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Being different is normal
Jude’s been asking a lot of questions about Charlie lately, even more than usual. He wonders why Charlie can’t talk and why he doesn’t play with him like his friends do at school.
I don’t know yet if I have good answers to his questions. I tell him that Charlie has autism, but that doesn’t mean much to a four-year-old. I also tell him that Charlie has different abilities and different needs than his other friends—that Charlie loves him even though he doesn’t say it or show it in an obvious way.
To be honest, having Charlie as a big brother has had a positive impact on Jude in several ways. With anyone he meets, he accepts differences in them, naturally and immediately. Jude is compassionate and he really cares that the people around him are happy. For example, I love the way that Jude understands how certain situations are overwhelming for Charlie, even if they’re not overwhelming to him. When things get too loud, Jude reaches for Charlie’s ears just as fast as Charlie himself does, covering them with his little cupped hands to help block out the noise.
“Your brother is weird”
A little while ago, I had to bring Charlie inside Jude’s school at pickup time. Charlie screamed and made loud “Charlie-noises” complete with weird hand-gestures too. He was very loud. The kids in Jude’s class pointed at Charlie, laughing and saying things like « Jude, your brother is weird ». Charlie had no understanding of the situation, of course, but Jude did. He yelled at his friends « stop, he has autism ». He stood up for his big brother.
Reindeer In Here: a new tradition
We’re starting a new tradition this year that incorporates these values. It’s called Reindeer In Here, and it celebrates differences in a way that kids can understand. It does this with a wonderful book that comes paired with a stuffed reindeer toy. Together, the book and the toy encourage children to celebrate everything that makes them unique. The protagonist reindeer is different—one of his antlers is short. I’ve been looking to add a new Christmas tradition, and this just tugged at my heart strings. The message is timeless.
The message in Reindeer In Here is exactly what I try to teach Jude, and something everyone should embrace. Jude loves the story not only because it reminds him of his brother, but he just likes the story. He likes it so much that next week, Jude’s bringing his stuffed reindeer to school for “show and share” for the second time already.
Reindeer In Here is written in a way that I think allows the message to really connect with kids. For the Christmas season and beyond, I hope you connect with it too. Let’s celebrate those differences in each and every one of us.
Check out Reindeer In Here right here.