Saturday, June 18, 2011

SNSS: Big Daddy in the House

Tomorrow is Fathers Day. And so, who better to be my SNSS guest today than the awesome Big Daddy, who blogs at Big Daddy Autism? No one, so here he is!

Big Daddy has a son, Griffin, on the autism spectrum and a daughter, Lil Sis, who is not. Griffin is loud, repetitive, loving, funny, charming, obsessive and anxious -- in other words he sounds a lot like an older version of my Jake.

In contrast to many other SNSS guests who have young children, Big Daddy's kids are all into the double digits, lending a whole other element to their story. I look to his stories as possible shadows of our future.

And, amazingly enough? In spite of all his family's challenges, Big Daddy Autism is a humor blog. A very, very funny humor blog.

Big Daddy believes that by telling funny and off-beat stories from his life, he shows that raising a kid with special needs is not all doom and gloom. As he shares his tales (and cartoons!) from the lighter side of raising a child with autism, he is actually being sneaky: using humor to be all inspirational and such.

So read now, and be inspired:


Sister Knows Best - by Big Daddy

I can think of nothing quite as boring as a parent gushing on and on about how wonderfully perfect their NT (neuro-typical) child is.  So, I will not spend too much time telling you what we think of Griffin's little sister.  Suffice it to say, in our eyes, she is anything but “typical” and, she is the most beautiful and incredible little girl in the universe.

I know I’m gushing a bit.  However, in the context of how she affects Griffin’s life, I feel a few words singing her praises would be appropriate.

From her relatively uneventful labor and delivery, through every developmental milestone, and even to our hopes and dreams for the future, she has shown us how it is “supposed” to be.  With her, we get the pleasures of raising a “typical” kid.  But we also get the bonus of perspective.

Thanks to our experiences with Griffin, we never take her accomplishments, no matter how insignificant they may seem, for granted.  Just as without nighttime the day would not seem as bright, raising a disabled child has made us appreciate our non-disabled kid even more.

We first learned Lil Sis was on her way into the world around the time Griffin was first definitively diagnosed as autistic.  This caused quite a bit of concern.  We were told that autism may be genetic and the chance of our next child being autistic was greatly increased over the general population.

We considered genetic testing, but ultimately decided against it since it didn’t really make a difference.  We were going to have her either way.  Besides, when we were pregnant with Griffin, in light of Mrs. Big Daddy’s youth and good health, we were told that the chances of having a child with a disability or birth defect were less than our chances of having a puppy.  So much for predictions

Lil Sis’s impact on Griffin has been profound and we believe much of his emotional growth and development can be attributed to her.  She subscribes to the family philosophy of giving him no slack, teasing him, and forcing him into our world.

When she is bored and in need of a playmate, she refuses to let Griffin hole himself up in his room.  She makes him participate in regular kid activities as much as he is capable and even includes him when she is playing with her other friends.

Early on, she was our main translator.  She understood Griffin’s garbled and broken speech better than any teacher or therapist.  Whenever we couldn’t understand Griffin, she was there like a UN Interpreter.  Now, we just make him spell the words we can’t understand.

Sometimes, though, Lil Sis still understands him when no one else can.  She also has the uncanny ability to sense if there is something bothering Griffin, even if he has not (or cannot) verbalized it.  In a way, at times, she knows Griffin better than he knows himself.

Lil Sis is protective of Griffin.  Occasionally we worry she is overly concerned with his well being.  We want her to be a carefree kid and leave the worrying about Griffin to us grown-ups.  A good example of how she goes above and beyond to safeguard him would be the first time she ever got in trouble at school.

Griffin was already in first grade when Lil Sis started private preschool.  When she began Kindergarten it was the first time they were in the same school.  Although he spent most of his time in a special cluster, she occasionally saw Griffin during the day.

The first time she was in attendance for a fire drill must have been a shock for her.  She, like all the other kids, witnessed Griffin’s routine fire drill meltdown.  Later that day, we received a call from the principal (who we knew well by this point) telling us that Lil Sis had cut physical education.

We were shocked.  Even I waited until around sixth grade to start skipping out of gym class.  Could she have inherited my complete inability to do anything remotely athletic, and total disdain for physical education teachers?  No way.  She had tons of energy and enjoyed anything that involved running, bouncing, and jumping.

Further, this type of rebellious behavior was entirely out of character for her.  She was well behaved and respectful of authority.  Were we totally in the dark as to our daughter’s true personality?  As we pieced together the rest of the story, it all made perfect sense.

Lil Sis actually loves PE.  It’s watching Griffin crying that she dislikes.  It turns out that gym class immediately followed the aforementioned fire drill.  A few minutes into the special, Lil Sis told Coach Smith that she had to go to the bathroom.  Instead of using the restroom directly outside the gymnasium, she snuck down the hall to Griffin’s class room and convinced the special education teacher to let her use the facilities in there.

Her detour wasn’t a quirky toilet preference, or a desire to get out of dodge ball (although I wouldn’t blame her for either), rather, she merely wanted to make sure her brother had recovered from the fire drill.

I don’t think, in the history of public education, has a parent been so proud of his daughter for lying to her teachers and cutting class.  It was difficult to admonish her for this transgression without hugging her so tight her head would pop.

There was a time when Lil Sis would end friendships with kids who did not respect Griffin or did not treat him well.  If they were not nice to her brother – they were gone.  Simple as that.  Now all her friends, at a minimum, tolerate him and some of them even get a kick out of him like we do.

Not long ago Lil Sis came to me while I was sitting at my desk and asked for a roll of tape.  Since Griffin does not have the dexterity to use tape and Lil Sis has a tendency to go heavy on the sticky stuff, I am always on heightened alert when a project calls for it.  Not wanting to spend an hour pulling tape off our Persian cat and letting my curiosity get the best of me, I snuck a peek to find out what my progeny were up to.

In Griffin’s room I could see that she had transformed his closet into an imaginary elevator in which they were pretending to ride from floor to floor.  That is what she chose to spend her afternoon doing.  Can you blame me for gushing?

Although we tell her he is not her responsibility, she still looks out for Griffin, and has a loyal band of friends who do likewise.  Our concern is that she will someday feel weighed down by him.  Especially in adulthood when we are no longer around.

Other than constantly telling her that it isn’t her job to always make sure he is okay, and by taking the steps necessary to ensure he will never be a financial burden on her, there isn’t much we can do to stop her from wanting to take care of him.

It’s who she is.  We wouldn’t change a thing about her.  She is the awesomenest!


I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am so deeply moved and, yes, inspired by the relationship between Griffin and his Lil Sis.  I can only hope that some day Ethan has a fraction of the love and compassion that Lil Sis shows toward her autistic big brother. 

Griffin is lucky, indeed, to have her. And the most beautiful thing? She feels lucky to have him.

Now that you have been charmed by Big Daddy here? You simply must go visit him back at HIS house, Big Daddy Autism.

You’ll want to read this post, a touching letter addressed to Lil Sis, or this one about Griffin's love of elevators. Try
this utterly hysterical post about what Big Daddy does on schedule, or this incredibly moving one, about a moment of "normalcy" from Griffin

I could easily link a hundred great posts here (Big Daddy is prolific, too) but I'll stop now. So just go over and start reading through his archives, there are gems on every page. 

Another place to find Big Daddy is on his BlogTalk Radio show,
Autism WTF, which he co-hosts with his partner, the wonderful Autism Army Mom. Looking for a funny and irreverent conversation about autism and the special needs parenting experience? Here it is! Go, listen, laugh.

Big Daddy's Tales From the Lighter Side of Raising a Kid With Autism: Never before published hilarity, favorite posts from the blog, marginally ... from some of Big Daddy's favorite bloggers.Also? Breaking news: Big Daddy has written a book of his collected wisdom, just out this spring, called, naturally, "Big Daddy's Tales From the Lighter Side of Raising a Kid With Autism."

You can (and should) buy it, here.

Besides his blog, radio show and book, Big Daddy can be found dispensing his wit on Twitter, and on his Facebook page, where you should go and show him a lot of “like.”

Thank you, Big Daddy, for coming to inspire us with your love and humor. Happy Fathers Day, dude!

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