Friday, November 26, 2010

Two is not worse than one

You'd think having two autistic kids is twice as bad as having one.  I disagree. 

Don't get me wrong.  It would have been nice to have one regular kid.  I think either Gaston (age 7) or Rémi (age 5) would learn more social skills if there was another non-autistic role model in the house.   At our age, Anne and I are too scared to have a third child--mainly out of fear we'd be raising three autistic kids instead of the two we already have.  Anyway, I'm not sure having a regular kid in the house would enhance their happiness (even if it would have greatly enhanced mine).

Gaston is Rémi's hero.  The younger one loves that the older one can name all the train stations and can ride a scooter.  No other kid could possibly look up to Gaston like that.  No normal kid would care 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.

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 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.

The future is grim for our boys.  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.  But 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.


  1. I have three on the spectrum; over the years and the ups and downs, I have learned that the future is not writ; it does not have to be grim, regardless of the level of independence and functioning achieved. The fact that they have each other is a source of hope because they will never be alone and will always accept each other wholly and completely.

    My bright boy turns 21 next month. No, he's not going to live on his own independently; he's going to live with his dad and me indefinitely, but this does not have to be a grim outcome. No, he's not going to work, most likely, but this, too, is not a grim outcome. He volunteers one morning a week at the animal shelter, and he attends the day center for the disabled three days a week. It, too, is not grim. He has a good life, one lived at his capability, one where he is loved and cared for and able to contribute to the degree he is possible. And he is close to his sisters, who understand him completely because they are also on the spectrum but without the accompanying intellectual disability. Perspective matters. If all we value is the idea of independence, then anything short of that can be seen as grim; however, normal functioning doesn't guarantee happy endings. One of my brothers, who was bright and had every opportunity, every chance at a successful life, threw it all away with bad life style choices culminating in a stroke and disability (some chemicals really don't mix).

    I don't know what the future holds for my three. Will it be easy? No, probably not (who gets an easy life?), but they have each other, and they have us. And it is not grim, no matter what the future holds because we value different things: are they happy, are they of service? :-)

    The future is unwrit and precarious for us all, no matter whether we are on the spectrum or not, and how we see the future is up to us.

  2. This is an interesting perspective. I read so much about families with one ASD child and the rest NT. You make some great points about how much they can benefit each other.