Lincoln loved Tyson from the moment he was born and has always been proud of his big brother role.
When you think of brothers, especially like my two boys who are close in age, you probably think of days filled with playing in the dirt, ramping around on the floor, watching movies curled up on the couch together, and getting themselves into mischief.
That, however, has never been our experience.
When the boys were younger, they never played together in the traditional sense.
Lincoln would try to get Tyson to engage with him, but Tyson just didn’t have the skills to drive toy trucks, manipulate play-doh or play figurines, even if they were ninja turtles.
I bet many of you find to hard to imagine kids needing ‘skills’ to play, but they do.
When you have a child that doesn’t play, you end up learning way too much about something that most parents never give a second thought.
Although we worked for many years to help Tyson gain skills in the play department (and bought all those fancy Melissa and Doug toys), he never liked it and only treated it as a task he had to complete.
So we focussed on more simplistic ways for Lincoln and Tyson to connect.
We helped the boys engage in chase, with Lincoln always being the chaser. Sometimes Lincoln would sing songs to Tyson as Tyson loved familiar nursery rhymes. It was a way for Lincoln to get Tyson’s attention, even if only for a minute.
We have had ‘Lincoln and Tyson play’ programs in ABA over the years to try and help foster a relationship between them.
It was really hard – Lincoln put in so much effort with his brother, but Tyson gave very little, if anything, back.
By the time Lincoln was five and six, Lincoln’s role changed from big brother to protector.
He was often worried about Tyson’s safety or afraid some kid might pick on him.
When we would go places together, he would worry about him running away and follow him everywhere.
We would often have to remind Lincoln that we were the parents and he could just go play but wherever Tyson would go, Lincoln would be two steps behind.
I remember going to Bowring Park to an outdoor movie once and Tyson took off running. Lincoln went running after him, with me slowly running behind them both, and when Lincoln caught up with him, he tackled Tyson in an attempt to catch him. A stranger commented on how he shouldn’t be so rough. Little did she know that he was protecting his brother.
Lincoln would also scold us on our parenting skills. He would remind us that Tyson had autism and that it was hard for him to understand. Talking about making you feel like a shitty parent when you got a 6 year old giving you parenting advice.
We did not want Lincoln constantly worrying about his brother.
We did not want Lincoln to feel responsible for Tyson.
We wanted Lincoln to just be a carefree little boy.
However, having a sibling with special needs did (does) have its advantages.
As Tyson’s disability became more visible, Lincoln was learning to become a more compassionate little human.
Lincoln’s compassion was not just for his brother, but for all he encountered who were a little different, like Tyson.
As Lincoln got older, we were also conscious of the idea that Lincoln’s friends may be unkind to Tyson or tease Lincoln about his brother’s disability.
Although there were a few small incidences in school, for the most part, what we have seen is the opposite.
For a bunch of preteen boys, it’s amazing to see. I have seen Lincoln’s friends swing with Tyson in the backyard, cheer him on to jump into the pool, and give him fist bumps whenever they meet.
Part of being Lincoln’s friend is accepting Tyson for who he is.
Things are slowly (at a snail’s pace) starting to change between Lincoln and Tyson.
They now fight, which is awesome.
I know most parents probably wish their children would stop fighting but fighting is a very normal part of being a sibling (right B.J.😉)
Lincoln no longer hands everything over to Tyson just because he wants it, and he has learned that just because Tyson has autism that doesn’t mean Tyson has free rein to do whatever he wants.
Tyson is now the one that wholeheartedly adores Lincoln.
In the morning he will often go into Lincoln’s room and just stare at his face.
We think it’s adorable. Lincoln, not so much, especially Saturday morning.
Tyson will also look to Lincoln for help, especially if he knows me and Mark already said no.
Their relationship is evolving and that is all that we can ask for.
I would love to hear from families like ours, how do your children interact?