Two is not worse than one


You'd think having two autistic kids is twice as bad as having one.  I disagree. 

Don't get me wrong.  It would have been nice to have one regular kid.  I think either Gaston (age 7) or Rémi (age 5) would learn more social skills if there was another non-autistic role model in the house.   At our age, Anne and I are too scared to have a third child--mainly out of fear we'd be raising three autistic kids instead of the two we already have.  Anyway, I'm not sure having a regular kid in the house would enhance their happiness (even if it would have greatly enhanced mine).

Gaston is Rémi's hero.  The younger one loves that the older one can name all the train stations and can ride a scooter.  No other kid could possibly look up to Gaston like that.  No normal kid would care about train stations.  And no regular five-year-old could possibly look up to Gaston's athletic skills, which are probably inferior to those of most five-year-olds.  Regular boys look at Gaston with either curiosity or disdain.  In our house, he's the cool big brother.

Gaston's speech is infantile, so Rémi can follow it and has started mimicking it.  Most seven-year-olds would prattle on about Ben 10 or footy (=Aussie Rules football) or whatever it is seven-year-olds are into these days, and I'm sure Rémi wouldn't follow a word of it.  When Gaston says little more than "Gaston's turn… Rémi's turn…", not only is Rémi fascinated, but he's reminded of all the turn-taking lessons that are being drilled into him at school.  He repeats the phrases, and he has learned to use them in context.

If Gaston had been normal, Rémi would be dead weight to him and Rémi would understand nothing which Gaston says and does.  If Rémi were normal, he'd be jealous that his autistic brother gets all the attention from Mom and Dad, and he'd be embarrassed when Gaston acts up in public.  We know two families who have one normal and one autistic kid (all are boys).  Without knowing all the details, it seems to me that every one of the kids suffers for having a brother of a different neurotype.

The future is grim for our boys.  Most autistic adults live with their parents all their lives, and holding a regular job might be beyond them:  I don't see why things would be any different for Gaston or Rémi or both.  But since they have each other, I am filled with hope that they'll always be able to help each other understand the big scary world outside.