Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Finding a Connection: Hayden's Third Grade Teacher Told Me That Now He Openly Talks about His Brother and Autism Quite Frequently. It Warms My Heart to See His Best Friend, Jake, Be Supportive of Broden

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Finding a Connection: Hayden's Third Grade Teacher Told Me That Now He Openly Talks about His Brother and Autism Quite Frequently. It Warms My Heart to See His Best Friend, Jake, Be Supportive of Broden

Article excerpt

Hayden's relationship with his brother Broden, who has autism, has evolved over the years. When Hayden was in kindergarten, he started to spend more time with friends on the weekends and after school. It seemed that all of his friends had younger siblings around Broden's age. Hayden would come home and tell me stories about his friend's sister running into the room and wanting to play with them or a friend's younger brother crying because they felt left out while they played ball in the backyard.

A series of these play dates led to discussions as to why Broden was different than his friend's siblings. Hayden started to ask questions. "Why doesn't Broden play with me or talk to me?" The first time I heard him ask a question pertaining to Broden's autism made Broden's disability seem even more real to me. Mark and I were not the only ones living with autism. Hayden was too.

After talking with Hayden about Broden and telling him that his brother's autism was not going away like the flu, Hayden grew bitter. He didn't understand why we had to keep Broden. Hayden thought he could just get another brother, or I could just get pregnant again and give him another sibling in the hopes of creating a "new normal" for our family. As a mother, this was the hardest to hear.

After much thought, I couldn't be mad at my son for being bitter because I had to allow him to process what I was telling him. It seemed that he was experiencing the loss of a typical brother, just as I was suffering the loss of a typical son when we received Broden's diagnosis. Mark and I needed to work with him through his grief and to give him opportunities to connect with Broden.

One of the feelings that Hayden felt was a sense of helplessness and disconnect from his brother. Hayden would say, "Broden doesn't even care if we are around." I knew from that moment, I was not doing a good enough job in helping them connect. Eventually, Mark and I started to talk to Hayden more about Broden and autism. It seemed that at one point, we were talking about autism every day. The more we talked about it, Hayden grew more comfortable and would ask questions to help understand his brother.

This year, I was playing Hayden's favorite song in the car, "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC. I was giggling at the stop light as I was watching Hayden in my review mirror rock out to the song. …

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