In the back hall of a church she watched as her brother climbed a toddler slide. As he sat at the top of the slide flapping he lost his balance and fell off. He was shocked and shaken as he laid there confused and hurt.
While the adults checked him over his sister ran around the room looking for all his favourite teddies, then sat beside him stroking his hair and whispered: You are ok. Don’t be sad. You are ok.
She is smaller than her brother, weaker than him physically, and much more timid in nature.
Yet she is strong.
She is the sister of a child with autism and that is something very special.
She copes with screaming and has learnt to be a peace keeper.
She copes with a brother who is controlling and she has learnt to compromise.
She copes with a sibling who rarely sleeps and she has learnt to rest as and when she can.
She copes with the unfairness when her sibling does not understand rules and she has learnt patience and maturity beyond her years.
She copes with aggression and responds with peace.
She copes with his iPad on full volume and responds by showing him how to plug in earphones.
She copes with people staring at him and she smiles at them and puts her arm around her brother in support.
She instinctively knows and understands now when he is experiencing sensory overload and leads him to a quieter place.
She opens snacks for him because she knows he does not have the co-ordination to do it himself.
She has learnt that he can not join in her games and copes with that disappointment better than many adults would.
She fights her brothers corner.
She keeps him safe.
She changes the TV channel when he screams at a show he does not like.
She even makes hand dryers work for him because she knows how much he likes them.
The life of an autism sibling is not easy. They are often over looked and expected to cope. They miss out on so much because of the needs of their sibling and have to adjust to family life dominated by an invisible condition. A lot is expected of them beyond what other kids deal with.
It takes strength to cope when your brother screams daily. It takes strength to understand certain toys can not be bought because they pose a danger to your sibling. It takes strength and maturity to realise and accept that having friends around to play may be more difficult than it is for others.
To watch your brother or sister struggle with something you do easily and not boast about this, to stand up for your sibling when others mock them, to cope with public meltdowns and not be embarrassed: you are amazing!
Let’s hear it for the autism siblings! You all deserve the lime light for once!