Originally I’d planned this to be part of Autism Awareness Month in April, but of course awareness shouldn’t be consigned to months.
My sister is one of my personal heroes in life. Her home, with its four kids, two cats, and dog named Happy, is the emotional center of our family. She and my brother–in-law are the best parents I know. They make their home so loving and welcoming—last time I was there, I was washing up the dishes at the end of the day and I swear a sunbeam came in the window and just shined right into my soul. It’s that kind of house.
When Quinn was diagnosed with autism a few years ago, I was amazed by how much they took it in stride, greeted the news with sadness, yes, but also with research and love and grace. Every time I see the Carter family, I have to comment on their patience and be amazed with how loving and calm (if loud and raucous) it stays.
To wake up at my sister’s house is to wake up with all four kids climbing on me, but it’s always Quinn first, and even though he’s to be discouraged from repeating and repeating words and phrases, his little voice saying “penguin” over and over if the most comforting thing in the universe.
I asked my sister some questions about life with this magical kid, and here’s what she said:
1. What do you wish people knew about how to relate to Quinn and other autistic kids?
Appearances are deceiving - Quinn seems to be in his own little world (and he is!), but he's still taking in everything around him. He's perfectly willing to interact with people, but you have to make the first move, because he's also content to be off on his own. It does take him a while to warm up to, and be willing to interact with, new people - his teachers always start the year wondering how the heck to teach him anything, and they always end the year loving him to bits. :) He can learn just about anything, but you have to directly teach it to him - he won't pick it up from his environment on his own. The key is to be patient, and to be more stubborn than he is!
2. What are some of the things you're proudest of, as his family?
He's made a lot of progress, which is always good to see. He's becoming more social and verbal all the time, although he does still have a lot of catching up to do! My favorite thing is to see other kids (mine or otherwise) trying to help him if he needs something, or get him involved in an activity.
3. If people want to donate money or time to help with autism awareness, what do you suggest?
I don't know much about any specific charities, but I know Autism Speaks is a big one. They do fundraising walks regularly, and the money goes to research. Any research is good research!