This week I'm writing about the relationship(s) between typically developing siblings and their special needs (not necessarily autistic) brothers or sister(s). Yesterday, I wrote about the relationship about my nine year old with Autism Spectrum Disorder and his neurotypical five-year-old brother and my hope that they will stay as close as they are now. I should note that my older son has a mild impairment and that the developmental divide between the brothers isn't all that wide (at least not at the moment).
However, there are families with children where the developmental gap is much wider because of a severe disability. That doesn't mean that a relationship doesn't exist. In some cases the siblings may be much closer than they otherwise would be. A disability in the family may also mean that the non disabled child grows up to be a mature, compassionate adult.
By sheer coincidence, the editor of my local paper, The Morning Sun, published a column in yesterday's paper where he wrote about the relationship between his seventeen-year-old son and his younger, severely disabled brother. The editor calls his eldest son "his brother's hero." Below is an excerpt, although I'd encourage you to click on the link and read the whole column. It's an inspiring story.
Editor's column: A Special Bond Between Brothers
"Zac was probably 12 the first time he saved Seth's life, using a finger sweep to dislodge a Lego.
But the instinct to love and protect was there much earlier.
Seth was an unusual looking baby, with low setback ears and other abnormalities.
He attracts stares.
Zac can deal with staring children; not so much staring adults. One day at the grocery store, a lady stared at Seth aisle after aisle. Eventually, 7-year-old Zac had seen enough.
"What are you staring at?" he said. "He's just a little boy."
That's my Zachary.
Seth was just a baby the first time anyone ever suggested that things would be different for Zac.
We didn't believe them.
We do now.
It wasn't very many years later that Zac would wish his brother could talk and play, that he had a normal brother and not just a disabled one.
Having a severely handicapped sibling, the experts said, is one thing.
But being the only sibling to a severely handicapped brother is quite another.
With Seth a teenager now, Zac's the one who carries him to bed, helps him to the bathtub and does most of the heavy lifting. "
"Seth does not give back, at least not like most kids do in a loving relationship.
He won't play with you. He won't return a smile. He takes a lot of work. Which is why I'm filled with both pride and sadness at Zac's sense of responsibility for his brother. "