A Big Thing

A big, important, amazing thing happened at our house last night:

My boys played together.

If you are a parent, you might be thinking, "Uh, okay? Isn't that what siblings do?"  If your child has autism, though, you know how monumental this is.

My boys are 12 months apart.  I had dreams for them.  They'd be best friends.  They would entertain each other, only fighting occasionally.  They would look out for each other, and would only rarely be annoyed with one another.  They would have the perfect brotherly relationship turned friendship.

Then autism.

When they were younger, I kept waiting for that magical age everyone told me about. You know, the age when they would play together, entertaining themselves with imaginary sword fights and dragon slaying.

...but my kids didn't even interact with each other.  Oh, Finley wanted to play, but Colin didn't really know how to.  I remember when Finley, about three years old, cried saying, "I just want Colin to play with me."

Do you know how heartbreaking that is?  To see your son crying because he wants so badly to be able to play with his brother? An interaction that should come so easily, yet it as so hard for my son....and also how heartbreaking that is as a mom?  Dreaming that your children would have this built-in playmate, a forever friend.  To see your baby struggling to interact with his brother, it just hurts your heart.  

If your children easily play together, I bet this is hard for you to understand. It might even be unfathomable to you. I have described it before as raising two only children.  Raising siblings who don't often enter each other's world.

As Colin got older, I could see that he wanted to play.  He was interested in his brother, but he didn't really know what to do with that.  He would play beside him instead of with him.  In the therapy world we call that "parallel play."  

They are now five and six years old.  More and more recently, I've had glimpses into a life where my kids can play together.  Jumping on the trampoline together.  Painting side by side.  Playing chase through the house.

The amazing thing about last night is that Colin initiated playing with Finley.  He walked up to his brother and said, "Pinwey." (Which is how he says Finley, and it is the cutest thing in the whole wide world.)  

I watched them play together for almost an hour.  Playing in their playroom, then giving each other piggy back rides.  All unprompted and not even a bit mediated by mom.  When Colin wanted his brother to climb on his back, he would get down on all fours, look him directly in the eye and say, "Pinwey."  I watched as Finley gently encouraged his brother to imitate his speech models.  I also watched as he pelted him with Nerf gun darts...and Colin loved every second of it.  

So often, I encourage Finley to get into his brother's world.  He is so amazing at it.  He tries to engage him, he also helps chase him in the instances when he takes off running.  He's the best big brother, always looking out for Colin.  Last night though, Colin left his little world and entered his brother's.  I had two brothers in the same world, playing together.  

Last night gave me so much hope.  I'm thankful for Colin's tremendous progress.  He's come so far, and I know he will continue to do amazing things.  And truly, I was so happy for Finley, that he's getting that brotherly playmate that he's always wanted - that I've always wanted for him. 


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