When I started blogging, I was hoping to meet other parents of kids with autism. I did, of course, and they have been a great resource. What I didn't know when I started out, though, was that I would also meet a lot of people with autism, and that their insight would be equally valuable to me.
One of the autistic friends I've made through blogging is Chloe Rothschild, a young adult who is a writer, speaker, and autism advocate. Like Bud, Chloe is part of a blended family. Through her experience, she has learned to navigate life with younger step-siblings, so it was natural that as we were chatting last year, shortly after Bud and I were sharing a home with Brian and Buster, the topic would come up.
Chloe asked me how Bud and Buster were doing together. I told her that the dynamics between them could be challenging at times, because preschoolers are notoriously good button-pushers, and our resident teenager has some very easily-pushed buttons. And sometimes, when his buttons were pushed, his response was not entirely kind.
Chloe said that she'd experienced similar things, and said she thought it was important to make sure that Bud had his own space so he could retreat when he needed to. I told her that he often spent time alone in his room, but I worried that he felt like he was being pushed out by this new little person in our life.
"Schedule Mom and Bud time, too," she said. "That's crucial."
And then she asked, "Does Bud have a phone? Does he text? Could he text?"
The question intrigued me. He didn't have a phone, I told her, but yes, he could definitely text.
Chloe explained to me that a cell phone could be a valuable tool for Bud. She said he could text me from another room if he was upset, or if there was something he wanted to say that he knew might be interpreted as rude. She said he could also use it to ask to speak to me alone when he needed to.
I thought a lot about Chloe's suggestion in the weeks that followed, and a short time later, Bud got his first cell phone. He took to texting immediately, and Chloe was absolutely right - it gave him a new channel of communication and a way to express himself without having the pressure of trying to say things out loud in front of an audience. To my great relief, it also helped me to understand that when Bud retreated to his room on a weekend afternoon, he was doing so happily. He liked having space and the ability to do his own thing, and did not feel at all bad that Brian, Buster and I were playing a game or watching a movie without him.
By great coincidence, as I was writing this post, I checked Facebook and saw that Chloe had linked to a piece she'd just written for The Mighty called Four Things I'd Like My Future Step-Siblings to Know About My Autism. I hope you'll click through and read it. I'll be bookmarking it for future reference. I suspect there may come a time when Bud might like to share it with Buster.