Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Tears of Joy

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Tears of Joy

Article excerpt

"Mommy, tell me a story, " my seven year old with mild autism entreats me, and in the rearview mirror I see him gift me with that grin I know so well. "Ok, who will be in it?," I reply a bit tiredly, but I'm game as he hasn't asked me to recount one to him in a while, and I'm loathe to relinquish our mutual passion for tale-telling.

"Me, Justin, and monsters," he answers, and for some reason my mind wanders to a story I'd just told him where he vanquished the Loch Ness Monster, ultimately taming her and using the beast to fight the Dark Side.

I soon weave him a story in which his older brother with severe autism is stranded on a raft in Nessie's lake, is terrified of being capsized by the broad arc of the serpent's tale. At the end I tell him how grateful Justin is to him for saving his life. I also share with him how, although his big brother can't speak out loud in the story, he talks to Zach in his heart.

I tell my son his brother says, "I love you Zach, you are the best little brother in the world, thank you for saving my life," and I end with a grin. I glance in the mirror one more time and see my eldest rocking out to "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" then I swivel slightly to see if my latest fable has met with my son's quite discriminating approval.

In the reflected light of the mirror I see my small son's head in his hands, fingers nudging his glasses off his face, his shoulders shaking slightly as tears roll down his cheeks.

It appears my story-telling has made my own child cry.

I quickly ask him what is wrong, and after a short silence ask him if the ending made him sad. He answers that he is in fact crying tears of joy because his brother is talking to him, even if it's in his heart. He tells me the story was a good one.

I take a deep breath and wipe my own eyes.

In my family we discuss autism all the time. Zach knows and revels in the face he has a "little bit of autism." He is aware that Justin quite obviously "has a lot." He also knows his brother loves him, evidence of which I provide on a weekly basis. Zach is aware that Justin would never permit another child to be so physical with him, would never welcome the hugs and infrequent roughhousing Zach bestows upon his sibling as often as he can.

He is well aware that Justin's face lights up whenever he enters the room - that even thought his big brother cannot express his joy vocally, he conveys it through his expressions and his compliance with Zach's frequent demands. …

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