Keeping the Peace, Life

Celebrating Our Son, Our Brother, and Our Unsung Hero of Autism

Please indulge me while I dedicate this post to my son. Let me recount all the wonderful ways he has blessed our life. We celebrate him every chance we get, but his birthday seems the perfect time to sing his praises. Many kids like him are often the unsung heroes of the special needs world.

Nine years ago on this very morning, a very special boy was born. We named you Gabriel, which means messenger of God. No other name would be more fitting because just like the archangel, our boy has delivered many beautiful messages to our family.

He was two years old when he started going to daily therapies for his sister. He grew up around all of our autism support team, participated in therapies, and witnessed the challenges that come with the disorder over the last seven years. To him, our life was no different than anyone else’s and he embraced it. It was a message he conveyed of acceptance.

We knew early on that our son would be a ray of light in our lives. He was the happiest baby, always smiling and laughing. Today he is the comedian in the family, always keeping us in stitches. He has always been so sensitive to others’ feelings. When he was two, I was choking on an antibiotic pill and he instinctively said “Mama you’re ok”. Even back then, he was easing my mind. As he grew, he learned more and more about autism and could see when his sister was having a difficult time. Just like he did with me when he was two, he would always comfort her. Just the other day they got flu shots at the doctor. He bravely went first and when his sister still broke down after hers, he calmly talked her down from her frenzy. God knew we would need this message of compassion.

When he was a little older, he started asking me why his sister had a lot of trouble with certain things. I explained autism to him the best way I knew how to. He would learn when she needed a break or he’d even employ some of the therapy tools we had learned. Sometimes he’d use his gift of making her laugh to help her get through something she was struggling with. Over the years, I’ve done my best to hide the tears when things have gotten hard. But on some occasions, he would find me and immediately start comforting me like my little protector. Such a beautiful message we have received over the years of how best to show love, patience, comfort and understanding.

Photo By: Courtney Studios

It hasn’t always been easy for him as a sibling of a child with special needs. He’s had his share of frustrating moments. I know many times he has sat in the shadows, waiting for his turn in the spotlight. But through it all, his own light has always shined so brightly. We’ve always seen him as this old soul, with the kind of maturity you don’t see in some adults. He has always been so kind and thoughtful. He’s been a great brother. I believe he helped her social skills progress in the early years. He was his sister’s first friend and he has been her very best friend. By being who he is, he has sent a clear message to everyone they come in contact with that if someone is different, it’s doesn’t make them less deserving of friendship.

Photo By: Courtney Studios

Growing up with a sister on the spectrum has made him grow into a wonderful human and a more inclusive person. A kid like him is actually the best champion for inclusion in our schools and in all areas of our world. I’ll save that soap box for another post, but you get my drift. Just being a brother and friend to his sister has taught him so much about how to be a good and decent person. His positive and optimistic attitude toward life and its difficulties has been a great lesson for our whole family. We have felt the message we’ve been sent is to always be in a place of gratitude.

Photo By: Courtney Studios

We don’t talk about the siblings of kids with special needs enough. The journey can be tough for them, but they are also pretty darn resilient. These days most people are aware of autism, but this world is still lacking in the acceptance area. These kiddos are showing us all how to be better friends. They are setting the example and modeling acceptance by learning to be kind, patient, compassionate, and understanding above all else. They are all sending the message, loud and clear, that people of different abilities should be included, not disregarded. Kids like our boy make our lives better and help us to be better.

Photo By: Courtney Studios

Gabriel, I want to say how proud I am of you. You’re the sweetest, most kind-hearted, and thoughtful boy. When things get hard, instead of complaining, you look for the positive and you allow yourself to grow and be better from the challenges you face. You are a wonderful son with a heart of gold and a sweet, gentle soul like no other. You’re the best friend and best brother a girl could ask for. I love your freckles and those beautiful light brown eyes. Every day you make me smile and laugh. You’re the sunshine in the rain. Baseball rocks because of you, you’re my favorite foodie, and there is no one in the world I love singing Zach Brown Band songs with more. I’m so blessed to be your mama.

May all your dreams come true and may this birthday year bring you endless joy. Thank you for being a light, for sharing your love, for living your faith, and for being the kind of true hero this sometimes crazy cruel world needs. In our family, you don’t go unnoticed. Your light burns bright and we celebrate the blessing of you today and every day. We love you so much bud bud.

Mama, Daddy, and Gracie xoxo

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