Birth order plays an important part in the development of any child. Tate being number six of seven was a blessing, for sure. Not having a routine, is hard for people on the autism spectrum. Without us even knowing it, Tate probably began therapy the day he was born. Had Tate been my first, second, or even third child, his daily activities would have been set, nearly, in stone. When I was a young mother of three, I had the kids’ mealtimes, naps, baths, and bedtimes regulated by the clock and done the same way almost every day. Toys were organized in bins and labeled boxes and kept picked up when not being played with. Books were on shelves. There were hooks for jackets with each child’s name above them. By the time I had five children, there was just organized chaos. My routine was gone. I still hoped most of the toys were picked up by the time Daddy got home in the evenings and jackets were somewhere off the floor. I hardly ever got a hot meal on the table in the summer because many evenings were spent at a ball field, watching an older sibling play ball. If Tate had been born earlier in our lives, he would have become much more handicapped. I did not know Tate had autism when he was an infant and the routines I had for my first few children would have been so hard to break for Tate as he needed to outgrow them. Seeing how hard it has been for Tate to be flexible about the few routines we have had in his ten years, has made me realize how glad I am he didn’t have more routine in his life earlier.
Of course, the one thing that has always been constant in our lives, no matter what, is worship times on Sundays and Bible class times on Wednesday evenings. The only exception is illness.
Some of Tate’s best teachers and therapists are his brothers and sisters. Tate came home as an infant, to the perfect environment for him. It was behavioral therapy from day one. There was always an older sibling touching him, holding him, playing with him, talking to him, and causing him to adapt and be flexible. There were unpredictable noises and movements, door slams and lots of talking. Tate had to share. There was not much that was his alone. I am certain, that without all the siblings, Tate would be so much more handicapped than he is now.
Sometimes, when I cannot teach Tate something, one of his siblings is able to teach him. I was still feeding Tate his cereal when he was three because he had not mastered the use of a spoon. His oldest brother determined he was going to show Tate how to use a spoon and he did it quickly with ice chips. Tate loved ice chips but I had never thought of teaching with ice. Tate was much more motivated to get the ice chips in his mouth than anything else I had tried.
I tend to “baby” Tate because I think of him as a six year old in a ten year old body. Tate’s siblings often expect more of him than I do and it is good for him. When I do a cooking project with Tate, he helps me cook. However when Tate’s nineteen year old brother cooks with Tate, he only supervises while Tate actually does the cooking. The same brother takes time to show Tate how to do many tasks. He is gone to college right now and he is looking forward to being home this summer to help with the education of Tate.
Before Tate was diagnosed with autism, we had initiated the adoption of Sydney. Some people thought we should back out of our adoption while others encouraged us to continue. I am so glad we did not listen to the negative people around us. Where would Sydney be? AND… Where would Tate be? Sydney has taught him so much. She is younger but much more outgoing. She challenges him daily to do things he would not be doing without her prodding him on. She is loud, demanding, and bossy. She is a good teacher!