Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Martin and his sister have a volatile relationship. Full of love, full of frustration, and sometimes full of physical conflict. If he is Bert (the paperclip-collecting puppet on Sesame Street), then she is Ernie (the puppet who makes goofy jokes and giggles). If they were the A-Team, she would be crazy Murdoch and he would be taciturn - and potentially explosive - B.A. Baracus.

I've read that an autism diagnosis sometimes means that families stop having biological children. They worry about having another kid on the spectrum. They wonder if it's fair to the developmentally disabled kid they already have to bring another screaming, needy infant into the world. And they consider what it might be like for typical kids to grow up with siblings on the spectrum. For some people, it's enough to stop further babymaking.

I found out I was pregnant with a second child just a week or two after Martin's diagnosis. Our entire experience with autism has run concurrent with expecting and then having another kid. For us, this has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. True, it's totally nuts at times. And sometimes Martin struggles to assert his way in a family that consists of not just his parents, but also another kid. Most of the time, however, it's been great for Martin to have a sibling. They talk to each other. They play together - sometimes. Martin's sister provides him with endless opportunities to practice the social skills that are so difficult for him.

There's one aspect of their relationship that I didn't expect. Sasha's little-sister love of her brother makes her want to be just like him, autism and all. She is also obsessed with the presidents. She, too, will listen to us read a book about the First Ladies. This emulation won't last forever, but for right now, I think it's nice that Martin has someone around who thinks so highly of him.

She teases him as mercilessly as Ernie teases Bert. And she drives Martin even crazier than Murdoch does B.A. But like both of those sets of characters, Martin and Sasha make a nice little team.

PS - School is going well and Martin now knows the names of all the First Ladies.


  1. I am so glad Martin has Sasha, but this post is hard for me to read. We are one of the families who decided one child with autism was enough. Our son was three by the time he was diagnosed, and we'd been completely depleted by the time we had the official word. Maybe if we'd had the diagnosis earlier and been in the midst of it while expecting another child like you were, it would have been better than having so much time to ponder our decision. We did what we could with the information and energy we had at the time. In any case, this is not to take away from Martin's good experience with a sibling. My son loves Ernie and Bert, so I loved the comparison with Martin and Sasha.

  2. Melissa,

    I think every family has to do what works for them. I have moments where I wonder if we - as parents - can handle two kids at all, let alone one on the spectrum. At other times, I'm really glad it's worked out this way. I hope that by writing about these decisions, other folks can see what it's like to live with people on the spectrum and how it's different from life in other kinds of families. Thanks for telling me about your experience!

  3. Hi Jen. Just a note to say how much I enjoy reading your posts when I make the time. Love, Kate

  4. This was a great post! We too decided to have no more children after Logan got the diagnosis. God had other plans for us though. We got the diagnosis when he was 3 and had another child when he was 4 and a half. While I would not have planned it that way, Madison has been the best therapist for him. She is so patient and kind with him. Now that they are older , the relationship is stronger than ever and I wouldn't have it any other way.