I attribute his progress to his amazing therapists and teachers, myself and my parents. What I hadn't realized until this morning as I was watching home videos from around the time my kids were diagnosed was how much my daughter contributed to my son's progress. I get asked a lot if I think her autism caused his delays. Meaning, he was not able to learn from her like most younger siblings learn from their older siblings. I have always known that was never the case because my daughter was never non-verbal. My son would have picked up words from her; they just would have been used in inappropriate ways (i.e., echolalia). He never once mimicked her echolalia or gibberish. In fact, she has had the opposite effect on him. In every single home video I watched, she was engaging him, making him laugh, forcing him to interact with her. In those videos, to an untrained eye, they appear somewhat neurotypical (albeit with limited or no language), constantly smiling and laughing. They have always been close and they have always engaged with each other more than with other children. The difference now is that my son has taken those skills and generalized them to other settings and with other children. My daughter has not.
It is so difficult watching my son catch up to my daughter in almost every area. At this rate, he will pass her soon, if he hasn't already. In fact, just this weekend I caught him brushing off her request to play along with her scripting routine. The rate of her progress is nowhere close to his. It's hard for me to even admit that. Partially because I don't want to believe it's true and partially because I wish I had done more sooner. I wish I had started her on PLAY Project right away (2 years ago). I wish I had started taking her to private speech right away (2 years ago). I assumed (because she's so smart) that she would pick everything up right away and start making rapid progress. And while I know she has made progress, it wasn't at the rate I was expecting. And maybe it was naive of me to expect anything, but as a parent I think you can't help yourself. I know by most standards she is considered high-functioning and she has overcome her echolalia for the most part, which was a huge hurdle. But I see neurotypical kids her age playing on the playground. I know how far behind she still is. I see all the progress she's made but I also see how far she has to go.
Of course I am thankful for all the struggles we get to avoid, but there are also a few things we still struggle with daily. My daughter is about to start PLAY Project and private speech which I hope will both be positive experiences for her. Regardless of the challenges she will continue to overcome, I hope she someday realizes what a difference she has made in her brother's life and in his developmental progress. They are too young to ever remember what life was like for us these past two years, but I will remember. And I will say to my daughter: thank you.