Tuesday, November 12, 2013


This morning, after we took Ryan to school, Richie and I headed to his school.  As we waited in the van to stay warm, I realized that maybe this was a good time to ask the big question.

"Hey buddy... do you have any questions about brother, or about autism?"

I wasn't at all shocked by the answer, which was a solid no.  He didn't seem to have any questions, concerns, or problems with or about brother or autism.  Cool.  For about two minutes, I was beginning to pat myself on the back a bit.  Certainly we have prepared him well, explained things pretty well, and he must be pretty comfortable with the different we live with from day to day.

He crawled into my lap from the passenger seat, where he sat for our little visit, and we began chatting about his day.  Who this kid was, who he plays with, who is just a little too rambunctious for his taste, etc.  Then a girl walked up, and he mentioned her name, and that she is new to his school.  Being the pro-active, anti-bully, pro-acceptance mom I am, I mentioned that next year he'll be the new kid, too.

Oh yeah, kindergarten.  Cool.  And then it got interesting.

"Mom, after kindergarten what do I do?" 

"Well, you go to first grade." 

"Then after first grade I go to Ms. H's class, just like brother." 

"No, buddy.  You'll go to second, third, fourth, etc. then to college."

Ryan is in Life Skills.  He's not in a grade, he's in a self-contained classroom with only three peers.  His education is tailored to his needs, which is a fancy way of saying that at this time he is not able to function with his age-appropriate peers.  We did kindergarten with flying colors.  First grade, when more work starts and the curriculum drives the days more than play, colors, and sight words, it got to be too much.  Rather than forcing Ryan into the mold of the classroom, we chose to put him in a place where he would thrive.

The questions and explanations didn't stop there.

"Mom, was this my first school?" (gesturing at the small church preschool he's in two days a week)

"Yes, sweetie.  This was your first school." 

"So this was my brudder's first school?"

Oh my word, he doesn't know.  He doesn't realize at all.

"No, Ryan was in PPCD for three years." 

"Mama, what's PCP?"  (like I didn't see it coming...)

"PPCD stands for Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities." 

He stared at me.  Just stared back blankly, like I'd just spoken a foreign language.  What is this oddness?  Disabilities?  What?  

I wish I could say I came up with something smooth.  The truth is that I was stuck between wanting to tell him the truth and not wanting to overwhelm him any more than I already had.  So I shot for the middle with something about brother having autism, but that Richie does not have a disability, which means he's... well... honestly, at this point I froze.  I'm still in a bit of shock that we've talked about this so much and I've written so much and prayed and agonized over it, and he's still just brother.  

There are so many schools of thought on what to call it.  There seems to be so much in a name, in a descriptor, and it seems that this has to be chosen with the utmost of care.  After all, one could hear this descriptor and it could set the tone for that person's understanding or misunderstanding of this... uh... not sure what word to use here.  

So I told him that brother is different.  He's a blessing.  And I reminded him of the most important thing in life for believers... what Ryan brings me to and has taught me the very most about.  

Loving God and loving others.  Being kind and understanding and empathetic.  

And in the end, I'm still shocked... but mostly that my five year old continually teaches me what it means to accept brother the way he is... even as I'm telling him as much.  

Thanks be to God for the different terms to describe, the differentness that presents a need for them, and for the love that transcends everything.  And for the eyes of a little brother.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...