Siblings of Autism: A Bond of Understanding and Unconditional Love


‘Mom! Did you know that my brother doesn’t talk?’

I’ll be honest when he said it to me I burst out laughing. It caught me off guard. The innocence of it.
He had just come up from downstairs.
Four years old.
Spikey blonde hair.
A dimple on his left cheek.
A red and blue Spiderman costume a size too small.
The younger brother to an older brother with nonverbal autism.
‘For real mom! I was just with Cooper for SO LONG and he didn’t say one word! Did ya know? Did ya know?’
See, it’s only recently that these two siblings have started acknowledging each other. There is 8 years between them. And usually they are like oil and water.
But lately, they both like to go down to the playroom. And neither wants to go alone.

So they go together.

Harbor likes to build. Cooper likes to watch. Harbor likes to set up his characters in make believe worlds. Cooper likes to listen.
I often hear lots of noise. And laughing. And throwing and crashing.
And one little voice doing all the talking.
I knelt down to his level and asked him a few questions.

And I explained about autism. And his older brother.

He listened quite intently.
When I was done speaking I watched him pause at the top of the basement stairs. He stood there thinking his foot hesitant to take the first step.
Then he looked at me, smiled, and said…

‘That’s ok mom. I can talk for the both of us.’

And off he went down the stairs.
When it comes to this parenting disability life there is no handbook.
Just love. That’s what guides us in every decision.
As I processed my conversation with Spidey I had a beautiful realization. One about love and acceptance and siblings.

To him, his older brother Cooper was just…Cooper.

Not broken.
Not different.
Not wrong.
Not a diagnosis.
Just Cooper.
It’s a gift I tell you. To belong to these little humans as they navigate this secret world of autism.
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.
Avatar photo

Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

Share this post: