Martin and his sister have a volatile relationship. Full of love, full of frustration, and sometimes full of physical conflict. If he is Bert (the paperclip-collecting puppet on Sesame Street), then she is Ernie (the puppet who makes goofy jokes and giggles). If they were the A-Team, she would be crazy Murdoch and he would be taciturn – and likely to explode – B.A. Baracus.
I’ve read that an autism diagnosis sometimes means that families stop having biological children. They worry about having another kid on the spectrum. They wonder if it’s fair to the developmentally disabled kid they already have to bring another screaming, needy infant into the world. And they consider what it might be like for typical kids to grow up with siblings on the spectrum. For some people, it’s enough to stop further baby-making.
I found out I was pregnant with a second child just a week or two after Martin’s diagnosis. Our entire experience with autism has run concurrent with expecting and then having another kid. For us, this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. True, it’s totally nuts at times. And sometimes Martin struggles to assert his way in a family that consists of not just his parents, but also another kid. Most of the time, however, it’s been great for Martin to have a sibling. They talk to each other. They play together – sometimes. Martin’s sister provides him with endless opportunities to practice the social skills that are so difficult for him.
There’s one aspect of their relationship that I didn’t expect. Sasha’s little-sister love of her brother makes her want to be just like him, autism and all. She is also obsessed with the presidents. She, too, will listen to us read a book about the First Ladies. This emulation won’t last forever, but for right now, I think it’s nice that Martin has someone around who thinks so highly of him.
She teases him as mercilessly as Bert teases Ernie. And she’s even crazier than Murdoch. But like both of those sets of characters, Martin and Sasha make a nice little team
PS – School is going well and Martin now knows the names of all the First Ladies.