I’ve spent a good deal of time using my blog and Facebook to provide updates about Stone and the issues we face regarding his Autism.
Of course, he has a twin brother Ty – and as often happens when there is a child in a family who has special needs, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the development and accomplishments of a sibling. This is so common, that Autism advocate Holly Robinson Peete decided to write a book about it with with her daughter (who has grown up in the shadow of Autistic brother Charlie).
So this post is devoted to Ty.
Ty is an incredibly special boy in his own right – and for so many different reasons.
First, Ty is very intelligent. Now of course every parent is going to say their kid is smart – but how many little boys could count to 100 when they were two years old? Ty did that – and also had the alphabet memorized at the same age. He’s been able to read now for nearly a year – it started first with road signs but quickly progressed to books and other materials. One of his favorite reading materials now are Wii game instruction manuals. I’m not exaggerating when I say that whenever we buy a new Wii game Ty spends more time reading the manual than he does playing the game. It’s pretty funny watching him sit on the couch studying each manual intensely. But the reading does pay off – he has figured out these games incredibly fast. There have been numerous occasions when Renee and I have wondered “how does he know that about this game?” before remembering how much time he invested in the manual.
And Ty has discovered a new tool at his disposal: YouTube videos that feature game tips, tricks and hacks. It’s typically his first request in the morning – for me to bring in my MacBook Pro on the kitchen table so he can watch video after video while munching his breakfast.
In addition to his Wii adulation, Ty is developing into a big sports nut. Naturally some of his favorite Wii games are those on Wii Sports Resort – he especially loves 100 pin bowling but also plays his share of golf (with clubs and frisbees), kayaking and tennis (on the court and table). He also loves driving games – Mario Kart is his favorite of that genre (so far).
But what makes Ty so special to me is his incredible capacity for compassion and empathy. I don’t know if this is something he has gained through growing up with Stone and his condition or its simply his personality, but it’s very unique and we are already compiling a number of stories that demonstrate this quality.
So far my favorite came from Karol, who helped take care of the twins for the two months when we were in transition between full time Au Pairs. She told me of a time she took the boys to a park in Seattle. She noted that there were many children with physical disabilities playing in the park and playground. Ty had found a boy to run with (he loves to run races in straight sprints) and was having a great time. Apparently a young girl with a physical disability (Karol wasn’t sure what it was but said she walked with a noticeable limp) wanted to join the fun but the other boy refused to let her play with them. Ty invited her to join them and she was thrilled. But what makes this even more special is what happened next. When the race started, Ty and the other boy flew down the lanes running. Ty looked back and saw the girl walking/running as best she could and he stopped…and waited for her. Then he grabbed her hand and they ran and finished together.
There was another time I brought Ty to a local Edmonds park and he had his bicycle. This park has a great paved path that circles the exterior so Ty loves to ride lap after lap around it. Near the playground he befriended a very young boy who had a small bicycle that he could only walk with as he straddled it – he wasn’t ready to ride it yet. I watched as Ty and this little boy started off around the path. Again, Ty would go a short distance and then stop and wait for the other boy. I kept my eye on them as they slowly made their way around the path and they eventually made it back – and the little boy was thrilled.
Ty also amazes me with how he deals and interacts with Stone. To Ty, Stone is his brother and he loves and accepts him for who he is. Period. He has never asked why Stone doesn’t talk more nor has he asked why Stone only watches Little Einstein episodes on the TV. Ty will often come into the room and say hi to Stone or tell him good morning. I don’t think he expects a response but he still tries to communicate with him. And there have been more than a few occasions when Stone has been upset and crying, and Ty has tried to consol him by saying “Stone it’s alright – you’ll be OK buddy.”
I mentioned earlier how much Ty loves to play the Wii. He is remarkably patient when it comes to dealing with Stone with that as well. Quite often Ty will be trying to play a game and Stone will decide it’s a good time to take Ty out – and will tackle him or try to climb on him or cause some other type of mischief. Ty lets him do it and will only occasionally voice some type of protest “come on Stone – knock it off.” But he has never gotten angry or lost his temper with Stone during these times. I know from personal experience that there would have been huge brawls between my brothers and I had the same thing happened between us.
Ty loves the water and was absolutely thrilled to have his first swimming lesson on Saturday (we signed up for lessons through the YMCA where we are members). For nearly a year now he has been placing his face underwater and pretending to swim in the bath tub – so he was excited to actually try it out in a real pool. He shows great instincts in the water and I have no doubt he’s going to become quite a good swimmer. He’s already expressed interest in joining a swim team.
Finally, I’m just so grateful for Ty for his overall personality. He’s a very funny boy who loves to laugh. He’s very easy going and usually only demands attention when he wants us to play with him on the Wii (or to use our computer to watch Wii videos). And as I mentioned earlier, he’s very thoughtful and considerate of others (he usually asks Renee, Hany and I each day “are you happy??). I want him to know and remember how special he is so he and I started reciting a brief mantra a few months ago – I tell him that he’s Smart, Strong, Brave and Funny (and now he says it too). Of course he’s much more than that – but I think it’s an excellent starting point.
While I’m naturally excited about Stone’s progress and potential I’m equally thrilled with Ty and can’t wait to watch him continue to develop.