Every August and January for the past seven years our daughter Danielle has seen us loading up the van with crates, boxes, furniture, and other items to the point where there’s barely space to fit another blessed thing. She accompanies us to a dormitory or apartment where the cargo is unloaded and carried up stairs or elevator. When everything’s set up in the room and neatly organized, she says goodbye to her brothers Brendan or Colin as we return home without them. Although we do our best to explain what is going on, we are unsure how much Danielle understands, and if she is left wondering “Where is my brother?”
Danielle has autism. When her brothers are away at college she may not see them for weeks or even months. We wonder what she thinks and feels as she notices that there is one or two fewer plates at the dinner table, the sofa is readily available, and no one is trying to jump in the front seat of the car ahead of her.
We try to make this absence easier by letting her know when her brothers are coming home and that they miss her. We put her on the telephone when they call home. New technologies like Face Time and Skype work wonders. Danielle smiles happily and says their names on her electronic speech machine. Sometimes she gets their picture and brings it to the phone. We still are not sure exactly what she understands or thinks about it. We wonder if other families with children with special needs are going through something similar.
Danielle is very fortunate that she has a younger sister at home who spends a lot of time with her. Her brothers do the same when they are home. Siblings of people with special needs should be recognized for all they do. It is not always easy for them, and their needs are sometimes put on the back burner. Danielle has a strong bond with her brothers and sister. She is glad when we are all together enjoying each other’s company.
Copyright 2016 David and Mercedes Rizzo.
All photos copyright 2016 David and Mercedes Rizzo. All rights reserved.