The Asperger Siblings
I wish my brother was different.
While going through my second son's folders while he was in second grade I came across a worksheet that as usual was a bit crumbled and folded. I opened and read it. It brought tears to my eyes. It was titled "Wish Upon a Star" and the students were supposed to write about what their fondest desire was. My son had written that he would like there to be a cure for his brother's Aspergers so that they could play together and that he brother would not have so many problems. The wish of any 8 year old boy. My second child is now 11 and in 6th grade. I believe to still be his greatest wish, although I know he would love to meet Eli Manning, the quarterback of the New York Giants too. But realistically, he would like to have a brother who he could look up to, who could be his friend. If my oldest child did not have Aspergers Syndrome, my other son would have a brother in High School. He would have someone to go outside and play ball with. He would have someone to talk about sports with. He might even ask for advice about girls or friends. He would have someone to learn from.
That is not to say he never learns from his brother. Having a brother with a super memory and high intellect has its merits. He never has any issues with mathematics. He just asks his brother. He rarely has to google or look up any history facts, he simply asks his brother who is a walking encyclopedia. He also can play video games with his brother and sometimes they enjoy the same television shows. But he longs for a brother who is like his older cousins. His cousins are both in high school. One is a football player, one is a soccer player. They both like girls, music, text, have facebook and myspace accounts. They go out with their friends instead of staying home all of the time reading or playing video games. They are what my son sees as normal.
In the asperger world, my younger children would be considered "neurotypicals". This is a far nicer word than to say normal because my older son is not abnormal. To say they are normal and he isn't is a bit uncomfortable. So I like the term neurotypical, it works for us. Who is "normal" anyway? Everyone has their quirks and issues, and that is what makes the world interesting.
I do not want my second child to have to take care of the oldest child when we are gone. We are working hard to make sure that he is independent or that if that is not possible, he will be placed in a situation where his siblings are not responsible for him. But I do want them to care about what happens to him. I do think they will. When he is trouble, they are sympathetic. They get annoyed with him when he causes us to be late or to have trouble going somewhere because he is being obsessive, but ultimately, we do notice that if they have to pick a side between their brother and their parents, they will choose him and we certainly don't mind that. Its the way its supposed to be.
My daughter is only 7. She is still okay with her brother. He is very immature, so they two of them are able to chat and be silly together. She likes that. There are times when his behaviors annoy her, but not nearly as much as they bother her brother. I tend to think the age difference is in my aspies favor for this one, also the fact that girls tend to have that nurturing gene. He has always gotten along better with girls. They don't seem to mind his helplessness. I do, but many others must find taking care of him irrestible.
The helplessness is another fact that drives my second child insane. He cannot stand that he is the one that we tend to call whenever we need something done or need help. We have gotten into a terrible habit of skipping the natural order and moving to him. He helps out in the house, can make meals, help his sister with her homework, put out the garbage, load and unload groceries, basically anything we ask of him. We just have to show him once and he has it. But our aspie is perfectly capable of most of what we need as well. It just takes him longer and he resists alot more. So to avoid the fight, we have just given in and stopped asking. But, my second child rebelled recently and we sided with him. He is right. So now, the oldest has to help vaccuum, put out the garbage, clear the table, bring in groceries and anything else we ask of him without argument. He even has to do yardwork where his brother is excused due to asthma problems. My son LOVES being excused from something since he has spent so much time being the oldest by default.
What we have to remember, we mourn the child we thought we had and do not. We spend a great deal of time trying to accept and understand. But so do our other children. As they get older, it gets more apparent to them that he isn't going to "grow out of this". He is going to learn to cope and so are they. We have to stop and remember that they are also going through what we, as parents go through having someone who is NOT neurotypical living in our household. We must try to understand the sadness and depression that accompanies the realization. We must also show them the joy in having someone so unique and special as a part of our lives.