I often worry about how Charlie’s autism affects, his little brother, Jude. Charlie gets rewarded for things that Jude has been able to do since he was a baby, and that’s hard for Jude to grasp. Why do we jump for joy when Charlie says “want bubbles” whereas Jude can speak full sentences (for hours on end) and it’s just a regular day? Why do we clap when Charlie uses a fork, whereas Jude is just expected to? And why do we cheer when Charlie washes his hands alone while Jude’s the one helping him? Because autism. As an adult, to me it makes sense. Charlie’s successes are different than his peers’, and we celebrate things on a different timeline to different degrees. But to a four-year-old, what does “autism” mean, and for him, does that excuse cut it?
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that it probably feels unfair to Jude! When we celebrate the accomplishments of Charlie’s that Jude is able to do so naturally, Jude protests with a “but I can do it too!” And he’s right. He can do it too, and he can do so much more. And for that, I am so thankful. I’m thankful that he isn’t struggling in any way that hinders his happiness and development. But at the same time, he’s right—it’s not fair, and he should be celebrated too. Not because he’s developing on time, but for being the amazing brother that he is…and even for something as simple as using his fork well too!
We should praise Jude for defending Charlie when people call him “weird”. For helping him with self-care skills. For loving his brother no matter how much he gets pushed away. For being the caring, soft-hearted boy that he is.
Somewhere along the line, I think, I got miscalibrated with the praise I give. So, Jude—to my little Jude: you may not get praised simply for speaking anymore, or every time you use a fork, but I am proud of you every single day and I will make sure that you hear it and feel it exactly that often.