Monday, October 3, 2016

How I Told My Daughter That Her Brother Has Autism






Natalie was about six or seven when she first began noticing her brother's quirks. Before that, he was just another cool kid in the house to amuse her.







And then one day she asked me, "Why does Tommy flop on his bed over and over again?"

It's something he does to calm himself down. To calm his body down. Sometimes he says it feels like he has a bunch of prickles all over and the only way to get rid of them is slamming his body against his mattress repeatedly. I'm used to it. But to someone who has never seen something like it before, it can be a mystery.

I explained to Natalie that the motion calmed her brother down.

"Why does he hum weird sometimes?" she continued, eyebrows furrowed. "My friends have brothers and they don't do that."

Tommy has a hum he emits that is high-pitched. He does this randomly throughout the day, mostly when he's crashing on the bed.

"It helps him," I replied. "He does some things that might appear to be weird to you and I, but it's completely normal for him. Your brother has autism."

I explained what it was the best I could. I told her that it means he learns differently, that he sees and feels the world differently, but that's he's still smart.

"And funny!" Natalie chimed in. "He always yells at me to get out of his room."

Well. I'm glad that part amused her.

I always knew Tommy wouldn't have the same relationship with his sister like others do. For example, while some big brothers quickly step in when their sisters are upset, Tommy is all, "She probably deserves it. She's too loud." If he sees Natalie crying, he'll be like, "Stop. You're being dumb. Why do girls cry over everything?" I have to remind him that he needs to be a tad more sensitive but sometimes he forgets.

I managed to find some books on autism that explained things in a simpler way for Natalie.





Those books helped her realize that Tommy has some sensory issues--she understood it is why Tommy looks completely grossed out when we carve a pumpkin. He cannot stand the feeling of the pumpkin guts. "Your autism doesn't like this, huh?" Natalie asked.




She understands better now that she's older. She'll tell people, "I have a brother and he has autism. It means his brain is wired differently, and when he's done, he's done. But we love him so much!"



And she's right.

137 comments:

  1. This is a great idea for a children's book (how I found out my brother has autism)! You should write it!

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    1. Yes, you should!! This is a great post! You rock as a mama!!

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    2. I was thinking the same thing! I love that you captured the pumpkin moments so perfectly. You can deal or not deal with the pumpkin guts. There seems to be no happy medium.

      It's so sweet how siblings just accept and love regardless <3

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  2. This post made me a little teary-eyed. It's surprising but little kiddos have way more acceptance for others than we expect them to. Kudos to you for explaining all of this to both your daughter and your son! I love that book - do you have any other recommendations of books to explain autism to a young child?

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  3. Family love is important. Having autism or not, its always the love that is important and openly understanding. Your young man is a genius, you'll be amazed one day how he could do things so easily :D

    And a lovely little princess you have.. I believe she will grow up a lady with a good heart.

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  4. That book is brilliant. And true. Cats do, don't they?
    What she tells people nails it. I always think it's fascinating that some kids learn a normal that has always been there for them, and it takes time to realize it's not necessarily the same for others.
    I have a few sensory issues that my kids don't have and it's interesting to explain even that to them!

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  5. I know an adult who could benefit from this. I was at a house a few weeks ago. One of the homeowners' son is autistic. One of the adults was having so much trouble dealing with it and her child was having a problem too (following her mother's lead)

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  6. I am glad there are books to help. It has to be hard on your daughter at times but thankfully she understands.

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  7. One of our friend's older son is autistic and they have two other kids who are perfectly normal. In fact their daughter just made it to UC Berkeley with full scholarship. I think having a special needs sibling, make the kids responsible and modest and humble and ultimately better human beings.
    What you are doing for your family is awesome. kudos.

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  8. Kids can be so compassionate and understanding, it simply melts my heart. I love it that you are explaining this to her in this manner and teaching her so many life values in the process.

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  9. This is lovely! I will have to look out for some books for when my little girl is older and needs help understanding her brother :) thanks so much.

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  10. This is lovely! I will have to look out for some books for when my little girl is older and needs help understanding her brother :) thanks so much.

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  11. How cute is that! Love how you taught her and how accepting and loving she is towards him!
    Kyla
    Wanderlustkyla.com

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  12. This is such a great post, thank you for sharing!

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  13. Such a cute and inspiring post! I have to say, I have tears in my eyes. You have a great family!

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  14. What a wonderful post! She sounds like a fantastic sister :)

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  15. Have you seen the show "parenthood"? There is a family on that show with a son with asperbergers and I think it does a great job of educating people on it

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  16. I love the way you explained everything to your daughter. It sounds like they have a wonderful relationship.

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  17. This just melted my heart. I love how you explained everything to your daughter - so thoughtful!!

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  18. This is amazing and more people need to learn about this. Some of my educator friends probably need to as well. It was frustrating for me when I had my first run ins with people that had autism because I wasn't educated about it, but now that I know more, it makes life easier. Shoutout to your daughter for being awesome too!

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  19. What a sweet post! I'm curious about that cat book :)

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  20. Since Jaina is older, she knew Jayce had autism before he did. We had to explain why all these pretty college girls were coming over to "play" with Jayce every single day while he was in ABA therapy. And why he had to go to OT, ST, and Feeding therapy so much.

    Jocelyn is 4 and has heard us say it, but we haven't sat her down and had a talk yet.

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  21. I have a nephew who has specials needs too and his younger sister was a big help. Informing them earlier on and making them aware is a big help to everyone in the family.

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  22. I really appreciate how you have made Natalie understood about her brother's autism! It will also grow the bonding of brother and sister!

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  23. This is a very touching story that you've brought to life through your blog. I truly appreciate your sharing it with us.

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    1. I agree. It's so great that Natalie was so understanding about it all. That's maturity!

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  24. IT sounds like you explained it so perfectly to her. This is such a unique perspective on it all. Awesome post!

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  25. I can tell she still looks up to her big brother!! What a great way to explain everything to her!

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  26. I sometimes think it's easier for kids to understand and accept.

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  27. You are a great mama and you can tell the two of them love each other. She will always have his back.

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  28. That is so awesome that there are books for this. I bet that helps so much.

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  29. Its nice that there are books and things to help her sweet soul understand!

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  30. It's good to be honest with our kiddos. I couldn't have answered her questions any better.\

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  31. This is an awesome story. I've never read anything like it. You're journey is amazing and it's nice how you explained it to her.

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  32. This is an incredibly inspirational story. The look like they have a close bond.

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  33. What a great tale! Your children are beautiful and obviously love each other!

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  34. You did a great job explaining to your daughter what autism is. It's nice to have a book that will help them inderstand as well. There is so much love in your family. It's awesome.

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  35. This is such a sweet story. I can feel the love in this family.

    Good morning there !

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  36. This is a beautiful post about teaching acceptance and not justt staying quiet about things. I feel all parents have something to learn here.

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  37. What a lovely post. I know this can be a difficult thing to deal with but being honest and real allows you to accept it and move forward from it.

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  38. This is a great read, I love all the sibling pictures!

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  39. Such a sweet story! Thank you for sharing and embracing your special boy!

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  40. It sounds like she has such a great grasp on what autism is and will be such a caring advocate for her big brother. I love how she refers to it as "your autism doesn't like that, huh?" That's a smart little girl. :)

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  41. This post made me so happy. Children are so innocent and sweet. The love and understanding from a sibling lasts forever!

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  42. What a beautiful relationship your babies have, thank you for sharing your story!

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  43. This is very inspiring post! I am glad that book helped. It is very important how we teach your kids. You have beautiful children. Thanks for sharing beautiful story.
    Rita | http://styleroundtheclock.com

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  44. As a Mom this really touched me. Thanks for sharing!

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  45. So great you were able to find a book to help!

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  46. She took it and understood it pretty well. I bet it was difficult to try to explain it though.

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  47. Great personnel post, i hope it helps lot of other people, you are a brave mama :)

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  48. It made me teary. They are really sweet kids!

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  49. Really nice post. I'm glad that she understand that her brother love her but sometimes doesn't know how to show it.

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  50. I love this! Your explanations are wonderful... and your children are so lucky to have each other! :)

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  51. This post is very inspiring. Your kids sound like great friends, I'm so glad his sister understands what's going on!

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  52. OH my gosh! She is such a good sister! I love what she says to people about his brain being wired differently and when he's done, he's done. That is an excellent way to put it. Also, want to say I didn't know cats have Aspergers! That is a great way to show children what Autism means.

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  53. This makes my heart so happy! I am sure that she will have an amazing relationship with her brother as she grows!

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  54. Such an inspiring story. Beautiful relationship that will grow over the years.

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  55. Such an inspiring story. Beautiful relationship that will grow over the years.

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  56. Wonderful post! I will be checking my local library for that cat book...

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  57. You've done so well, lovely. I'm sure that wasn't an easy conversation to have. Also, the way she yelled "And funny!" melted my heart.

    All the love to you and yours!

    Sondra Barker
    PrettyFitFoodie
    prettyfitfoodie.com

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  58. Aw, what a great post! Thanks for sharing this :)

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  59. Incredible! I love how you used the books to help explain!

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  60. What an inspiring post, thank you for sharing!

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  61. Really eye opening,this is an important awareness topic.

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  62. That's awesome that she's in tune to the differences and that you found great resources for her!

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  63. this is deep and thought inspiring, such ideas are always welcome as it does its job so well as you will want it.

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  64. How touching and inspiring. Your daughter seems like she has great emotional intelligence.

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  65. Wow that is such a great way of explaining it to her. I'm glad there's a kids book to help too.

    Nina
    aworldofdresses.com

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  66. This was such a sweet yet touching read. I absolutely love reading how you helped your daughter comprehend what was going on but still remaining calm and sweet. <3

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  67. I know it's hard to deal when your kids is going through this syndrome. The way you found the solution is truly awesome. Great book and God bless your kids!

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  68. Aww this is awesome, I love that she chimed in "and funny" when you explained what Autism was. It shows she truly loves him, and sees all of his traits, not just 'that he has Autism and has quirks'. So nice. :)

    Christe's Take on Life. xx

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  69. This is so lovely. It looks like they have a great, close relationship.

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  70. I think the way you told her is great. She seems to be very understanding about his situation too!

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  71. What an amazing job you are ding with your kids. It's great that you got books for her to read to allow her to understand better. I bet she'll end up being very protective of him as she grows up.

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  72. Oh what a good idea, I bet that book is very cute too. A great way to explain things to children in their own terms.


    Lennae xxx
    www.lennaesworld.com

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  73. Love how you explained and found books to help your daughter understand autism. Yes he should be loved because he is who he is. Wonderful family you have there.

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  74. How you explained was great and I think that was the best way to do that.

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  75. It's great that there are books available to help explain this on a level that's easy for kids to understand. I also love that you responded to her questions in a matter of fact manner and explained his behaviors that way too. You can see what a lovely relationship they have.

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  76. It's important kids know the facts and accept it with great care. That would help them develop a greater bond between each other.

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  77. What a wonderful attitude that your daughter has 12 this. A lot of people would not except it nearly as well as she did. I'm glad that she loves her brother just the way he is.

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  78. What a wonderful post! You children are beautiful! This is such a hard topic to explain to kids, but I think you did a fantastic job!

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  79. What a smart young lady. It seems like they still have an amazing relationship. In the long run it will make them both more empathetic to others.

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  80. Tug at heartsrings. Beautiful children from a pretty courageous mother. You did a great job on explaining it to your daughter. It looks like they are well-bonded too.

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  81. This is such a great post. Kids just love unconditionally, they just like to know why some people are different.

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  82. This is such a beautiful story. I can feel the love in your family coming from this post. Congrats, mama, you're doing a great job.

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  83. It warms my heart to see posts like this and to see how accepting people, especially kids, can be. You did such a great job explaining this to your daughter and it seems like she truly understands what makes her brother unique.

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  84. Good job mom! And good job little one for understanding and accepting and loving your brother!

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  85. It is always hard explaining autism, but wow you did an amazing job at it. For you daughter to understand so greatly is awesome.

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  86. This is sweet. I love how understanding she is about her brother's condition. I especially love your method of explaining the situation to her.

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  87. This is sweet. I love how understanding she is about her brother's condition. I especially love your method of explaining the situation to her.

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  88. wow, kids simplify things in a way that you cant say anything else! She is so right! You have approached this so well too!

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  89. Finding books for her is a great way to help her understand what is going on. I find it hard to simplify things when talking to a child.

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  90. This is such a wonderful idea. I have a nephew with cystic fibrosis and he has to explain why he wears a mask in public and such. Children are very open and understanding if you give them the information necessary to understand what is going on. Great job!

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  91. This is great post and Natalie is awesome! She is smart young girl!

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  92. With me was different. Jose is the older and Elias is the youngest. Even though Jose is older I had to explain to him that Elias has autism. Jose likes to take part on his ABA therapies. It helps him understand his little brother.

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  93. This is a lovely. Idea. Have a kid in our building with the condition which other kids cannot relate to, however this way their bond will develop and grow :D
    Thanks for sharing dear :)

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  94. I love how you explained Autism to Natalie. My son has always been really compassionate about knowing that not everyone is the same.

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  95. It is great that she was so accepting. That means you have been raising her to be empathetic and accepting of everyone.

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  96. You have a great way of describing it. They sound like wonderful siblings. I wish all kids were so understanding.

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  97. This would make a wonderful book and could help some many families

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  98. Books are made to be educational. I think you accomplished two things by letting her read this book. You not only taught her about her brother's autism, but you also taught her that books are there to learn from, which is pretty cool!

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  99. It sounds like you did the right things by slowly introducing her to the concept and by making sure that this was normal for him. And to be honest, no situation is normal. They are all different and unique challenges. It looks like your kids have bonded well and as a parent, it's all you can ask for.

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  100. This post was great. It is her brother and siblings love each other no matter what!

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  101. Its a good idea of telling your daughter about his brother. She would definitely better understand his situation. And it looks like that they are very close to each other and you can really see the love they have for each other. -ANOSA

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  102. A touching post. I like the children's book idea someone else commented on. You have a nice story to share and there are lots of other families going through it or who know nothing about these experiences who could learn from it. Though when it comes to pumpkin guts I look much the same way as your son does when scooping them out myself so we all have our quirks :-)

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  103. Really touching. It must be difficult for a child that young to comprehend about her brother's condition. As long as you're there, you children will go through the wold confident and feeling loved.

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  104. Brilliant idea on how to explain things. This could provide a great example for others that has the same dilemma.

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  105. Aweee what a sweet sister to her brother. It's important that we as parents explain things to our children especially in your case for your son. Great job!

    Chubskulit Rose

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  106. It's great that you found a good resource book that helps to explain autism. Sounds that she's accepting it well. She's such a sweet young girl.

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  107. I think you handled this pretty well. It's good to know that you found a book that helped. She is such a sweet sister.

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  108. This is so hearwarming. I know it would difficult for your daughter to comprehend the situation, but in time she will. I love the picture of them together. That's sibling love right there!

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  109. As someone who has relatives and friends with autism, I applaud you for highlighting this and explaining to your daughter why her brother acts differently to other kids. It is good that she understood x

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  110. Kids are remarkably adaptive. I have a student in my class who doesn't speak and his classmates are innately kind and helpful towards him.

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  111. Aww thank you for sharing how you informed your daughter on your son's autism. It's great to see so many people sharing their stories for others in similar situations can relate. Sesame Street is also shining light on autism.

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  112. Often people forget about the other child about how they are dealing with their autistic sibling. This is very helpful and love how you shared with your daughter.

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  113. I have a 29 yr old brother with autism. I dont remember my mom having to tell me this was in the way early 90s but it sad how the rate of autism grew since then. ITs so prominent in our society I am really concern with these vaccines.

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  114. I love how you explained this to your daughter! Providing books for her to read helps explain things even more. Sometimes we forget that siblings need help understanding and you did an awesome job!

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  115. Children are usually quick to ask and understand why people are different. It is adults that could use some educating and explaining.

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  116. It's amazing how quick a child can pick up on something. Usually if they are old enough, just sharing facts will help a lot. Sounds like the book was great.

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  117. What a sweet story, and it sounds like you had a good conversation when it came down to talking about autism. She sounds so understanding and accepting.

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  118. I love your delivery of this sweet post. As parents for a child with special needs we always know the day will come when we need to explain their differences to their siblings. My daughter was about 6 when I explained to her that her older brother has down syndrome. She was quite emotional about it, but the frustrations she was having towards his differences were instantly released. She is now almost 9 and is his biggest protector and guide in life. My youngest son who is 5 is now expressing similar frustrations, but he has been watching how his sister is with him and we can see he too is "approaching" that time when we can sit with him and explain a little deeper. I enjoyed your post. :)

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  119. I love this. I love how you explained his quirks to her, and I love that there are books that can help kids understand a bit better. Working in a school I have been around so many kids with different levels of autism. I wished that things were explained more to kids that don't have a family member with autism, I really think it would help them understand.

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  120. I have found that siblings tend to be amazing advocates for Autism. One person I know went to college on a scholarship over his activism on his autistic brothers behalf. His essay was so moving and helped me see things more clearly.

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  121. This is awesome. Kids find a way to make things less complicated. For us, it was severe speech delays with one of my kids. When others -mainly adults- would ask why he speaks funny, his siblings would explain as only a kid could and it made perfect sense.

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  122. I love their bond. I think you did a great job of explaining Austism to your daughter. I think this post with help families who deal with Austism

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  123. I wondered what ways people could introduce the concept of autism and explain what it means to a sibling. It's great that you were able to answer some of the questions your daughter had.

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  124. You did such a great job of helping your daughter understand your son better! My son's best friend when he was 6-10 was high-functioning Autistic, so we both learned together about what it means and how to help him feel more comfortable with us.

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  125. Aww this is such a lovely post, you did amazingly explaining to her and it sounds like she has such a good grasp on the difficulties her brother goes through.

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  126. You have a wonderful way of explaining things to your little one. Autism is tough but it doesn't have to be overwhelming to your children.

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  127. This book would be perfect for a friend of mine. Her 7 year old has autism and is non verbal. She also has a 4 year old that just started school and is starting to notice her Sister is different.

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  128. This post takes me back in time to when my kids, nephews and nieces were all under the age of 10. I have a cousin who is mentally retarded because of birth trauma which damaged his brain. He is ambulatory but has no speech (only grunts) and cannot tolerate wearing a shirt or shoes. We always told the little ones that their uncle is an "angel." Until one time he pushed away one of the little kids who picked up one of his toys. My niece started to cry and said, "angels don't push little kids!" That was when we explained (in kid language) why their uncle was different.
    I love your story. You are a great mom and your daughter is wise beyond her years. Hugs to all three of you!

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  129. My son is very understanding about my daughter's quirks and differences. I think that having a sister with autism has really helped him see that people are different and it has also helped him to be a more caring and empathetic human being. He loves his sister and sometimes even explains to us why she reacts a certain way, he seems to understand her better than any of us and they have a fantastic relationship!

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