Lessons From A Big Sister

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Ed. Note: This first appeared on RocketCityMom. If you’re not following them, you should be.

You know that feeling you get when you kid hits a home run, or makes an A on a really hard test, or is simply kind to someone without having to be reminded to be so?

That’s a feeling that I have nearly every day, and yes, I know how lucky I am.

Being the big sister to a special needs little brother isn’t easy. Especially when you’re only 19 months bigger. I’ve lost count of the number of times that my girl has willingly walked out of a movie that she wanted to see, a restaurant where she wanted to eat, or left the library, a park, the pool or a play area before she was ready because her little brother was having a meltdown from sensory overload.

Suffice it to say, it happens at least on a weekly basis. Only rarely does she complain or whine. (She is only eight years old, after all.) But since about the time she was four, she just gets it. She understands.

In fact, it was when she was about four that she first asked, “When is Matthew going to talk to me?”

She knew that she had been talking since before she turned one, and she was ready to just talk to her little brother.

But he wasn’t. And she didn’t understand. And so we had our first conversation about autism with our little girl. She listened for a moment, and said, “So, we’ll just have to teach him how to talk.”

And she has never given up on him.

She remains his most persistent teacher. She celebrates his every utterance, syllable, attempt, word, and sentence as if it were his first one.

Being on the spectrum requires a lot of a family. A willingness to suffer fools with a smile, knowing that someday that ancient smokestack of a woman outside Publix will realize that her “helpful” suggestion of greater discipline for a boy having a meltdown may have been one of the most hate-filled and evil statements she has ever made.

A willingness to just walk away from the hatred that some feel towards those who are different.

A willingness to walk out of the movie because the music stopped playing at just the wrong time.

A willingness to listen and celebrate what others assume are given because we know that *nothing* is actually a given in this life.

Being on the spectrum requires love. Unconditional, undying love, as the love of a sister for her little brother. That’s what my girl’s film captures: her open, willing embrace of diversity, of finding a way to play, of finding hope to continue listening, watching, and celebrating each incremental gain.

And constantly fighting to find another.

This is who my daughter is; not because of anything that I have done, she simply came to us this way. And we cannot believe how lucky we are.

Emma’s PTA Reflections video on Diversity has won First Place in her age division (Primary) for Film Production at the State level.

Thank you to everyone involved in the Reflections program at Mt. Gap Elementary PTA (especially Tammy Klueger and Amy Harbour) for all their encouragement and support.

As such, her video has been submitted at the national level competition as well.

You know that feeling that you get when your kid is kind without being reminded to be so?

Yeah, I know that feeling too. I have it everyday from *both* my kids.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. This is beautiful. I have been moved to tears of joy. Thank you for blessing me today!

  2. Emma is truly an amazing little girl. Bright and beautiful. I am so proud of her. Matthew is very lucky to have her as a sister. And I know she feels the same way about him as a brother. Just goes to show what good parents she has. Thank you for sharing this Russell. It brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.

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