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In Their Own Words – Tea for Two

This “In Their Own Words,” is written by Alysia Butler of Hopedale, Mass.

I’m sitting on the floor of our toy room watching my son.

He’s at our Fisher Price toy kitchen, pretending to turn on the water and wash his hands.

He fills up a cup from the pretend blender and hands it to me, pushing it towards my mouth so I’ll pretend to drink from it.

I take a sip, say “that was delicious!”, and hand it back to him.

With a smile, he pretends to wash the cup in the toy sink and puts it away.

He picks up the toy phone from its pretend cradle on top of the kitchen, and babbles into it (sounds vaguely like “Hello? Small cheese pizza with a side of garlic bread? Bye!)

I smile. He turns to me and laughs. He grabs a plate from inside the toy refrigerator, takes a spoon, and hands it to me. “Eat!”, he says.

I know enough to recognize what this all is now. This is pretend play.

But it’s not from my four year old.

It’s my 22 month old.

And it’s making me very sad.

My four year old never did this at 22 months. He didn’t do it at two years old, or even at three years old. Just now, after a year of special services through his school, are we seeing this type of pretend play.

I’m trying hard to stay in the moment – to sit and laugh and eat my pretend food like a good mother should. I should be celebrating the fact that my youngest is meeting all his milestones. He’s finally starting to talk in a way that doesn’t sound like he’s underwater. In almost every way, he’s right where he’s supposed to be.

But all I can do is think how different that has been for my 4 year old.

My 22 month old plays better, eats better, holds a spoon and fork and crayon better and sleeps better than my 4 year old. For goodness sake, they are only three pounds apart, even though two and a half years separate them. And it worries me. For both of them. What will happen when they are both older and the distance between their skills becomes more noticeable – more obvious – to the outside world and to each other?

I’m snapped out of my sadness by a sudden hug from my 22 month old. A real hug. A “thank you for playing with me Mom” hug. I hug back and ask for more pretend juice.

My four year old spots us playing and comes running into the room. “Can I have a tea party, too?”

I make room for him in front of the tiny pretend kitchen and he gets himself a cup. He asks his baby brother to pour him some juice from the pretend blender and they both pretend to have a drink. They giggle and I have to laugh too.

They are pretend playing together. And I realize that I have to stop comparing my kids. All three boys will do their own things in their own time. One may be reading chapter books at age six, one may be able to name every single Hot Wheels car in our house, and one may be able to sing along with Lady Gaga. It doesn’t matter how long it took my four year old to get to this tea party. Every milestone and every step, he’ll be a bit behind where he’s supposed to be. But he’s here now. That’s what my focus needs to be.

In my house, there can’t be any supposed to be anymore. Just where we are now.

Back to my tea party. Because my pretend tea is getting cold.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. September 8, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I have twins, both with autism, but they are on very different ends of the spectrum. I know what you mean about comparing and worrying. As the mom, you also worry about how the difference will be noticed by the outside world, and how the children themselves will care about their different levels. My boys are five, and every once in a while, Johnny will ask me why I have to put Mikey’s shoes on for him, why he won’t do it himself, or why Mikey can’t write his name… but it doesn’t do to dwell and be sad, does it? (Not that it doesn’t stop me from dwelling and being sad) Our tea will get cold, and we don’t want to spoil the party :) As the mom, we need to make sure they enjoy every sip. Thank you for story – it helps more than you know :)

  2. Julie Sessions
    September 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I have a 10 year old nephew that is more into playing with my 4yr old son than my 10 year old daughter. He is one of the most intelligent person I know. For any age. I realize there are different levels of autism. He is a joy in my life. My sister works so hard to raise him ‘correctly’ but struggles so much. Thank you for sharing your story. It is so refreshing to have so many ppl share their stories about autism. Gives the rest of us hope. Praying for a cure, Julie

  3. September 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    This entry choked me up- My 2 1/2 year old is autistic, and my 13 month old is not. It’s so hard for me to watch my youngest meet all his milestones, like you said, and not see my oldest even close (he’s nowhere near pretend play yet!). I feel guilty because I should be excited for my 13 month old who is starting to babble some words, but instead my heart hurts for my 2 1/2 year old who has endured 7 months of speech and occupational therapies and is barely saying “hi.” I love how you said “there can’t be any ‘supposed-to-be’ anymore.” It really makes sense to me, and I think I need to realize that more often here in our house too.

  4. September 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    ((hug)) Been there, done that. My boys are four years apart and my youngest it feels like is learning things at lightening speed. For me it has been more like being SOOO grateful that Ben is doing what he’s suppose to do, and every typical thing he does is just amazing to me, how they “just do it”. And I marvel at the fact that my older boy who’s 6 can count by fours with no trouble-I can’t even do that. It took a while for me too, to be joyous of all the blessings floating around my house, even if some of the “talents” come with a price. Thanks for sharing your story and reminding me that it doesn’t matter how long it took to learn a skill just that he did :)

  5. September 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    The littlest ones don’t know the “supposed to be’s” yet and will help the older ones just when they need it the most. My 15 yr old son with high functioning autism has 1 older and 3 younger siblings and they all contributed in profound ways without even knowing it. Vocabulary, social skills, imagining, gesturing, turn taking, the list goes on and on. If a school system ever suggests an autism only room, politely decline!! Keep up the good fight!

  6. Loleta White-Findeisen
    September 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I have watched my grandchildren pass my sons in milestones. I have watched my granddaughter, who was 3 years old at the time, take hold of her 16 year old uncle’s hand to lead him to the dinner table because he is not processing the information. I also have a precious picture of my grandson, who was 2 or 3years old at the time, standing with a latex glove on one hand and an adult diaper in the other, helping me change his 22 year old uncle’s diaper. It just is what it is. My grandchildren adore their uncles and my sons adore their nieces and nephews–one or two at a time.

  7. September 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Be faithful & believe no 2 things/ppl are the same even if they look the same…stay focused & be reassured that all the differences will make your life much more interesting… :)

  8. Christa
    September 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    “In my house, there can’t be any supposed to be anymore. Just where we are now.”
    I love that! I try to have that philosophy as well. My kids are 12 and 4, with the 4 yr old being autistic. The way I look at it, with my 12 yr old I was so excited for him to hit each milestone (and he hit a lot of them early and fast) I felt like it went by so quickly. With my 4 yr old it is taking longer to hit those same milestones but I appreciate them more and have time to savor each moment a little longer. She has things that she excels at earlier than other kids as well.

  9. TGC
    September 8, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Love this Blog!

  10. September 9, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Hi Alysia, I am from Massachusetts, too. I want to send you good tidings and to share with you that your situation may be better than you think. I saw those differences in my children, also 2 years apart in age – the older having Autism (boy/girl). The most magical part of that scenario is they behaved like twins for most of their younger years, which meant they reached numerous milestones together. Sometimes the younger outperformed the older, sometimes the other way around, but they are very close, very caring friends to one another. The result is that my son feels supported and confident because of his sister, and his sister is very caring and understanding because of her brother. Now they are 9 and 7 and have each come into their own. I pray your experience is as sweet and that you will look back (as I do now) and find the blessing underneath the challeges. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Words-4-Autism/323956325331?ref=ts

  11. Annette
    September 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    We have two sons with Autism, but one more profound than the other. Two years apart, I too did a double-take when the younger began what appeared to be out-performing his brother.

    I think you’re on track to focus on the children as individuals. Even typically developing children reach milestones at different ends of the “normal” spectrum. Celebrate each achievement for what it is and don’t look around for validation. This is one of those cases where the situation is what you make of it.

    Hugs and good wishes.

  12. sharon cinnamon
    September 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I am a grandmother who has taken care of my grandson pretty much since the day he was born. He was finally diagnosed after 4 long years. Ad/hd autism spectrum disorder..I need not tell you how tiring tbe days can be for the two of us. The family has known for a very long time that Evan is different..he eats tbe same food day in and day out. Watches the sane shows every day. And unfortunetly tho we have tried to potty train him nothing we do has worked. He’s 6 now weighs 106 pounds and only 4ft 5 inches tall. And the best thing to ever happen to me! He is smart and tries si very hard to do the things he should every day…he has taught me courage I never knew I had. I learn from this little person every day. I thank you ladies for sharing your lives and look forward to learning from you as well…hang in there you are doing a great job !

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