When do you talk about it?
‘Mummy, you know how Will has Autism? Well, what do I have?’
These were the words from my 5-year-old a few weeks back. We were in the car and it just came out of nowhere.
To be honest, I wasn’t surprised he asked the question. Ryder is very smart. He asks lots of questions but in that moment, I needed to help him understand as best I could.
William was in the car when the question was asked as well. He didn’t seem too phased by it and actually had no reply.
‘You see Ryder, you’re just a beautiful little boy, just like your big brother Will, but William sees the world a little differently to you. His brain is different to yours’.
I then went on to remind him about the loud noises that upset Will sometimes. The way that Will needs to do tasks a certain way, and that he plays with his toys in a different way to him. We discussed that it’s exciting that we are all different, and that they can both learn from each other.
I saw Ryder looking out the window pondering what we had discussed, and I could see in his eyes that it all made sense. William was there humming and singing in the backseat looking peaceful in his own little world.
Does William understand and know that he is on the spectrum? No, not at this point. I know he doesn’t understand what it means just yet. I talk about it openly and in small snippets when it comes up though. We talk about the TV series Pablo and how that little boy sees the world a little differently, just like him. I tell him that he is very smart, and that Ryder is very smart and that they can both help each other with their own strengths and challenges.
Controversial or not but I have to parent both boys very differently. Their needs are vastly different. Their play, communication, wants and desires require me to change the way I handle situations to support them in all aspects of their life. It has always been that way. That is our family dynamic.
So, when this conversation arose two weeks ago, I knew that Ryder understood what being autistic meant and how it related to his brother.
I know he understands that William struggles to communicate with him at times. That he flaps and flicks objects in his hands as a way of calming himself. That when William screams, it’s a sign he’s struggling with his emotions and unable to regulate what is going on at that point in time.
There will come a time when it will come up again, maybe in a few months or perhaps a few years and William will get it. He’ll understand, but for us and for now, we are not there yet.
So when should you talk about it?
Well, it is completely different for everyone. There is no rule book. I don’t believe there is a certain age that someone should be told they are autistic. I do believe it should come from a loved one when initially spoken about. It should be in a comfortable, supportive environment where it can be discussed with positive thoughts.
I’ve heard stories where people have been told by their peers at school, or they have just gained enough knowledge to know within themselves without having someone have to explain it to them.
For us, we are just not at that point yet, but when it comes, I will give William all the time in the world to ask the questions he needs. He will embrace it because I will make sure he knows that he has a place in this world and that being different is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. That the world needs all kinds of different.
My advice for him will be to always be proud and never ashamed of who he is. To surround himself with positive people that will only encourage him to accept that he is more than fine, just the way he is.
Because you know what? how boring would the world be if we were all the same?