“What’s Jojobee saying, Daddy?”

So I have an 8-year-old (Jonny) and a 3-year old (Jonah). Ever since Jonah was born, Jonny would talk to Jonah and then ask me to translate his response.

So when I do something like pick Jonny up from school, Jonah will be in the car and the conversation will go something like this.:

Jonny: “Hiii Jojobee! Hi my little baby! Are you excited to see your big bother? Here! I got a present for you!…”
Jonny: “What’s Jojobee saying, Daddy?”

Me: “I dunno, bud. I’m driving.”

Jonny: “Jojobee! Look! [Jonah doesn’t look.] Look, Jojobee! [Jonah still doesn’t look]
Jonny: “What’s Jojobee saying, Daddy?”

Me: “…”
Me: “He says ‘THANK YOU, BRUDDER!’ ” 

Jonny: “How do you know?” 

Me: “Because that’s what I think he is saying.”

This will go on for the entire car trip. Jonny will talk to Jonah. I will fill in Jonah’s portion of the conversation.

Right now, Jonny will leave it at that. And he is the best big brother a little guy could ask for. Jonah truly does light up when he sees Jonny. Jonah laughs when Jonny laughs, Jonah will chase Jonny around (like “tag”), and loves the interaction with his big brother.

Last summer, Jonny’s 1st grade teacher informed us she was moving up to be a 2nd grade teacher and her whole class was moving up with her. Jonny loved his teacher and friends in his class so he was super-excited.

We found out later that Jonny had been excluded from the rest of the class. He was the only one who would be forced into a new class mostly with kids he didn’t know for reasons that still seem pretty vague to me.

It was pretty devastating for a 2nd-grader to not be in the same class with his friends, when he was told all summer he would get to stay with all of them. We found out on registration day, about a week before the start of school.

I was not happy. I was furious. I took it to the principal. I would have pulled him out. But I didn’t want to make a decision without Jonny agreeing to it.

I set up a joint meeting with us and the principal of another school. Jonny had overheard us also discussing the programs for Jonah at both schools (we knew Jojo would be turning 3 and need to start preschool) and knew that Jonny’s current school offered an extended program for kids diagnosed with autism.

So we gave Jonny a choice to either go back to his home school close to our house, where some of his friends had transferred, or to stay at his current school, and be a big brave boy in a new class without his friends.

Jonny chose to stay at his school and be in a new class he didn’t like because “it was a better place for Jojobee.” Jonny had no idea what autism was at all. He just knew that we said they had better classes for him. That’s our boy.

but…

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a diagnosis at that point, so Jonah was still not able to get into Jonny’s school. 🙁 We are still working on getting him there.

Do you know how hard it is to pick up 2 kids at different schools with the same end time? ugh.

anyways…

All this to say that Jonny really loves his brother.

But Jonah is three now and sooner or later, Jonny will catch on to the fact that most other 3-year-olds are talking for themselves, while Jonah is not. Jonah is much more particular about things being a certain way. Mommy and Daddy don’t discipline Jonah the same way we discipline Jonny. Jonah has epic meltdowns.

And while, I want to be honest with Jonny about what is going on with Jonah, I don’t want Jonny to see Jonah any differently than he does right now.

Autism is hard enough to explain to full-grown adults. How do you explain it to an 8-year-old?

So far, I have just left it alone, but I know that the topic will come up soon. Jonny is just too observant. I don’t have a real good answer for him that will keep Jonny from worrying about Jonah or try to get us to take him to the doctor to try to fix him.

The only decent response (as much as I’d hate to admit it) is from an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. In the show, one of the character’s cousins is disabled and uses braces to help her get around. The theme of the show is “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same.”

That is the entirety of my response folks. A Daniel Tiger song.

Any of you walked through this with your Ausome/NT siblings? How did you handle that?

Jason Reynolds
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Jason Reynolds

Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (8) and Jonah (3) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.
Jason Reynolds
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