I’ve never used the word “autism” around Alyssa. I didn’t hide the word, I just never directly told her, your sister has autism. Others may have told her, I don’t know. She clearly knows something is different about her sister. She caught on without us having to tell her that Courtney needed extra help and attention. I just chose not to use the word. Not really sure why I chose not to. Maybe I didn’t want the word to scare her? Maybe I was worried it would get in the way of their relationship? Maybe I just wasn’t ready for her to have to understand it? Maybe I wasn’t ready to answer her questions about it? Whatever the reason be, I just never used the word autism with her.
That is until yesterday. Why yesterday? Again, no real reason. I asked in a Facebook group one time when and how parents talked to siblings about autism. They pretty much all said that there will come a time where it will seem right. They were right.
It’s become a nightly routine during this quarantine that joe or I take Alyssa outside so she can take her dolls for a walk in her doll stroller to put her babies to sleep. Joe has even done this in the rain. It was my turn last night. We walked past one house and she started talking about how the house had a blue light the other day and asked why. I knew right away what she was talking about because this house has this blue light every April in honor of Autism Awareness month. This house does this because a child with autism lives there. So I explained that to her. I told her that autism is what Courtney has. Autism is why Courtney struggles with talking, with listening, and why she gets so frustrated sometimes.
The conversation ended there. I was ok with that knowing that in time, she will probably bring it up again. It just so happens she asked again about the blue light on our family walk this afternoon. All I said this time was the blue light is for Autism Awareness. I asked her who has Autism and she replied with a smile, Courtney.
Alyssa is truly amazing. She already knows she wants to be a teacher (and a princess). She talks about it every day. The two of them get on each other’s nerves constantly like all sisters but as soon as she knows Courtney needs help with something you see Alyssa switch to the “big helper” role. Watching her take on this role is nothing short from amazing and beautiful.
So maybe that’s why I never used the word. Alyssa doesn’t care. Courtney is who she is and she will love her no matter what. That, my friends, is Autism Acceptance.