We, as a family, have always used the word, Autism, around him. A lot of times, we may have been talking to his brother about something in reference to it, not always thinking that Sam would pick up on it. There has also been a few times that brother has said, "I know, it's the autism", when he is frustrated with his little brother and trying to justify his actions.
Zach went through a whole year of Sibshops. Sibshops are classes for siblings of someone with autism offered through ARC. It was a wonderful experience for Zach, as he learned there are other kids out there who have special brothers like his. The classes teach the siblings about autism, respecting different abilities, about how to express themselves when they may be frustrated with their sibling, and how to be an advocate for their sibling. It is through these classes that Zach became more versed on autism and is never afraid to tell friends or others about it and his brother.
Because of our free speech with it (autism) around the home, and Zach's understanding of autism, we believe Sam is picking up on it. I really had no idea how much...until last night, when Brent came out of his room after reading time...
...Brent has been reading Charlotte's Web to Sam in anticipation of seeing it when it opens this month. Reading to Sam has become a blessing. It hasn't been until this past year that we could get him to sit long enough to read anything. He would get focussed on an object on a page, or a line, and could never get back to the meaning or understanding of the story, he would start flapping and jumping up and down on his bed. Of course these reading attempts were made with developmentally appropriate books, which up until recently had still been board books. But...his brother has been trying to read with him more and Sam has become interested in all of this reading Zach does alone as well. After much trial over the last 3 years, he will sit and listen to a story. Not only a story, but now Brent is reading a chapter book! Brent had gotten to the part where Charlotte was telling Wilbur how special he is. Special because he is the little one in the batch, or kindly put, the runt.
When Brent got to this part of the book, Sam started to say to Brent:
"ooooooohhhhhhh, so Wilber is spesil lite (special like) me?"
"Yes, Wilbur is special and Sam is special" Brent said.
Sam replied, "Does Wilbur have awstisism (autism) too?"
The conversation continued on a little more.
Brent came out of his room and quietly closed the door after Sam had fallen asleep listening to the story. I was completely surprised when Brent told me. I had no idea that he even knew the word. Brent told me that Sam has said that he has autism on a couple other occasions to him. And Brent had even gone so far as to probe Sam to find out that he knew it had to do with his brain. I was floored.
Why wouldn't Sam know that he has autism...as I think back? How many times have I told a complete stranger, "sorry, he has autism"? All those times waiting in a checkout line when he can't stand in line, and he is screaming, and he doesn't even know why sometimes. His tall skinny, almost 5 year old body looks too big for these types of tantrums to others.
Or the times that he is hitting me in public because I can't understand what he is trying to say. I very well know he is not hitting me because he is mad at me, he is so frustrated. Hence, the scene looks worse than it really is as I am calming him, and again, I say to a stranger staring, "please excuse him, he has autism and is trying to tell me something."
Of course Sam has heard us say it, duh! Even though I thought he had no idea...he knows.
A Twist of Faith
God surprises us like Sam did me. I had no idea that Sam knew the word autism, or that we even associated it with him. Sometimes we think no one else knows anything about us or really understands, but God always knows our needs and all about us. Sometimes we just need to talk to him to find out. It's really simple with Him, because...He knows...
"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. "