Chelsea and Charlie in 2005
Philipians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Chelsea came in the room, “Mom look I got another college theatre scholarship!”
I was so excited for her and very proud. She is 6 years older than her brother Charlie who has autism. She was about 9 when we got the diagnosis. She didn’t really understand at the time. Even when he wasn’t talking and having tantrums a lot she would just say, “he is fine”. As the years have gone on and he has made progress she does see the uniqueness about her brother.
Chelsea turned 17 this summer and it is almost at the end of her senior year. She is in the middle of working on college applications, theatre/music auditions, and busy with her different plays she is in. Charlie who is 11 now has watched her passion for theatre since she was in late Elementary School. From the time she was in The Music Man in 6th grade to her performance as Emma in Jekyll & Hyde at Morsani Hall in Tampa, and then this year to her performance in The Buddy Holly Story at a Community Theatre. Charlie will go to practices (with his iPad in tow of course), he has been to see her perform in all her shows, and he loves to find her after the shows and tell her how great she was while getting in all the pictures.
When Charlie was just diagnosed we had Chelsea working with him a few times a week this one summer. I noticed he attended to her more than my husband or I. I noticed them connecting more during that time and he made some progress. He was 3 and still wasn’t talking.
I know it hasn’t been easy for Chelsea. We have had to leave restaurants because he was screaming so loud and wouldn’t stop. We have had to leave entertainment places with him holding his ears, screaming, crawling under tables. My husband had to pick him up kicking and screaming to get out of a book store while my daughter and I were checking out. The whole store heard him. The cashier not knowing we were related to him said, “Get that boy to shut up already”. All of those times we either were looked at with eyes that were saying, “What is his problem?” or we were told what we should be doing instead. Sometimes even people would talk directly to him (even though he didn’t understand language yet) scolding him or irritated with the disruption he was making. Chelsea has been a witness to all of this.
One day in the park, Tony and I were sitting with Chelsea on a bench all watching Charlie play in a big playground area. There was only one other kid there and he kept trying to talk with Charlie, “Hey what is your name?”, “Hello, what is your name?”. Charlie wouldn’t look or respond just kept playing and making noises. Finally, the kid tapped him on the shoulder and turned him around, “Hey what is your name?!, You are weird!” All 3 of us looked at each other with rage in our faces. Tony said, “It is a teaching time” and got up to talk with the other boy explaining how difficult it is for Charlie to respond back. Chelsea was red faced and said “That kid has no clue and I am really mad!”.
I know at times it has been embarrassing, inconvenient, and frustrating for her. Many times she has been late to rehearsals or activities because Charlie wouldn’t get in the car. She has seen me cry and she has seen my husband cry. She is grown way beyond her years. There were many years right after he was diagnosed that most of our time took up helping Charlie. School was difficult, lawyers had to be called to help, many IEP meetings, many nights researching the law, taking him to the various therapies, stress over the cost of the different things he needed, and all the time I took working with him 1×1. I could go on and on. The point is my time was limited and spending some 1×1 time with Chelsea was not as much as I would have liked. When I did have time I was exhausted.
Well, she is less than 3 months away from graduating from high school. Where did the time go? How will Charlie handle her leaving? How will I? She has helped Charlie more than she will ever understand. She has a look on life far beyond a typical teenager. She sees how long and hard her brother has worked for a simple thing. They don’t have a typical sibling relationship. They don’t have conversations with each other, unless I am prompting him. They don’t tease each other really. But, they love each other. What will it be like when she is gone? It will be like a missing piece. Our family has always been a team and our team will be down a player most of the season.
I know the Lord has a great plan for this transition and I will just need to let her go and like Charlie has said, “She will be fine mommy!” Charlie always is teaching me more than I teach him. He loves his sister and will always be her biggest cheerleader!
Chelsea and Charlie in 2012
Psalm 6:8-9 For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
Author of Autism Is A Blessing
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