Monday, July 25, 2011

Siblings and Autism: Reconciling Their Needs

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- I do a lot of thinking about what having an autistic brother means to my other two sons. For the most part, now that they are all between the ages of 6 and 9, they are siblings just like any others—sometimes they are best friends and sometimes they act like they want to kill each other. Yet, I know that the coming years will bring extra challenges to their relationship.

A couple of years ago, I visited my home town. While telling some of my old high school friends about Jack, my son with autism, one of them said, "You know I have a brother with autism, right?" I thought about it and I remembered him. I hadn't ever interacted with him much, but he was definitely different than the rest of us. I'd never known he was autistic, but after she said that, it made complete sense.

I asked her how it was to grow up with an autistic brother. I think I was hoping that she would tell me that he had brought extra meaning to her life, that he had taught her to appreciate differences or that she had learned something important from him.

She thought about it for a minute and then she told me that it was hard. That sometimes it was embarrassing.

It was tough to hear that, but it was honest.

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