Let There Be a Sister

One green, green day, the Lord looked upon the world. He admired his sons and his daughters. He smiled at all of the wonderful animals, and he gazed tenderly at each new baby. The round blue earth, with all of its people and puppies and flowers and trees, seemed complete.

But the Lord was not so sure. He thought about it for a while, and then he said to himself, I am not done yet. I need someone who is a little different.

Let there be a boy, he said, who is unlike any other child in the world.

This boy will challenge the convention of sports, and religion, and academics, and friendship.

He will swear. He will say whatever comes into his mind. He will jump and twirl to a silent rhythm within in his body.

This boy’s life will not be easy, the Good Lord thought. He will be misunderstood. He will be called many things, like rude or disrespectful or stupid.

He will have a hard time making friends. At times, he will be lonely.

God sat and pondered the idea of a lonely boy—a child who, without the right sort of champion to tell his story, might become reduced to little more than a diagnosis typed on a piece of paper.

Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

This boy, he needed someone to join him in his mysterious dance, while at the same time help others see him through a new lens.

Because although not everyone can understand his music, it is the loveliest song he hears.

And perhaps his will not be a life of varsity teams or trophies or the honor roll, but it will not be a life less lived. 

He is different, yes, but he is equal.

He is anything but stupid. 

With this in mind, God made a sister. 

He made a girl with a heart spun from golden thread, and courage worthy of ten thousand soldiers upon a battlefield.

He gave this boy someone who will listen between the words, and feel his heartache as her own.

This girl, God thought, she will stand beside him at his lowest point—middle school, perhaps—when his body and spirit become fused inside a storm of rage and chaos and bewilderment. She will be tender, and good. And after a day of broken promises and a shattered spirit, she will help him feel whole again.

She does all of these things, and more. 

She listens when he speaks. Patiently, she waits while he searches for the words—the proverbial butterflies alighting his tongue.

She does not rush him. 

She does not say, “Hey! Look at me! What are you trying to say?” 

Or, “I asked you a question. Can you please answer me?”

She gives him all the time he needs.

For her patience, she is rewarded with his innermost secrets and worries.

She knows the wind chill makes him nervous and he loves cheeseburgers except he picks off the cheese. 

It is not always easy to be an autism sister. She pays a price, this girl. She is always watching, and often worrying about her special brother. Stories of bullying, and depression, and suicide cause her panic, as though they were wolves standing right outside her own front door. 

And when the storm of sixth grade descended—all hormones and missed social cues and an inability to grasp math—she assumed his distress like it was hers. Day after day, she watched him curl into a ball when he came home from school. She listened to the hushed voices, the new plans, and the panic in her mother’s voice.

Mostly though, she listened to him.

When he ran out of words, she went to her Easter basket on the floor of her room. From it she pulled a ball of yarn, meant for crocheting potholders and scarves. She selected a few colors, and braided a sturdy piece.

She brought it to him one afternoon, and told him when school was hard and the voices were too loud, this was his anger yarn. He could twist it and pull it and roll it until his breath was calm again.  

And he did. He brought it to school and it dangled from his pocket and when he got so mad the sky turned red, he took out the braid and he thought of his sister. It was better.

This girl, she is his respite, his safe place, and his security. 

She is his voice.

Let me tell you about my brother. His name is Jack.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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