Friday, February 11, 2022

Autism Answer: Smiling - A Sibling Story

I wrote the following story last year for my mom's newsletter, The Loop, after she and my brother visited me in Quebec. I'm in the midst of putting together another edition of The Loop and got a little sidetracked when it occurred to me perhaps it would be fun to share this story here with you. Also, I hope you'll sign up for The Loop so you can always get news and updates and fun stuff first! Follow this link: The Loop   

Me and Dar - Smiling

"Dar, look into the camera with me. Okay, smile!" Sometimes I take selfies with my brother while we wait for mom. She'll be working, or at a health appointment, or in the shower, and we'll be hanging out. We love listening to music together. We enjoy the odd verbal exchange, but his words are most often challenging for me to decipher and mine are most often of the less than inclusive "this is what I think about all these things I'm thinking about" variety. So, I've noticed, I've gotten in the habit of pulling out my phone and bugging him into taking a selfie with me. 

Now, in most of our selfies, Dar is not smiling. Not because he didn't smile, but because he doesn't hold the smile. And by the time I snap a pic, I've missed it.

However, Dar is doing something new.

Well, Dar is doing several things new. Ever since mom and Dar left their house behind and have been transitioning into this new life of travel he's been practicing new and old skills in surprising abundance. But for the purpose of this moment I'm focusing on the way he's practicing holding a smile for the camera.

At the park, Dar loves the swing. A few days before I took the photo you see above, I approached him with my camera - mom was with us, sitting in shade nearby - and asked him to smile. He did, and I snapped a photo a little late to capture it. As usual. But then he smiled again. And held it. I had been about to walk away but, thankfully, I felt his energy and noticed. So, I took another photo. Then he shifted on the swing and smiled toward me again. It was such a familiar smile. Not one I am used to seeing on my brother but the one I am used to seeing on those of us who like to smile for a camera. Not a fake smile, but a held smile. I took more photos.

Over the next few days I noticed it again. At first I wondered why this was a skill he'd bother to work on. But silly me! This whole transit(ion) lifestyle - my mom and brother living in an RV and traveling together - includes Dar and mom speaking, being on camera, sharing what they learn with an audience. So what a brilliant time to practice! Here with me, his silly selfie taking sister!

Dar's smiles, the ones he's always shared, are luminescent and transcendent and infectious. And though they were often long lasting they were rarely held for the camera. I hope, for the sake of everyone, that Dar continues holding those delicious smiles for the camera.

And I love that he's been practicing them with me.

Follow this link for Autism on the Road videos with mom and Dar: Autism on the Road Playlist
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!