classmate to have a semi-appropriate behavioral model to follow and a good amount of social engagement…
I know at some point, this stage is going to end, that R’s going to get old enough to understand and may well not want to play social-model or spend his time with non-NT children. But for now, it’s very sweet and good that he’s helpful, just being himself.
Sorry for being quiet for a few weeks – I’ve been wrapped up in work as we come up on the holiday shopping season and with High Holydays. Posting’ll be a little bit uneven for a few more weeks as my curling season’s getting into full swing, and I’ll try to get myself into a good rhythm again with updates, I promise. 😉