It’s been said that the “typically developing” siblings of autistic children are, in fact, the furthest thing from typical. I can say that is true in our family. Ashley’s brother Matthew is 3 & ½ years older than her and he is her biggest champion, a form of constant support and her most valiant protector. He has spent countless hours of his life in the car with me and Ashley going back and forth to speech therapy appointments, weekly social skills groups, and marathon doctor’s appointments. He and I would become weekly regulars at the local donut shop or in our favorite comfy chairs in the waiting room. He became involved in her home therapy sessions at a very young age playing games, acting out social scripts and watching Ashley as she struggled to learn some of the most basic social and academic skills that he mastered so quickly. He has been a witness to some of her most major meltdowns, offering a hug or sometimes some advice on how we could avoid it in the future. There have even been times when he has called me and Joe out for not holding her accountable for something he knows she can do! That’s my boy.
He is an old soul, he understands our family dynamic. He is sometimes held back from doing more because as a family we can’t, or as an older brother he needs to be there to watch his sister.
It has been said that typically developing siblings often feel lonely because they don’t have peers who have siblings with special needs. So they feel different when their friends ask “what’s wrong with your sister?” Some also feel self-conscious about their sibling and aren’t sure when or how to tell their friends about them. Some feel uncomfortable inviting friends over because they are unsure of how their friend or sibling will react. I think all of those things may have been true for Matthew at one time or another. If they were, he never said so but if I’m being honest…I saw some of it.
Matthew watched us struggle to make sure Ashley’s needs were met. I could see at a young age that he didn’t like making mistakes, trying to be the perfect kid at all times. We would talk about it with him and his teachers. We would explain that perfection is impossible and we didn’t want him to stress, but he is who he is, and I can see how things affected him.
The good news is that typical siblings often turn out to be more compassionate and caring individuals. These siblings have seen what it’s like to have a hard time in life and they take nothing for granted. They see the struggles and how hard their siblings have to work just to try and make sense of the world. This is all true for Matthew.
He is 17 now, Ashley is 13.  A few years ago I explained to Matthew why all of the therapies, social groups and appointments were important for Ashley. I remember saying, “Dad and I won’t live forever buddy and I need to know she will be ok.” His response was, “You don’t need to worry mom, I will always be there for her.”
He is perfect to me.❤

3 thoughts on “#Siblings”

  1. Ok brought tears to my eyes!! Matthew is awesome!! I have seen firsthand how devoted he is. He has participated in the meetings for Ashley’s autism heroes and has been a tremendous help with instragram, Facebook and tweeter!

  2. So somehow I knew just by reading the title that this story would make me cry…. you hit on on so many things that I would not have thought of observing Matthew and Ashley. I wouldn’t have thought about how much support he gave her starting at such a young age or the “way of life” he accepted as he traveled with you from one service or appointment to another day after day, week after week,.
    I do know firsthand from a very reliable 17 year old source 🙂 that he is amazing to watch in action as he watches over his sister. I’m not at all surprised that he is ready and willing to step up to take care of her in the future… tears again just thinking about the bond he has with his sister… you all have as a family. xoxo

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