Sometimes it can be so easy to focus on the bad, to just get lost in the everyday struggles of raising a child with special needs. I not only find myself worried about my boys and how having autism will affect them every day of their life, but I often stress about how it all may impact my daughter as well. Will she feel neglected the days that the boys require the majority of my attention? Will she feel like she has to miss out on events when we have to choose not to go, or have to leave early because the boys are struggling? It is unrealistic to think that their diagnosis does not affect her at all, I have seen with my own eyes the times that it already has.
Even if she makes it through most of her life seemingly unaffected by it all, there is a weight that comes later in life knowing that someone may need to care for them when we as parents are gone. A reality that I, myself, as the sibling of a brother with autism, am well aware of and just hope even if seen as a burden, she will someday be willing to take on. See, there I go again, sinking down that “glass half empty” state of mind. It really is easy to do but every so often a day comes along where the light shines through and I see everything for the gift that it is, not only for me, but for my daughter as well.
My most recent experience with this came during our first trial of special Olympics bowling for our oldest son. Due to the start time being directly after school I had to take my other two along with me to the bowling alley even though they would not be participating. My daughter, being the social butterfly that she is, used this time to branch out and go make new friends. It wasn’t long before she found some parents and other service providers of other people with special needs that were happy to have her help those that needed some assistance with bowling. They seemed to really appreciate her natural affinity for kindness and interest in helping others.
It also wasn’t long before she made great friends with another little boy who also was on the spectrum. She would look to find this boy every week that we attended, and I could see the pure joy on his face and what it meant to him to truly have her see him as a friend. I even got to hear his excited chant one of the first weeks as he exclaimed, “She likes me!”. And I could tell that she wasn’t doing this out of pity or just to be nice. She WAS really friends with him because she understood HOW to be true friends with that boy. A skill that I don’t believe many who are not often around people with autism naturally possess. She has this gift because of growing up with her brothers.
I know the struggles that can come firsthand with having a life that revolves around someone with autism. I know it as a sibling, and I know it as a mother. I don’t wish to dismiss those struggles, but I also do not want to let them consume me in such a way that I miss the undeniably positive impacts that these boys have had on my life. The gifts that they have given me, the ways that they have changed me for the better. I am just so happy to see that those impacts do not just stop with me. I won’t deny that my daughter has and will likely face some hardships from having both her siblings on the spectrum, but I also see how they have helped shape my beautiful girl into one of the most caring and thoughtful children I have ever met. She truly is something special.