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.