As parents my husband and I are constantly encouraging our girls to walk their own paths and we talk about autism as being just a “different way of doing things”. But in our family where the Daddy is autistic as well as two of her sisters: being NT (neuro-typical/non-autistic) is also a different way of doing things too. And having the eldest daughter of our family of four daughters being autistic means that our beloved second daughter has had to tackle many firsts bravely on her own; some of which her eldest sister has never done, at all. She hasn’t had a standard role model to copy or mimic because many of the struggles her eldest sister has, she doesn’t have and likely never will. She doesn’t struggle with change, she doesn’t get lost amidst the sea of grey that exists within the nuances that is friendships, noise and bright lights don’t scare or overwhelm her and crowds don’t phase her. She isn’t rigid, she goes with the flow and although she has a feisty temper that she no doubt inherited from her mother – she floats through her life, happily and without much struggle.
Tonight the beloved second daughter in our GirlTribe had her very own “first” which we all enthusiastically celebrated: she excitedly went off to attend her first ever school disco. I have no doubt this doesn’t sound like a big deal to most people but it was pretty significant in our house.
Our home has been filled with gleeful giggles all morning and afternoon and a little girl so excited to go to a disco for the first ever time has had us all captivated. She was so excited to dress up and go and hang out with her school friends and dance! Sno has never attended a school disco because the combination of change in routine + noise + flashing lights + people is just an equation for chaos, for her. It was so wonderful to watch as Raralilyo was able to have one of her own firsts celebrated.
So many times this amazing kid has had to take a back seat while her eldest sisters needs were attended to and met, before hers. So many times she has had to cop the meltdowns from her sister and never once has she ever complained or put down her sister being autistic. It’s just her life and she accepts it humbly and compassionately, ever patient and understanding. She has had to learn her patience the hard way and she has had to develop her understanding and compassionate from a place of complete surrender.
It can’t be easy for a seven year old or a young child of any age to repeatedly watch as their siblings get new things when they don’t, even if they are classified as “therapy tools”. Therapy tools may as well just be called toys for all the sibling of an autistic child cares. They have to miss out, they have to manage stuff on their own when the more urgent needs of their siblings take precedence.
Cj and I actively and consciously attempt to carve out and also encourage Raralilyo to walk her own path, separate to that of her sisters. We want her to try new experiences, make new connections and put herself out there so she can enjoy life to her own capacity that she can define. And she’s doing that so well, so bravely and beautifully: and we couldn’t be prouder.
Tonight there was a beautiful role-reversal that blossomed in our house: as Raralilyo came home from her disco she had her eldest sister awake and waiting to hear from her and learn all about her night. This time she is the one teaching Sno about how the world can be and what it looks like; sharing her own unique experiences with an attentive and interested audience. Tonight, Raralilyo got to be the one to expand her sister’s awareness and perceptions of the world and gleefully share news. And it was beautiful.