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Pretty as a Picture

A mom of two children with autism watches as they interact with one another.

 

It was just a simple thing really. My youngest child created a picture of nightmare-chasing robots, and he wanted to display it prominently in his brother’s room. The images were beautifully crafted (in my humble opinion),clearly rendering two fierce beings capable of protecting Justin throughout his nocturnal slumbers. Zach was adamant about where his artwork should reside, remaining stalwart in his determination even after I reminded him that Justin’s autism usually results in bare walls, devoid of paintings and photos. My smallest son simply turned to me and said “He won’t tear it down, Mommy”, and ran off to procure tape to adhere his masterpiece to the perfect spot.

Watching his unbridled enthusiasm made me hope he was right.

I followed Zach to his sibling’s room, helped him secure his art in the perfect place, one which will maximize its protective properties. I ask Zach if he wants to stay and read books from “Justin’s library”, and he politely declines, stating he’d prefer to play Transformers with me downstairs.

Oh well. I tried.

Four battles and as many vanquished Decepticons later, it’s finally time for me to collect Justin from his bus. I keep my fingers crossed that my eldest will admire his new “room accessory”, because it’s clearly important to his little brother, and would be a victory over some of the more destructive aspects of Justin’s OCD as well. Justin bounds off his vehicle and nearly bowls me over in an attempt to access the house as quickly as possible, and I follow quickly behind.

I call out his verbal prompt of “shoes”, which he manages to shake off before he makes a beeline to the second floor. Usually he follows this routine only when he requires water after a long bus ride, and today is no different. He slakes his thirst in the guest bathroom, then turns to make his way downstairs to what’s really important, that crucial afternoon snack.

I can always relate to him on that point.

He is just stretching out his hand to the banister when Zach barrels into him, and grabs his fingers to propel him back down the hallway. “Come see the robots that will save you!” yells my youngest, and at first Justin resists, clearly more compelled to satisfy his hunger than his brother’s whims. Zach prevails however, and Justin follows him dutifully to his room, where his sibling switches on the light with a dramatic “TA-DA!!!” coupled with a prominent point toward the wall hosting his talismans.

I hover behind, close enough to intervene, far enough to let some of this situation transpire naturally. Justin immediately notices his altered space, and moves forward for a closer inspection. He places his hand gently on the corner of his 8 ½ by 11 inch gift, and I tense. Then, he simply smiles.

Next, he turns around and makes a mad dash downstairs for a bagel.

“See Mommy, I was right, YOU were wrong!” says a joyful Zach, and I smile to myself and tell him he was correct, and that Justin loved his work. We make our way somewhat more slowly down the hall ourselves, and like most afternoons here, my two boys won’t really interact again. Justin will be consumed by his DVDs and whatever reading lessons I can sneak in on our computer.

His little brother will enthusiastically engage in a multitude of activities, ranging from writing a new story, to conquering Darth Vader’s stormtroopers with light sabers which never fail to smack me in a sensitive place. Their paths will not reconnect until bedtime, when Zach will attempt to snuggle a “goodnight” to Justin, and my sweet son will let him.

But that picture, rendered carefully in colored pencil points and designed to destroy any evil to come our way, will be the last thing I see as I quietly shut Justin’s door. It will be a reminder to me that I can step back a bit now. My boys are making attempts to know one another, moments born not of their mother’s manipulations, but inspired by a genuine interest in each other. It is a beautiful thing to witness.

And I look forward to watching this event recur again, and again.

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