There was nothing special about Thursday evening as I worked my way through the typical bedtime routine for my 9-year-old twins. They had already had a bath, clean pajamas on, eaten some supper and now they had moved into their separate rooms ready for stories, kisses, and pre-sleep chats.
It’s hard to split yourself in two (or three, or four even if you are blessed with a quiver full) but my daughter willingly lets me see to her brother first most nights. She sacrifices so much for her autistic brother, and this is just another example of how she puts his needs before her own daily. While she amused herself quietly with what I assumed was some coloring or reading, I continued on to settle her somewhat hyperactive brother next door.
I read the same story as always. He chooses the same story every night despite the fact he has a whole basket of books in his room. His autism means routines should never change and repetition is very much the name of the game. Unlike his sister, he isn’t going to talk to me at bedtime about his school anxieties or fall outs with his friends. He has no friends. I have no idea what goes on at school (or anywhere he is out of my care) and at nine he has no spoken language. I hug and kiss him. I get nothing much in return. One day I might, but not tonight. I tuck him in, leave the room and turn off his light.
As I go next door to his sister her eyes light up as she clutches a little piece of paper to give to me.
“Mummy, I’ve been thinking about Isaac tonight. Can I show you something Mummy?”
And at that she handed me this:
I asked her to talk to me about it.
“Mummy, these are the wires in my head. One is the talking wire, one is the brushing my own teeth wire, one is knowing my times tables in maths wire, one is knowing how to write wire, this one is playing with friends wire, this is the knowing how to read wire…”
She named all twelve straight lines she had drawn and said how for her, like most other children, she was able to do all of the things she listed. She talked about how some of her wires connect right away and others took time but they ‘knew where they were going’ and as she gets older and learns more ‘new things’ she will have ‘more wires that know where to go and connect up straight’.
I was amazed that a child could be so aware, so astute and so insightful. I let her continue on.
‘And this, I think, is my brother’s wires mum. He finds everything so hard, doesn’t he? This is his talking wire mum. Look it goes to the connection for brushing teeth. No wonder he can’t talk when his brain gets confused like that! This is his writing wire…it’s supposed to be connected to the writing one at the bottom but instead, it’s connected to the playing with friends wire. It’s all so hard when your brain gets confused but I know he is trying! I mean everything must be so hard when the wires are all jumbled up like this!’
I looked at her with tears behind my eyes. If anyone will advocate in life for her brother when I am gone it will be his sister. She understands him like no other.