Realising Her Brother is Different

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

This picture shows that my daughter is so aware of her brother’s difficulties and limitations and will do anything she can to help him.

She has just turned 9 and although her brother has always had autism, always been non verbal and always had learning difficulties she seems to understand what that actually means much more than ever before.

As her understanding and knowledge grows so does her awareness that her brother will never be the same as her.

Children take in much more than we ever realise.

She watches me grab his arm as we approach roads where I only needed a small vocal reminder to be careful to her.

She watches me cut up his dinner for him where I would leave hers untouched for her to manage herself.

She watches me dress her brother daily knowing that no other child in her class would require that level of personal care.

She knows he can’t read and write where she can do both fluently.

I was right behind the children and could have reached out to touch either of them yet as the children approached a small turning area at the end of my street I noticed my daughter immediately pull her brother back by his coat.

It’s one of the many simple actions she now does instinctively when I am out with them both.

She blocks her brother from danger by standing in front of him, she removes things from his reach that she knows could be harmful, she types things into google or YouTube on his behalf because she understands he can’t do it himself.

She reassures him and explains everything on a level he understands.

She is not embarrassed by her brother nor afraid to care for him in public.

She points out disabled toilets for me when we are out ‘just in case my brother needs to be changed mum’, and she knows his triggers for meltdowns.

I have never had to sit down with her and explain her brother diagnosis or had to write down the best ways to handle him. She has mastered all that by watching and living daily with a disabled sibling.

Living with a brother with complex needs does affect her negatively but there is also a positive too.

While she may not yet have the full vocabulary or confidence to talk in detail about her brother her actions show an awareness that is so beautiful.

She was asked recently what she wanted to do when she was older and she said she didn’t know.

She then came home and told me how questions like that are so hard because she just thought about her brother knowing he could never answer that either.

She never asks if he will ever read or write or play games like her. She never asks if he will get better or go to her school one day like she did when he was younger.

Instead she knows he is who he is and that he is very precious and needs people to look out for him.

As my son gets older I will be looking for carers for him to allow me to get some respite.

When I think about the sort of person I want guiding my son, meeting his needs and supporting him I know exactly the sort of person I want: someone just like his sister.

I won’t always be around for my son, but while he has his sister I know he will be in very safe hands indeed.


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