May 27, 2011

The Talk

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 9:37 am by autismmommytherapist

This past weekend, Zachary and I had part one of “the talk”. Not the  “Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy/dinosaurs are pretend but alive in your heart” talk, nor the extended version of where babies come from (he is only four after all). No, this past weekend, in the midst of projective vomiting from my eldest that would have put Linda Blair to shame, my son asked a question. “Mommy, what makes autism?”  I quickly put down what would be my fourth of seven loads of laundry that day, and in my head I replied, “well honey, you and a few million people worldwide would like to know”. With my mouth, I actually answered, “we don’t know exactly sweetie, but autism is why Justin says “eeeeee”. He regarded me intently for a moment, and I waited for the usual barrage of follow-up questions that usually stem from even his simplest query.

Then he asked for more pretzels.

I had a feeling this question would surface soon, as we had recently spent several hours at Lakewood BlueClaws stadium for POAC’s (Parents of Autistic Children) first 2011 walk-a-thon. I’d told him we were attending the event to help people with autism, and that we were specifically walking for Justin, who has it. I waited to see if he would pursue the issue further, and he didn’t. I’ve decided this is one area of his childhood, to a point, in which I’ll let him lead me, divulge as much as is necessary to quiet the questions and concerns in his mind, rather than barrage him with more information than he can handle. So far he seems to take it all in stride, both the knowledge that his sibling is on the spectrum, and the realities Justin’s diagnosis confers upon his life too.

Since Zach’s the youngest, he’s only ever known Justin this way, is used to a brother who doesn’t play with him in a traditional sense, yet interacts with him all the same. To my everlasting relief, they’ve managed to forge their own bond. Justin shares his coveted DVDs with Zach (as long as he doesn’t get too close to the player, that is), and tolerates his brother’s myriad attempts to “borrow” the toys he’s playing with (the fact that Justin is almost twice his sibling’s weight phases him not one bit). For my youngest’s part, despite the fact that Justin doesn’t respond to him in words, Zach insists on imparting every triumph and tragedy in his little life to his big brother, and comments frequently on Justin’s actions to him. Recently, for the first time ever, Justin withdrew his artwork from his backpack after school, proudly displayed it to me, and physically prompted me to place it on the refrigerator. He did so with Zach’s running commentary of his technique accompanying his request, my eldest beaming at the praise he received, my youngest impressed at the size and “realness” of Justin’s leprechaun.

Let’s just say, in this house, it was a total Hallmark moment.

I am certain someday we’ll explore all the “what’s” and “whys” of Justin’s brand of autism further with Zach, and I also know that at some point we’ll have to conduct part two of the dialogue. Someday, my husband and I will need to share with Zach that he has autism too, and I trust we’ll handle it with grace. Somehow we’ll have to find the words to explain to him that the disorder he and his brother share possess the same name, yet manifested in a completely different manner. Hopefully, Jeff and I will convey to him that his autism may be the wellspring of his phenomenal memory, or his burgeoning ability to read at a tender age. We will, in good conscience, also be required to explain to him that it is probably the cause of his anxieties, and the difficulties he has attending to tasks. As with much in life, there is yin, and there is yang. I hope it comforts him to comprehend the inherent nature of both his complexities, and his gifts.

I’m not sure there’s a right way or a wrong way to have this talk. But there is one thing, as we go down this road together, of which I am completely certain. Zach will know, and he always will, that we accept him and his brother for who they are. Both of my sons will find security in the solace that they are deeply, adoringly, loved. And I’m convinced, after having been on this autism journey for almost a decade now, that because of these irrefutable truths, half the battle has already been won.


  1. Mary said,

    Many of us have been blessed with that terrific sibling who serves as such a wonderful example for their siblings. I too am thankful for my son’s sister who is so encouraging one minute & so typically his sister in the next as they wrestle for the most coveted toy of the day.
    She has often been able to get her brother to try foods he never trusted coming from “the adults” and is often one of his most enthusiastic supporters & defenders. It pleases me that while living with Autism we still have been able to instill such depth in our “typical” child but it also bolsters my hopes that she will not feel burdened should she become responsible for her brother’s care in the hopefully very distant future.

  2. Misifusa said,

    Oh Kim, this one made me cry. You are an inspiration. xo

  3. Mom said,

    Well said daughter. And I know that Justin and Zach will always know that they are loved for who they are and who they will become. That’s one of the many things that is so beautiful about your parenting. Love you.

  4. Kathy said,

    You are an amazing mother, Kim!

  5. Shivon said,

    Kim this is amazing, you are just wonderful 🙂

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