By Christine Denise
Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments
One of my favorite parts of the day is saying goodnight to my neurotypical children.
When all is quiet, and the glow of their night lights fill their room, I lay with them and have some precious one-on-one time with each of them.
They are twin 11-year-old boys, on the edge of turning 12 as I write this blog.
They often use the time to have private conversations with me. Sometimes it’s about school, their friends or the latest toy or game they want to get.
Sometimes, it gets deep.
Last night was one of those nights.
My son, who still snuggles with a blankie, randomly asked me, “Have you ever wondered how different our lives would be if Louie didn’t have autism?”
I said what came to my mind.
“Yes, I do wonder that.”
I invited my son to tell me more about how different he thought our lives would be if his little brother was like all of his friends’ little brothers.
“I’d have someone else to play soccer with and baseball and everything else,” he told me. “And we would be going to so many basketball games and soccer games and practices for him.”
“How do you know if he would want to do those things?” I asked him.
“Because we’re all athletic in this family,” he said.
“But there’s no way to know that he would be, too,” I told him.
I also reminded him that his little brother is athletic, just not in the usual ways.
He loves to go swimming, even though he’s not swimming to win a race.
And he loves to run and jump on trampolines longer than anyone, including his older brothers.
He smiled as he thought about his little brother’s atypical athletic prowess in those areas.
“He is the toughest kid I know,” he told me. “And he gets all the girls.”
The question of: What if my child didn’t have autism? is a natural one to have, especially when you’re surrounded by children who don’t.
No Easy Answers
For me, it has been important to answer that question with a look at what our son has brought into our lives because he has autism – not just its challenges.
Because my son has autism, I have seen my other children and my husband rise to the occasion in ways I never could have imagined.
Because my son has autism, I have seen him experience true joy and happiness out of some of life’s simplest things, like the sparkling of Christmas lights, a car wash or his favorite song turned up loud in our living room so he can feel our speakers vibrate.
And because my son has autism, our lives are different than we imagined them.
It was late in the night, so I decided to pick up the conversation the next day so my other son could participate.
“Your brother asked me last night if I ever wondered what our lives would be like if your little brother didn’t have autism, do you wonder about it too?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, looking annoyed that I would even ask him such a question.
“Why not?” I asked. “It’s completely OK if you do.”
“No mom, I don’t think about it because what’s the point? It’s not going to change anything. He is who he is,” he told me.
“And we love him for it,” I said.
“Exactly,” he said. “I mean, he could hate us.”
United in Love
In his limited 11-year-old vocabulary, it was a profound statement, because the unconditional love our son with autism shows all of us is incredible.
My twin boys are struggling with their relationship as brothers, and the love they have for each other, arguing and fighting frequently.
They often feel like the other hates them, and they sometimes say they hate each other.
But when it comes to Louie, they are united in love for him and he for them. All of their differences are immediately dwarfed and put to the side when it comes to them working together to care for Louie.
Louie’s only bursts of frustration toward his older brothers come when they tickle him too much.
And they understand any aggression he shows them is because he is seeking their attention, not rejection.
He absolutely idolizes his older brothers, and they love him more than words.
It’s not like that for their friends who have little brothers without autism.
Their relationships are more like the relationship the twins have with each other – arguing, wrestling and complaining to their parents when they feel or get hurt by each other.
What my older boys have come to realize from this very open and honest discussion is how fortunate they are to experience true love from their little brother, whose feelings they never hurt, and who has never hurt theirs.
What they have instead is a special relationship with their little brother.
It’s one that no one else they know can say they have – even if they sometimes wonder what if it wasn’t.
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.