If you want to know how to treat a child with autism…look to their sibling, they will show you!
I am excited to share Ashlyn’s viewpoint of her brother and his autism! I am so thankful for my daughter and her uncanny ability to understand, appreciate, love and accept her brother. She is the reason Son-rise came to be a part of our household. Let me tell you why…
I remember when I first began exploring the Son-Rise program as an option for Lucas. They were explaining the premise of the Son-Rise program to me. The initial, most important piece was reaching our children so we could relate to them. They believed that joining our special children in their world, doing exactly as they do when they are doing exclusive repetitive, behaviors (commonly known as a stims) was the answer to ultimately creating this meaningful relationship with them. The Son-Rise belief is that “They show us the way in and we show them the way out.” (As a side note, some examples of stims include repetitive, exclusive behaviors such as repeating phrases, yelling loudly, running back and forth, shaking a chew tube, staring out of the corner of their eye at something, etc.)
Prior to Son-Rise, my whole background had been in repetitive table trials, generalization trials, behavior modification….essentially Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). So I knew that if I was going to choose the Son-Rise program for my child that it meant I was literally taking the complete opposite approach to what I had been trained to facilitate with him for the past 3 years. As I began to get over myself and all the work I had personally done to get Luke this far, I began to allow myself the time to digest what they were really telling me. Although my gut was telling me, “Yes!!!”, my head wasn’t there yet. After all, we had invested so much time, money and effort into our current therapies and he was making progress, mostly cognitive progress.
However, what I really wanted for my son was the ability to have meaningful relationships, to love and allow being loved. I reminded myself why I ultimately began looking at Son-Rise. I then thought about the only human being I could think of that Luke was relating to at the moment. I mean truly relating to, on a human level. That one person was my daughter Ashlyn. As I began to reflect on her interactions with him, I began to realize that she naturally and instinctively regularly joined her brother in his world and he connected with her as a result of it. It was because of this realization that I decided I was going to plunge feet first into this program. So ultimately, Ashlyn was my teacher. I am so thankful for her and her innocence in setting me on the right path to reach my previously unreachable son.
Why does joining work? Our special children tend to be very much in their own world and when they look around them, there is no one doing what they do. They are in essence very alone by nature and we are unrelatable to them as a result. When we choose to join our children, we show them commonality, that we have an interest in them, that we love what they love, and we also open up a world of truly understanding them. Isn’t that the foundation all relationships are built upon!?
In my very first joining session with my son, I was greeted with my first heartfelt hug initiated by Lucas! I had never received a hug from my son since he regressed into this world of autism, so I can assure you that the power in joining our children speaks volumes to them and his reaction was just a testament to this. My son who would not previously allow me to touch him, sit next to him or at times wouldn’t even allow me to be in the same room with him was compelled to hug me! This hug was one of the most moving experiences of my entire life and the reason my son is where he is today in this program!
Below is my interview with Ashlyn. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did. Her ability to see him as her brother always first and foremost is a constant reminder to me about what it is to be human in all capacities. After all, in her words, ” I love him because he is Lucas and he is my brother.” If that doesn’t say it all!
What do you find difficult about your brother? It is hard to get him to stay so I can put sunscreen on him. Also, when bud does autism things, it makes me feel weird and sad. What autism things? When he squeezes me hard or pinches me on the leg. Why do you think he squeezes or pinches you? He squeezes me because he is excited and he wants to share his excitement with me. How does that make you feel? Happy.
What do you think autism is? Sometimes I think he doesn’t understand what I am talking about. He has a hard time telling me what he is thinking. I do love it when he and I chase each other in the back yard.
What do you think it is like to have autism? I think it would be hard not to be able to understand.
What do you think is great about autism? It makes me happy that brother gets to be himself and I get to be myself.
How do you feel about helping and looking out for your brother? It makes me happy because that’s my job. Why do you feel it is your job? Because I love my brother and that is what I want to do.
What do you think of the Son-Rise Program and Luke’s playroom? I think that the Son-Rise program is teaching Luke how not to do bad stuff like pulling over the chairs. It is also teaching him how to play with me. I think the playroom is fun and it makes me happy to be in there to play with new toys.
What do you think about all the new people and volunteers coming in our home to play with Luke all the time? I like them because they are helping my brother.
When Lucas throws a tantrum, how do you feel? Sad because I feel like I have to lay with him. Why do you lay with him? I want him to feel better.
Is there anything you would change about your brother if you could? To not have tantrums.
Is there anything you wish you were able to do that your brother currently does? He is really good on the exercise ball. I wish I could bounce on the ball without my hands and go across the room like him without touching the floor.
How do you feel about mom running a home program for Lucas while you go to school? Happy because mom is helping him get better.
How do you feel when: Lucas yells loudly in public? Happy because it’s fun, but sometimes he startles me. Runs away? Sad. I worry about him. Runs around outside in just underwear and a t-shirt? I laugh because it’s funny. He’s being silly.
How do you feel when people ask questions about why your brother is doing something, for example when he chews on his chew tube? I tell them he chews on it because he likes it. It doesn’t bother me to answer questions about him. It makes me happy to tell people about my brother. Sometimes I tell brother to say hi to people and he does. That makes me happy too.
How do you feel that your brother can’t do things or talk like you can? Sometimes sad, because I just want him to play with me.
What is your favorite thing to do with your brother? I love to jump on the trampoline with daddy and brother because I like myself when we are jumping together.
What is your least favorite thing to do with brother? When he asks me to run with him, but I don’t want to. He just keeps asking and it can be annoying.
How do you feel when your brother hugs you? Happy. It really really makes me happy because I love my brother.