Dear Bronwyn,

Last night, you went to your grandma’s house and helped your cousins put up her Christmas tree.  All of you are little right now.  You are 4.  Your brother Callum is almost 3.  Because you are so young, you have not yet noticed that he is different from other little boys.  You didn’t understand the significance when one cousin asked tonight, “But if Callum can’t talk, how can he ask Santa for what he wants for Christmas?”  Sweet child that you are, you have already decided to ask for him.

But, that innocent question got me to thinking.  It got me thinking about hard things and tests of character that you don’t yet know are coming.  Right now, you summarize everything your brother is not yet able to do with, “That’s because Callum is a baby.  He needs our help.”  Because you are so little, you have not yet noticed that Callum and your cousin are the same age – born just five weeks apart.  So, no, Callum is not quite a baby any longer.  It just seems that way now.

It won’t always seem that way.  As he gets older, people are beginning to notice the things that he is not yet able to do.  Your brother has a condition called autism spectrum disorder.  Lots of people have this.  And, like you, they are all different.  Some of them are so affected by it, that they have a hard time communicating, making friends, and taking care of themselves.  Some of them are quite smart and make amazing contributions to the world, but seem a bit odd.  Most fit somewhere in between, and we just have to learn about them the same way we do everyone else.

And, the thing is, despite having a lot of differences. we have a lot more in common.  For they are people just like you and me.  They have fears, curiosity, and interests.  They love, cry, and laugh.  They are sad when others are mean to them.  They want friends like everybody else. Autism spectrum disorder can rob those we love of the things they want and things we want for them.  While autism can be a fascinating thing, it can also be a sad one.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who feel so bad about themselves that they think the way to get attention is to be mean to people who can’t defend themselves.  Those people are called bullies.  As much as Mama and Daddy want to protect you from them, those bullies are one day going to say mean things about your brother and maybe even you.

Baby, here’s where things are going to get tough.  Because, despite how much you love your brother, you are still a perfectly normal little girl.  You will wish with all your heart for those bullies to leave you alone.  You will have moments when you wish he didn’t have autism.  You will be embarrassed when he says and does strange things.  You will hope your friends don’t see that, and you will be horrified the day they do.  He may ruin special things for you.  And, in your hardest and saddest moments, you may wish to not have a brother at all.  To make things even worse, you will then feel guilty for feeling that way.  It’s going to seem like you just can’t win.

So let me tell you something I want you to remember.  Baby girl, I have faith in you.  You may be wondering how, my having written this when you are only four years old, I can say that.  But a mama just knows.  You have been you since the day you were born.  So has your brother, for that matter.  Not only do I love you, I happen to like you.  For you are many things I am not.  You are fearless — not afraid to ask and say what you think.  You are a social butterfly — not afraid to talk to anybody.  You are always ready for fun — never shy to dance and sing in front of whomever.  And you are worlds smarter than I ever dreamed of being.

So, you’ve got a lot going for you in terms of tools to help you handle those bullies.  Because you are so fun and likeable, you will have no trouble finding the kind of friends who will care about you for you — and not try to make you feel bad for your brother being different.  Because you are brave, you will stand up to those teasing you and Callum.  Because you are smart, you will help teach Callum how to stand up for himself.  And, though I never want you to pick a fight – and do want you to learn how to turn the other cheek when called for – I promise I will never be angry at you for standing up for what is right.  It’s hard sometimes to define what is right.  You’ll know it when it happens.

Sometimes standing up for what is right comes with consequences. Sometimes it means losing the good opinion of people who aren’t worth yours.  And sometimes, which hurts most of all, it means losing people you thought were your friends.  Yet it also comes with good things.  You and all the people who matter will be proud of you — and you’ll be proud of yourself.  You will make new friends, those whom you value more than the ones you mourn.  You will learn how to appreciate all different kinds of people.  You will be far more mature than even many of the adults you know.  And you will have made the world just a slightly better place for Callum.  You will be his hero.  Not everyone has a chance to be somebody’s hero.  I have a feeling you will be an awesome one.

It won’t be the easiest thing to do.  Sometimes you may feel angry or unwilling.  Sometimes you might feel bad for yourself.  When those feelings happen, I want you to remember something else.  As much as I love your brother and am often caught up in his needs, you are also my child.  Your hopes, fears, and happiness are just as important to me.  When you get caught up in negative feelings, by all means come and tell me.  Talk to someone.  Allow yourself to be human, even if you then have to turn around and be someone’s superhero all over again.

And once you have let off a little steam and taken a deep breath, continue to be the person I have faith you can and will be.

You will make me proud.  You already do.

43 responses »

  1. Suzanne says:

    Bonjour from Paris, France!

    I just discovered your blog via LinkedIn and I am totally hooked. I have nodded at, teared up and smiled while reading through your posts. Well done for such eloquent writing, and keep it up.

    And if you ever visit this beautiful city, with or without kids, give me a shout and I’ll be your tour guide. Us spectrum mothers need to stick together, wherever we may be.

    • FlappinessIs says:

      That would be awesome. I have been to Paris only once – for a short 4 days that included travel. It was lovely. My hubby is back in college, but I do hope to travel again when we are back to two incomes! Thanks so much.

  2. Shona says:

    Beautiful. While I could never even begin to say I know what you are going through I can say you are a strong and wonderful woman. You have very lucky children and your husband must be so proud.

  3. Beth R says:

    Wow….tears are streaming down my face! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Chris says:

    I am sobbing. The beauty and truth of your words take my breath away.

  5. tenaciouscee says:

    This took my breath away. I can’t tell you how deeply this touched me. You put into words what my deepest feelings are for my own NT daughter. Thank you for writing this. I will NE showing this to my own beautiful, protective sweet girl.
    Thank you.

  6. […] One recent post sums up this topic far more eloquently than I can. Please have a read of her post: Letter To My NT (Neurotypical) Child. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Heredity and family […]

  7. Natasha says:

    As the older sister of a boy with autism I can assure you that she’ll find she never becomes friends with those who would dismiss her brother in the first place. It becomes a sixth sense of sorts to immediately know that kind of thing. In my early adolescence is when I had the most trouble accepting the challenges, but now I can say with absolute certainty that my brother is my best friend and has taught me so much. I trust that she’ll find this path as well. All of us siblings do.
    I found this post very touching.
    Thank you for sharing it.

  8. I have been parenting post diagnosis for three years now and rarely get emotional anymore about Liam’s challenges. I’ve done most of my “grieving” and have moved on to the place where dealing with autism doesn’t seem unusual or difficult every day. It is simply life now. Long gone are the days when I would read something during a bit of down time at work and tear up infront of my co-workers. So imagine my suprise when the tears just started rolling down my cheeks half way through this beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing.

  9. nancy rountree says:

    Ohhh.. this makes my heart hurt. My son with Austism is 19 and his younger brother 17 wants nothing to do with him. He is irritated when asked a question, upset by having to help his brother. This summer I am hoping to get them both jobs at the same place and I know that my younger son is going to be embarrassed. They used to go to the same school and he non stop complained about being humiliated by his brother. I’ve tried to tell him that God gave us William to learn something and all he could say was, “so i’ve learned to accept stupidity.” I know i cannot judge my son, we’ve been through a lot and I now know he has Aspergers and does not understand empathy. I read these stories and wish I had talked to him when he was younger, maybe he would have been his brother’s champion. I’m going to try one more time, but I think I’ll write a letter so he doesn’t feel attacked. Thank you so much for the idea…

  10. Jessica says:

    oh my gosh. Your post are identicle to my life! I have a 5 yr old typical daughter, 3 yr old son who is diagnosed with autism. Non verbal and developmentally delayed. And my baby, she is 2. Showing signs of autism and she to is non verbal. It does become hard to explain to my typical daughter about how my son don’t talk and is allowed to have his meltdowns without reprocusions. No time outs for him, he receives a nice soothing hug and a visit to a quiet area of the house to calm. It’s incredibly hard to explain why he is different than other kids his size and even smaller. This goes for my typical daughter and everyone else’s typical speaking child. I pray everyday that she grows into a big sister my son can count on and feel loved by. But for now, she only loves her little sister and not him cause he’s naughty….. I’m still working on her.

  11. Darlene gemmell says:

    Thank u for writing this as my 11 year old has aspherges and fitsin the middle which msked it hard for himas he dosnt understand a lot of things it would be nice to chat with u T time thank u darlene

  12. Thank you so much for writing this from your heart. It echoes my own heart for my oldest daughter (7) so much. We have a son on the spectrum, and then 4 daughters who are NT. My oldest DD has so much strength and courage and cares so much for her brother, defending him to anyone who gets in his way! 🙂 This post made me cry, b/c I understand completely… the hopes and fears and everything in between. I often worry that I’m not giving my NT kids as much attention as they need/want, b/c of our son. It’s a hard road to walk, especially when you’re doing it with absolutely no training and flying by the proverbial seat of your pants. I know I’m rambling, but I just had to write to you and tell you how much your post meant to me… all of your posts! Suddenly, your words have shown me that I’m not alone in this strange world that few get to know. 🙂 Bless you!

  13. Sue Cranmer says:

    Thank you for this. I sent it to my NT daughter. Shannon is 27, her brother is 34 with severe non-verbal autism. Shannon has always been her “big boys” greatest supporter. She is earning her PHD in May and currently doing autism research with Dr Jill James at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. She wants to continue doing autism research. She is my hero and I am sure that her work will help many people like her brother.
    Thank you for putting so many of my feelings into words. We raise some amazing children.

  14. Laura Daigle says:

    Megan is “almost” 11 and her brother (with Asperger’s Syndrome) is a very TALL 15 (6’3″ and still growing). She has been protecting him and helping us all since she could walk and talk. She and Andrew are SO different – she’s outgoing and gregarious and he is DECIDLY NOT. He is charming, smart and very funny in a dry, intellectual way.

    You will love the scene the first time he was riding the “big bus” (no longer bussed to an out-of-district school in a special needs bus). She was 2, he was 6. She walks up to a boy Andrew’s age at the bus stop, grabs her much-larger brother, drags him over and starts asking the boy questions, “Hi, this is my brother Andrew. Do you like Legos? My brother likes Legos. Do you like Hot Wheels? My brother likes Hot Wheels. Do you like Harry Potter? My brother likes Harry Potter.” The somewhat startled boy (Hunter) looks at her, says, “Yeah, I like all those things.” Andrew looks at him and says in a shocked voice, “You like Legos?”. They start talking and Megan backs off with a little smile on her face. Trust me, I did NOT teach her to do that.

    She is always the one who knows who in the room is a little down or who needs a friend. She is SO like her father in that way. I was SO worried when I had her. Andrew was diagnosed when he was 4 and she was just an infant. All I could think was “what have I done? How am I going to meet her needs when Andrew’s are so great?” But I have NO idea what we would do without her.

    She will always understand that not everyone comes into this world with the same advantages or abilities. She gets this now and some adults don’t get that until they are 40 or 50 and some never get it. She can spot someone with AS in a heartbeat (when she talked about a boy in her class and said he was on spectrum, I asked her who told her he was. She looked at me like I had grown 2 heads and said “like someone had to tell me Mom” with that eye-roll that all pre-teen girls seem to have.). She is ALWAYS in the co-taught classroom because she has been with children with disabilities from the beginning and handles it just fine. She wants to be an Occupational Therapist after she finishes dancing professionally (she’s good too). I am UNBELIEVABLY proud of my Megan. She will do just fine and so will your daughter. Have faith. You’re doing fine.

  15. Sarah says:

    Thanks for this. My baby girl is 4 and her brother is almost eight. Her name is Emma grace and it literally means nurse/healer of grace. She has been a true godsend, but we are now having to explain why expectations are different or her than Taylor. I could have never put it into words as you have.

  16. Seija Gow says:

    That was beautiful. My aspie son is 7 (he thinks being an aspie is cool because his uncle has it and george lucas too (star wars obsession)) and his NT sister is 4. She already stands up for him and thinks he is the best. They are best friends so I know where ever he goes he will always have a friend to look out for him.

  17. Brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for saying the things the not special needs sibling needs to hear. She is very lucky to have a mom who ‘gets it’ like you.

  18. goccediacqua says:

    One of the loveliest things I have ever witnessed is the loyalty and acceptance siblings can give their atypical siblings. Of all the people in their lives, they are the least judgmental.
    For all their devotion, parents of children with disabilities seem sometimes to have had to struggle with disappointment at losing the typical child they had hopes and dreams for. But siblings grow up knowing and loving this person for who s/he is. Truly unconditionally.

    I hope your fears about bullying never come true. It is not inevitable.

  19. This is beautiful, touching, and heartwarming. thank-you for sharing this 🙂

  20. Dryad Druid says:

    Thank you for writing this. I could have written this to my son talking about his little sister. You strike to the heart of the matter in such articulate way, I don’t think I could have done better. Thank you for sharing this.

  21. this was a hard one for me to read- took me a few tries- because as you mentioned on my post yesterday we were on the same wave length. But, I have finished it and so glad i did and so grateful for your beautiful words, I wish they had been what came out of my mouth when I needed them. Are you available on retainer maybe next time I need to have this talk 😉

  22. thank you so much, this is perfect. Our little girl is nine and our son seven. She protects him and mothers him. At school there is a special unit and my daughters possee of friends all seem to need protecting. She is the one who stands up for them which worries me sometimes as she steps in harms way. I love how she and her brother are so close and she is starting to learn to help him with his autism. He is such an innocent and they are just the best brother and sister…I liked what you said about Hero’s she is his and he hers.
    thank you again xxx

    • FlappinessIs says:

      She sounds like a very special little girl. She will be an extraordinary woman for having seen the world through her brother’s eyes.

    • Venus says:

      My daughter is 12 and our son who has autism is 19. your post describes my daughter to a T! Especially the part about standing up for & protecting even typically developing children & friends as well! I am extremely proud of her, but worry about her too!
      Again, alike your situation they are so close & are the best brother & sister to each other! That makes our lives richer for it. Thank you for putting my fellings into words.

  23. Rhonda Lessard says:

    Beautiful 🙂 And don’t worry, it’s all true. My 11-year-old autistic son has 3 siblings, ages 13, 7, and 5, and they are all dealing just super. The oldest is in the same middle school with his brother and subject to certain opinions from others, but handles them very well and makes me proud every day. They are all better for it.

  24. Sue says:

    Beautiful post once again! I only hate that it is necessary to write this. I am still dreaming of a day when kindness is the norm. Until then, we will keep fighting to change the world and protect our children.

  25. Shannon says:

    Couldn’t finish this…needed to get too much done today. I will someday, but I was thinking to myself….geez…I know what the header meant….so many don’t/wouldn’t if they didn’t have a NT child already. Thanks for putting so much of how I feel in words.

  26. Susan says:

    This brought a tear to my eye!

  27. Jennifer says:

    That was awesome. I have 2 daughters 15 (Taylor) & 4 (Riley), and there brother 2 (jackson was diagnosed after turning 2. Taylot handles it well. And your daughter reminded me so much of Riley. She sees Jackson as just Jackson. He’s her brother and that is all she knows. This was a beautiful letter to your daughter! Thank you!

  28. Polly M. says:


  29. sandytilton721 says:

    Well done Cat Herder!

  30. JenL says:

    This is beautiful – thank you for sharing. I have had a similar talk with my 2nd son, now age 9, about his older brother, who is now 11. It was heartbreaking and difficult, but an important talk to have, especially as he started to notice that although he was younger in age, in so many ways he is older.

    A (fiction) book that might help you or your daughter when she is older: Rules, by Cynthia Lord. If you haven’t read it already (you probably have, being a teacher), you should! 🙂

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