Walking Together Apart
Walking Together Apart
Just over a year ago, our older son moved to London for his job. Explaining to our severely autistic son Sean that his big brother wouldn’t be sleeping nearby, sitting on the sofa together, or walking hand in hand on a trail was mission impossible.
Sean’s limited language makes communicating complicated ideas difficult, so we use visual tools in addition to words. Sean loves maps, but no matter how many times we spun the globe and pointed to San Francisco where we live and then London where his brother would live, Sean’s face didn’t register understanding.
Big brother will soon be home for the first time since he left for London, visiting for the holidays. For autistic Sean, that may also be difficult to understand. Having people appear and disappear, or only appear as a talking head on a phone screen, can be confusing.
Years ago, on our older son’s first visit home after three months away at college, he walked in and sat next to Sean on the sofa.
“Hey Seanie!” he said, trying to get Sean to acknowledge him.
Sean sat with his face focused on his previous activity. He registered his brother’s presence using peripheral vision several times, but didn’t look at him directly, say his name, or hug him. It was as if he didn’t believe his big brother was truly home.
After ten minutes of our older son being quietly present next to him, Sean turned his head toward his brother. He looked in his eyes for a long time, leaned his forehead to touch his forehead, sniffed his neck (a classic Sean greeting), and then sunk into a long hug.
Emotions can be overwhelming for any of us, but can be especially hard to process for a person on the autism spectrum. Whether it takes ten seconds, ten minutes, or ten hours, when his brother comes home for the holidays, Sean will eventually sink into that long hug and enjoy walking hand in hand with his brother on our holiday hikes.
Living far away from loved ones is hard, but staying in contact in some way other than face-to-face presence helps us stay together in spirit. Happy trails to everyone this holiday season!
This week’s HikingAutism Hike Notes from the archives is Gray Whale Cove Trail, which leads hikers up a very steep hill that offers striking views of the ocean and Route 1 at the southern edge of Pacifica.
This week’s Hike Notes from the Archives:
(Original Hike Notes 93): Gray Whale Cove Trail
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Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.