2-Year Old Therapist

She’s cheap.
She’s short.
She’s still in diapers.
But boy is she one good behavior analyst.

She doesn’t seem to care that Rhema does not look at her or respond to her cheery greetings. She’s confident and persistent. And since that wonderful day in July, when Hope wants a high-five, she gets a high five.

I remember a time when Rhema was flat on her back in full tantrum mode, screaming and thrashing. Hope stood beside her, over her, completely unfazed. She waved as if she were seeing an old friend after a long separation: “Hi Rhema! Hi Rhema!!!………….”

I used to worry about them. There was a total lack of physical contact between them. Until one day Hope started “attacking” Rhema from behind with bear hugs. Rhema often protests, but Hope holds on for dear life until they end up in a heap on the ground. Then Hope gets up with a satisfied smile on her face and goes about her business.

In the evening, when Rhema gets her meds we lay her on the ground, hold her arms to her sides and insert the medications from droppers (-rather crude, I know, but it’s currently the only way that works). Hope often takes advantage of Rhema’s defenseless position by getting on her hands and knees and planting kisses on Rhema’s forehead while we administer the meds.

Rhema likes to repeat a phrase: “Eh eh caww we.” In fact, she does not speak it. She sings it. We have no idea what it means or even if it means anything at all (– perhaps she just likes the sounds?)

Recently, Hope went over to Rhema and initiated the phrase in the same sing-songy tone.
“Eh eh caww we.”
I watched with fascination as Rhema dropped her gaze and got the biggest grin on her face. She intoned back,
“Eh eh caww we.”
“Eh eh caww we.” (Hope)
“Eh eh caww we.” (Rhema)

And there you have it. Reciprocal play. Turn-taking. Verbal imitation… One of Rhema’s ABA programs since she was a toddler. Granted, her verbal imitation has been improving in the last couple months, but it is definitely sporadic, and she usually has to be highly motivated. We dangle popsicles or popcorn or rubber lizards and tickles to get a vocal response.  I took a whole course by Hanen to learn how to get Rhema to imitate. In comes my not-quite-2-year-old and accomplishes the task with ease.

But then all her life, Hope’s been at Rhema’s speech, ABA, and occupational therapies. At the end of a session, our home therapist lets Hope participate. When I was pregnant with her, we got Rhema’s diagnosis. Little did I know God was already providing us with a perfect peer model named Hope.

And Hope has one very awesome desire that makes her the most unique therapist of all. She wants to be just like her. Like any younger sibling, she wants to know her big sister, and do what she does and go where she goes.

“Hope, you said ‘Eh eh caw we’ like Rhema!”
“I wanna be like Rhema.”
“You want to be like Rhema?”

One day Hope will learn the word autism. One day she will realize that her cool sis who gives her high-fives and gets to sleep in the top bunk and ride the schoolbus and wear big-girl Dora underwear is different.

I hope she will know how strong and brave and determined and smart and pure-hearted Rhema is. I hope she’ll always want to be just like her big sister.


20 thoughts on “2-Year Old Therapist

  1. Yes! Yes! I totally hear the moms with only one child, and that child happens to have autism, when they say they just couldn’t have another child. But my other children have been what has helped Foster learn to keep his head above the water. He learned to imitate Reilly, he’s learning to tolerate Sophie and Finn. He’s learning to share and use his words; he’s learning naturally through play. His brothers and sister were the best thing I ever could have given him.

  2. What a beautiful post. I love it. I too have an NT younger daughter and she is totally and absolutely the best therapy for Chee. It helps, too, that she is wicked advanced in her language (been talking in sentences since she was 14 months old). God certainly knows what He’s doing, doesn’t He?

  3. this is absolutely beautiful .. with tears in my eyes (again) i salute that beautiful little girl .. both of your girls will be far more than any of us can yet imagine

  4. Lila at 8 months gets her brother to look her in the eye by babblilng. Then he steals her puffs so eye contact then reinforcer. hehehe She so loves her big brother. Big big smiles and squeals when she sees him. I am hoping Lila will be like Hope (& Darby & Amy and all the other siblings who help their special needs siblings in ways they don’t even realize.)

    You and Jess have me in tears today. Stop inspiring me and cheering me up. I want to wallow in my pity. (NOT)

  5. I’m crying reading this because it is so beautiful! I agree. I’m so glad and blessed that Christian has his little sister who is such a therapist for him and won’t take no for an answer. I has glad (in hindsight) that we didn’t have a diagnosis until I was pregnant with Olivia. I think we would have held off, but God certainly knew what he was doing. She is his best therapist. His best friend. I love that this week as she is waiting for his bus to bring him home from school that she stands by the window and says, “I waiting for my friend, Christian.” Melts my heart. Thank God for the unconditional love of siblings!

  6. Your girls are just beautiful! I’ve been reading your blog and praying for you and your family. It is so inspiring to hear how Hope and Rhema are communicating in spite of the hurdles Rhema has had to overcome. There’s certainly something to be said about persistence and a wonderful attitude. Be blessed!

  7. What a beautiful post. I know exactly what you mean about the bond between siblings.

    I have a NT daughter who has taught her autistic little brother so many things. They have a language all their own. They make up their own games. She is a big part of his continued progress and growth. I have no doubt that its been her (literally) taking him by the hand that has brought him back from that dark place he once was in.

    And God gave her to us first because He knew we’d have been too afraid to have had another if He reversed their order!

  8. Touching post. I cherish both of my children, and their relationship with each other.

    Another advantage Hope has: she’s eye level, all the time. That’s not for nothing. And Hope may speak the universal language for which you don’t actually need words: silly.

  9. What precious hope from a precious Hope!

    Just this week, Jeneil, I learned that my pastor, Jim, who is the fourth of four children was born for a particular purpose. His brother, Seaborne, the third child in the family, was born with several health challenges, including mental retardation. Jim’s parents decided to have another child (Jim) right away, so that Seaborne would have a peer to emulate. As Jim learned to crawl, so did Seaborne. As Jim learned to eat with a fork, so did Seaborne.

    What a precious relationship: pure, unadulterated love!

    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3)

  10. That’s such a wonderful post! I’ve been letting Laurie “babysit” Kayla (they “play” together in Kayla’s room while I attempt to catch up on blogs or whatever without totally panicking about what’s going on back there) and it’s really helped both of them.

  11. Wow, what a sweet, loving, and persistent little sister! They are both blessed to have each other. I know my sons have helped each other in countless ways too — they share many of the same challenges but they each have their own strengths and ways of helping each other along.

  12. I am happy to have found a web site similar to mine, just a mother sharing her day to day life with autism.
    My 5 year old also says the same thing about his older Autistic brother. ” I want to be like Roland ! “. He doesn’t realise that Roland is behind in almost everything, that he uses medication, that his futur is uncertain. All he sees is the brother who seems so big, and strong, who can play the playstation better than anyone, who because of his hyperactivity is so bold, and courageous.
    I also hope that he will always look up to his brother, and even when he comes to understand that roland is different . that he will always be ” My cool, big brother ! “.

  13. Pingback: Rhema’s Hope « Autism In a Word

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s