Growing up I was obsessed with the idea of having a sibling. My parents split when I was super young, which meant every time my mom would as much as look at another male I would beg her to marry him and give me a sister or a brother.
When I was ten I got my wish – my dad and stepmom had a baby. I was living across the country with my mom by then but excited none the less. Given the age gap it wasn’t the BFF sibling relationship I longed for growing up, but when I went to visit for the summer, I adored having a baby to play with all the same. I thought that even though the age gap seemed huge at the time, as we grew older, we would grow closer, and it wouldn’t seem so big. But didn’t take long for delays to become apparent. By the time she was two, it was clear something was off, and she was ultimately given an autism diagnosis.
By my freshman year of high school, my mom had also remarried and welcomed my brother to the world. . . It didn’t take long for delays to become apparent. By the time he was two, it was clear something was off, and he too was ultimately given an autism diagnosis.
Though their experiences were immensely different, I watched, and continue to watch, my parents navigate raising special needs children. Life revolved around therapy, school meetings, more therapy, diet restrictions, and a whole lot of uncertainties. For years, I was painfully jealous of the amount of attention my siblings demanded. Though that jealously looks different these days, it still exists. I selfishly dream of parents that move to be near me and my growing family and play a more regular part of their grandchildren’s lives. But my parents are still knee deep in supporting my siblings.
I didn’t get to plan weddings with my sister, and I won’t likely be getting calls from my underage brother asking me to buy him a beer. But I also don’t have the same sibling feuds that most people deal with. For better or for worse, my sister and brother love me unconditionally. It’s amazing to have such a constant example and outpouring of such raw and pure love.
The siblings I was given have turned out nothing like I envisioned, but they have been among the biggest blessings in my life. They have taught me far more than I could ever write. Autism has a way of forcing you to slow down and really enjoy, savor, and celebrate every ‘little’ accompaniment. Living with a diagnosis in your immediate family can be hard beyond measure, but it cracks you open and forces you to feel all ends of the emotional spectrum.
If you’re going through a diagnosis for someone in your life the outcomes and paths to take are endless, but one thing is constant: you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have walked this path ahead of you.