In my previous life I was the director of a nearby autism center. We ran many kinds of programs out of the university-based center but my favorites were the programs that involved the siblings.
There was something about these kids. My daughter was still an only child at the time so I had no idea about this dynamic and how it presented itself in everyone’s homes. The one thing I did know was the siblings I was fortunate enough to meet were some of the most caring, considerate, wise-beyond-their-years children I have ever met.
I watched little sisters tie big brothers shoes and big teenage brothers hold the hand of their just-as-big siblings and I learned more about compassion and acceptance from my time spent with these kids than I have from any other group of people.
When it was time for my daughter to have siblings I squelched my urge to track down those families I had once worked with and grill them on how they produced such awesome human beings. I crossed my fingers in hopes of having children with just an ounce of the gifts these kids had and waited to see what relationships unfolded.
Not long ago I was at the park with my younger children, going from swing, to swing to swing, I tried to keep up with their requests to push them higher/slower/faster/ten more times. A van pulled up and out came several adults from a nearby group home and their staff. Two hopped onto swings next to us and began swinging and laughing loudly, heads back, large-toothed smiles beaming. A few kids at the park stopped to stare, others pointed and one loudly asked his mother why “those big people took the swings.”
My son told the man, probably 40 years his senior, that he was “the best at swinging” he had ever seen and my other two kids didn’t even blink an eye at the guests who had joined the playground.
I wish I could take credit for their acceptance and pure view of others but it is the life they where born into because they have a sister with autism. Different is normal in our house. Of course the days are not all perfect and there are things I wish were easier for all of my children but their ability to see all people as just people? They get that from their sister.
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