I always thought I knew what having an autistic child was like. My littler brother Joshua was diagnosed at 2 with autism, and he’s 15 now. So I grew up at ground zero, or so I thought. I know about the behaviors, the food allergies, and everything else in between. I mean, after all, Josh was pretty severe 13 years ago, so I saw it all, the tantrums, the running away, the sneaking food he wasn’t supposed to have, the constant medicine adjustments, finding out the medicine wasn’t right for him, seeing how hard it was on my parents. I thought I understood what it was like to have an autistic kid.
So when my parents were going away for their anniversary and asked me to watch Josh, I thought, hey, no big deal. This will be easy. I mean, hey, I grew up with him. The only thing I was nervous about was dealing with his diabetes. I really, really don’t like needles. Dad had me come over and practice a couple of times, so I knew how to do it, and really, it’s not that hard. I still don’t like the needles though, but you know, it’s that or he dies. Other than that, I just had to prep his meals. Again, no big deal, his allergies are cured, so I just had to fix him the pre-planned meals and serve them to him after giving him his insulin. Oh, and I had to give him his other medications, but it was all prepared for me.
Mom and Dad were going to leave early Friday morning, so I came over Thursday night, got settled in, set my alarm so I could make sure to get up in the morning to give him his insulin and start the weekend right. Overall, the weekend went great! Josh and I had a great time, he’s really low maintenance, so I let him do his thing, we played a little and I took him to a couple of movies. He’s lots of fun to be around most of the time.
Wow did I learn a lot though. I never realized that parents of an autistic child have to always be thinking about their kid and his needs. It’s always in the back of your mind, even with someone as low maintenance as my little brother. It ends up pretty much taking over your life. Especially with the diabetes. Every meal had to be planned out, and had to happen at about the same time, and I had to prep for it in advance. Sleeping in? Forget about it, you’ve got to be up before or as soon as he’s up. Time alone? And like Mom talked about last week, when you go out in public, you get some really unpleasant looks. It’d never really bothered me before, I’d hardly noticed, but when I was in charge, I sure did. It irritated me more than anything, I wasn’t embarrassed by Josh, I just couldn’t believe the stares.
This weekend really gave me a new admiration for the parents of autistic children. They really go through a lot, and there are no breaks, not a whole lot of “me” time, and just overall a lot to remember, and they’re always thinking about it. It’s still fun, Josh and I had a great time throwing stuffed animals at each other, having tickle wars, and watching movies. He’s such a pleasure to spend time with, and I was glad I got to do it. I’m really looking forward to next time.