Sunday, December 12, 2010

not like you.

 I have often wondered how to explain Max's behaviour to Cameron.  While she is "only" 2, she has the vocabulary of a 5 year old and a sense of compassion that is astounding.  Cameron loves her brother up and down and then some.  To her, he is only Max - her big brother, her sidekick.

Yesterday morning they were playing together - typical little kid stuff.  Max was thumping her with a couch pillow and Cameron was responding by giving him a light tap on the head.  They were giggling up a storm, so I didn't think much of it.  Cameron may be half his size, but she can definitely hold her own with him.  Suddenly the giggles turned to cries and Cameron appeared in the kitchen, tears rolling down her face, and said "Max hurt me".  I could hear Max laughing from the next room, and Cameron yelled "NO MAX! IT'S NOT FUNNY!".  She reached up for me so I scooped her up, gave her a cuddle and then set her down on the kitchen counter while I made breakfast.

Cameron continued telling me how unhappy she was with her big brother.  I found myself explaining "Cameron, you know how when I am laughing you know I am happy, and when I look like this (I made my face look sad), I am very, very sad?"  She nodded.  "Well, for Max, he doesn't always understand the difference.  If you are laughing and then you are crying, he has a hard time knowing that you aren't playing anymore.  So, we have to try to be patient with him and help him with that." She looked at me, very seriously.  "Okay mommy" she said.  "Maybe if you are playing and you get mad or sad, you could just tell him "Max, stop! I'm sad," or "I'm mad" or "that hurt me".  That way he will can start learning what to do when he sees you aren't happy.

And that's how I started the process of explaining to Cameron that her big brother has Autism.  I never imagined I would start this early.  This will be an ongoing process.  I remember reading about my friend, Julie Cole's first experience talking about her son having Autism with her oldest daughter. I like her approach and appreciate her guidance on the matter. I want Cameron to know it is not okay for anyone, Max included, to be mean to her.  I want her to know that it is not okay for him to hit her.  I also need her to understand that by not responding to Max's behaviour directly, we aren't endorsing it.  I don't want her to think there are two sets of rules in our house - the ones for Max, and the ones for everybody else.   I wonder how other parents handle this situation?  It's a tough one.

I need more coffee.

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