I have two boys: Gaston (age 7) and Rémi (age 5). Both are on the spectrum. Gaston’s diagnosis was heart-breaking enough, but as my wife and I learned more about autism, it became painfully clear to us that Rémi might be autistic, too. His diagnosis soon followed.
You’d think having two autistic kids is twice as bad as having one. I disagree.
Gaston is Rémi’s hero. The younger one loves that the older one can name all of Melbourne’s train stations and can ride a scooter. No other kid could possibly look up to Gaston like that. No normal kid would care as much about train stations. And no regular five-year-old could possibly look up to Gaston’s athletic skills, which are probably inferior to those of most five-year-olds. Regular boys look at Gaston with either curiosity or disdain. In our house, he’s the cool big brother.
They’re each other’s best friends. Instead of one kid spending hours stimming alone in the backyard, the two brothers stim together. Their combined stimming has evolved into elaborate (albeit repetitive and predictable) games. Their games increasingly involve the language they’ve been learning. Gaston’s speech is infantile, so Rémi can follow it and has started mimicking it. Most seven-year-olds would prattle on about Ben 10 or footy (=Aussie Rules football) or whatever it is seven-year-olds are into these days, and I’m sure Rémi wouldn’t follow a word of it. When Gaston says little more than “Gaston’s turn… Rémi’s turn…”, not only is Rémi fascinated, but he’s reminded of all the turn-taking lessons that are being drilled into him at school. He repeats the phrases, and he has learned to use them in context.
If Gaston had been normal, Rémi would be dead weight to him and Rémi would understand nothing which Gaston says and does. If Rémi were normal, he’d surely be jealous that his autistic brother gets all the attention from Mom and Dad, and he’d be embarrassed when Gaston acts up in public. We know two families who have one normal and one autistic kid (all are boys). Without knowing all the details, it seems to me that every one of the kids suffers for having a brother of a different neurotype.
Having a normal life will be difficult for my boys. They might never achieve it: most autistic adults live with their parents all their lives, and holding a regular job might be beyond them. I don’t see why things would be any different for Gaston or Rémi or both. Since they have each other, I am filled with hope that they’ll always be able to help each other understand the big scary world outside.
Alain lives in Melbourne, Australia. He has two boys. They are both autistic. He says, “Blogging about our lives helps me to understand them better. Which is good, because I need all the help I can get!” You can read more on his blog, Life With Two Autistic Kids.
Makes sense! What do you think?