To my eldest son,
On Monday you asked, “Mummy what is autism like?” I told you my answer, and we sat and watched an animated explanation, showing how your brother sees the world differently to you.
As I waited outside the school gates for you yesterday, you saw us and came running up with your arms held wide. “Hello, Rhys” you said, taking your brother’s hand in yours.
The cars flew by us on the busy road, and you mentioned the noise and how scary it must be for Rhys, remembering the video we watched and the enhanced sensory overload that would have met his ears. You turned to him and said, “It’s ok Rhys, I’m here” as you held his hand all the way to the park gate and away from the noise.
A few hours later while we sat in the car, you asked “Will Rhys always be autistic?” I responded “Yes, but with our support he will be able to do everything you can do”.
“Except for maths” you immediately corrected “Rhys is good with numbers, he will need to help me!”
We continued to speak about our own challenges and what we found hard. About how practicing the tough stuff makes it easier, and where it is too hard to overcome, tricks, strategies and even technology can be used to make things possible.
As you sat in the back of the car with your brother, you said “Rhys help?” as you took his kinder egg treat from his hands and helped him with the wrapper, his little fingers struggled to open. You used simple words when you engaged, in the way you have seen myself talk to Rhys. You know how to communicate with him and instinctively know when he wants help. His trust in your actions is evident, in his willingness to let you help him.
I don’t think I ever had the maturity you have when I was your age, or even twice your age. The view you have of autism out performs the attitude many adults I have ever come across. Your ability to see the best in everyone and not being afraid to ask questions and help others who don’t find things as easy as you. That is the mark of an amazing character.
My worries for Rhys’ future decrease every time I see you next to him. Your keenness to learn, to understand, to support are beyond the abilities found in many fully grown adults. Don’t ever be afraid to stand up for your brother, no matter who questions you. You don’t support him because of his challenges or his autism, you support him because he is your brother, and that’s what brothers do.
I am so proud of you every day. With you at Rhys’ side, I know you have his back. But you don’t only have his back, you back up every person who has challenges through autism. You raise awareness through your need to gain knowledge and the help you give your brother.
And you are only eight years old!
Love you always