Janey is extremely lucky to have two amazing brothers. William is 10 years older than her, and Freddy is 7 years older (to the day!) I often have thought how much harder our lives would be if Janey was our first or only child. I can't tell you what a help the boys have been over the years. Often it's just the little things, like when I have to run down and change laundry or check the mail---countless times, I've said "Can you keep an eye on Janey for a minute?" and they have stepped up to the plate. As they've gotten older, if Tony and I want to get out and they are available, they are the only babysitters we use. We do that very little, partly because they are busy and partly because we can't afford a lot of going out. When we do have them babysit, we generally pay them, because watching her is certainly a payable job, but they often offer to watch her without pay for special occasions. They joke with her, play with her, treat her in a brotherly way that is so important for her. They are great boys.
Over the past few years, on several occasions, each boy has said the same thing to me separately. They have both told me they truly feel Janey has normal or better intelligence---that for whatever reason, talking and communicating is hard for her, but that they very strongly feel that inside, she is bright. I take their opinions on this very seriously. They are not saying it from any position of wistful thinking or from lack of information. They know Janey completely. They see the full extent of what she is like---the screaming, the lack of academic progress, the limited talking---all of it. But through it all, they see something else. They have both seen amazing things she has done, those once a year type odd moments when she shows a glimpse of what she can do. They have also seen the day to day demonstrations of her strong sides. They have seen her learn songs instantly and sing them back, they have seen her figure out complex baffles we have put on things we don't want her to touch, they have watched her easily manipulate the computer and the TV. And they also see the intangibles---just the way she can look at you, the way she picks up on the mood of a room, the way she subtly knows how to get what she needs from people.
I know a lot of people think I should have more faith that Janey is of normal intelligence. I know very well that intelligence is not an easily measured thing, and that there are lots of kinds of intelligence, and that autistic kids don't take well to testing. But I also fiercely need to live in reality. Janey is nine. She rarely talks in full sentences (except for echolalia). She is not toilet trained. She can write her first name, but nothing else consistently. If she can read, she generally hides it well. I have never seen her do even very basic math skills. She rarely responds to questions. By most any measure, she is intellectually disabled. But IS she? I don't know. But I know that having her brothers feel she isn't is one of the factors I most strongly am influenced by.
Here's some pictures of Janey with her brothers, just being happy in their presence. She's a lucky girl to have them, and I am a lucky mother to have all three.