Siblings of Autism

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Parenting a family that includes Siblings of Autism is fraught with doubt, guilt, and, of course, bittersweet moments. Read one parent’s letter to their youngest, neurotypical daughter. Then sign up for our May 15 Lecture Series where we help parents support their Siblings of Autism. This post originally appeared on “Blog on Fire.

Lucy,

I have been thinking about writing this letter to you for about a year now. Over the last year I have been noticing you, noticing me. And it hasn’t always been good. For the most part I think I have been doing a good job as a parent and as your Daddy. However, I know that I am letting you down in a crucial area of your life, and I’m not sure that I can stop.

In the last couple of weeks I have made you cry, and it breaks my heart because I know that it will not be the last time that I do so.  I have ignored you, showed favoritism against you. I know that this hurts your heart. I want you to know that I am aware of this, and it hurts my heart too. But I don’t know how to stop the hurt, for either one of us.

You are the baby of our family. As much as I want you to always be Daddy’s baby, I also want you to grow up quickly and gain a certain amount of understanding. I guess I want this so that I don’t feel like I will damage you. You see, your older brother has autism, and I fear that it takes from you at times, and I’m not sure if it will ever stop. So I want you to understand why this happens. That it comes from love and concern for your brother not from something you lack.

I started a nonprofit organization because of your brother, in hopes that we could help other families. It takes up a ton of Daddy’s time. When you ask me to play while I’m working, I tell you “No” way more than I tell you “Yes.” I see that it breaks your heart, and it breaks mine too. But I’m not sure I can stop.

The local news did a interview with Daddy, and your brother was also in it. You watched it and didn’t understand why you weren’t in it. I didn’t have a very good answer. I didn’t think you would understand. I have another interview in a few days. I hope you don’t see it. We shot a brand new “about us” video, and you asked me with tears in your eyes, “Why am I not in that video?” I didn’t have a good answer for you. You left the room, and I got tears in my eyes.

Your brother has therapy twice a week for two and a half hours a day and a socialization class once a week. You don’t understand why you don’t get to do these things. I try to explain it. I clearly don’t do a good job.

You are developing at a rapid pace, and I am in constant amazement at how easily you learn. It also serves as a constant reminder that your brother doesn’t have it this easy. I want to stop and celebrate you more. You deserve it.

You and your brother are playing on the same soccer team for the first time, and you are really holding your own with the older kids. Daddy is so proud of you! But, if I’m being honest, I catch myself watching your brother more than I watch you. It’s not fair. I get that. I assume you will keep getting better, but I watch him more hoping he’ll get better. I’m not sure I can stop doing that.

I have tried to explain autism to you. I’m pretty sure that you don’t understand. I’m not sure why I expect you to understand, when most people ten times your age don’t understand. Someday you will, I know. I just wish it was today.

Please know that Daddy is doing his best and also know that he wants to do better.  I’m just not sure I can. But be assured that some things will never stop. I will never stop loving you, being proud of you, and delighting in your unique way of completing our family.

I love you more than you know! Dad

Author: Justin

Justin Lewis is a firefighter living in AZ who started a nonprofit, Firefighters vs. Autism. He parents two children, one of which has autism.

4 Comments

  1. Loved reading this!

  2. You are very brave to share this honestly and I think many can relate. I think your daughter (and many siblings) get a gift of compassionate character from their experiences.

  3. Thank you Lynn! I really appreciate it!

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