He hasn’t heard the words yet

but I have.

“I feel so sorry for him,” they’ve said,

right to my face,

their tones casual, as if they’ve just announced their coffee is stale instead of making unsolicited assertions about the well-being of my youngest son Ian.

He hasn’t seen the pity in their eyes, too busy living the over scheduled, exciting life of a 9-year-old boy,

but I have.

It fills their pupils as they watch him interact with his autistic brother, watch him guide him gently across the playground, redirect him in the store, protect him from dangers invisible to their untrained eyes.

But if they knew what I know,  if they saw what I saw, if they felt what he feels for his older brother Andrew, they would not feel sorry for him.

They would feel envy and wonder how it was they never had the opportunity to experience that kind of relationship for themselves.


Theirs is a love unblemished by society’s expectations of what siblings are supposed to be for one another.

Theirs is a bond that was birthed from instinct, and built on trust, and turned into something bigger and brighter than I could ever attempt to describe.

As individuals they are unique, amazing human beings.

Together they shine pure and true and I can just imagine what the moon and the sun must think when they look down, only to be blinded by the light their love creates.

I worry about them both,

my sons.

I worry about them for different reasons, sometimes in different ways.

Ian, with a heart of a lion.

Andrew, with the innocence of a lamb.

I worry about the typical things a mother worries about, and then I worry about the things only a parent of a child with special needs would understand.

But the one thing I will never, ever have to worry about is whether or not they love each other, whether or not they were destined to be together, whether or not one deserves to be pitied because of the other.

Siblings of special needs kids have a unique set of circumstances and challenges to say the least, but their lives are also filled with the kind of experiences and expressions of love that exemplify what human nature could look like if we all stood still long enough to give a damn about someone other than ourselves.

I’m not trying to sugarcoat it or throw confetti in an attempt to camouflage the realities they both live with.

But I’m tired of those pity parties no one asks permission to throw my younger son, parties I will inevitably have to clean up after when he finally catches on that people think his brother is a burden.

They’re brothers; chosen by Chance, Fate, The Good Lord Himself (it really doesn’t matter to me).

They fight.

They share.

They laugh.

They’ve even been known to bug the crap out of one another on several occasions.

They do all of these things and more and I’m often left laughing and crying and blowing snot bubbles out of my nose when I’m in their presence.

Mostly though, I’m left thinking that I’m the luckiest mom in the world and that the most important job I have is to make sure I don’t do anything to screw either one of them up.

And if I ever catch myself wondering if it could possibly get any better between them, all I have to do is watch this video of Spencer Timme and his autistic brother Mitchel, because these brothers are my boys ten years from now.

Seems to me, the best is yet to come.

*Thank you Spencer Timme, for giving us such an intimate and positive glimpse into your relationship with your brother and showing the world that the last thing siblings of special needs individuals need is pity.

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19 Replies to “No Pity Parties Please for My Son and His Special Needs Brother”

  1. The paragraph, Siblings of special needs kids have a unique set of circumstances and challenges to say the least, but their lives are also filled with the kind of experiences and expressions of love that exemplify what human nature could look like if we all stood still long enough to give a damn about someone other than ourselves, touched me to my core. Thank you for this post.
    From a Mother of a special needs child…

  2. This is brilliant and beautiful. Though I know the road is sometimes challenging for siblings, I wish with all my heart that Nik had a sibling to share this special relatinoship with. I’m so glad for you that your boys have each other.

  3. This brilliantly captures the relationship between my daughter and her big brother who has autism. Its funny – she just can’t wrap her head around why he friends fight with their siblings – a lot. She an Corey, even when they are annoying each other, just love, cherish and respect one another.

  4. Jeez. Tears. A lot of them.

    It’s exactly how I feel about my own boys. I think I’ve even said that I feel bad that Carter has so much weight to carry for a 10 year old. But I’m grateful.

    It can’t all be so bad when I see their relationship. When I see the kind of people my typical kids are becoming. And not in spite of their siblings, but because of them.

    I loved this, Jo. With my whole heart.

  5. Lexi, I too have (many, many, many times) reflected internally and out loud that Ian has a very big role in this life in regards to his brother. I have worried about him and tried to balance his life as much as possible, but he continues to show me that he and Andrew were destined to be siblings and that their love will always prevail over any obstacles that may try and get in their way. It’s not easy, and that’s okay to say. It’s not, and we should never lie about that. But the pity party from strangers needs to stop. You get it mama. I totally knew you would. Love you.

  6. Thanks for reading. And yeah. It’s not always puppies and kittens around here, but there’s plenty of love to go around.

  7. You are so right! Children with disabilities change their siblings’ lives in positive ways! We are more mature, accepting, patient, and understanding individuals because of them 🙂 Thanks for this post!
    -Claire, a sibling

  8. I’m a pathetic puddle of tears. We were so torn about having another baby and I wonder all the time what it will be like for the little Dude once he’s old enough to be a brother, and not just “the baby.” This gave me so much hope, and made me look forward to it more and fear it less.

  9. Great post. When we were in the process of adopting our 2 girls with Ds many people said to us that we should think about what we are doing to our sons… None of the negative crap we have heard (about our bio daughter with Ds and TBI) or our adopted girls has ever bothered me more than that insinuation that we have somehow hurt our typical children by sharing their world with siblings who are different from them.

    When I see the love my sons have for their sisters, how they treat them just like they treat each other… I know they are blessed, all five of them, to have each other.

  10. Oh my gosh I love this Jo. Goosebumps, tears, everything. I’ve always been amazed at the relationships siblings have with their brothers and sisters who have autism. I think our kids are better for growing up this way too. They grow up so much more accepting and compassionate.

  11. That pisses me off so much! I had a parent say that to me at school once. Both of my kids have autism- moderate and severe. She said, “You know, I got to thinking about you guys last night and I feel so bad for you.” I won’t tell you my response, but I’m sure you can guess.
    Thank you for your blog!

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