Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Just Different

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Just Different

Article excerpt

Justin comes barreling out of the house onto our patio with sitter in tow, and I turn in time to see Zach follow his unerring path toward the pretzels, then watch him swivel back to his friend. "That's my big brother Justin" he says. He continues with "He has autism. His brain isn't broken, it's just different." Zach's buddy shrugs in response, and the two boys head back to the pool and are soon in deep negotiations regarding our array of "super-soakers".

I look around me, but all the adults are deeply engrossed in conversation. No one has witnessed the fact that my six-year-old has just described his sibling as simply "different," not "wrong".

It's a quiet victory, but I'll take it.

We've worked hard in this house to explain the disorder to Zach, to demystify Justin's obsession with the same three sentences on a DVD, his utterances of "eeeeee" when he's excited, his ritualistic adherence to routine. Zach has been pretty receptive to all of it, I think in part because he is the younger child, and living with a sibling with autism is all he's ever known. We have him in an autism sibling group at Justin's school, and I bring up concepts like tolerance and acceptance whenever possible (these dialogues take place mostly in the car, which is where most of our deepest conversations seem to take place these days).

He will occasionally say he wishes Justin would play with him, which of course breaks my heart, and then I remind myself he has two 40-something playthings who bend over backwards to accommodate his every creative need, and I feel better. …

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