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David and Mercedes Rizzo reflect on the many little ways their now-adult children have embraced the dignity of their sister, who has autism.

April is Autism Awareness and Acceptance month. This is the month that focuses on raising awareness about autism. It also promotes inclusion of people with autism. As parents of a daughter with autism this is an important month for us to raise awareness and to promote inclusion. We appreciate seeing so many people joining in to promote awareness and acceptance. During this month we also think of the brothers and sisters of people with disabilities who have helped out in every conceivable way. These siblings deserve praise for all that they have done from charity walks to participating as a Special Olympics buddy. They have accepted the dignity of their brothers and sisters and respond accordingly. 

Recently two of our sons celebrated their birthdays. Of course, we had special dinners in their honor—each with a cake. It struck us as our adult son was blowing out his candles that our daughter with autism was not attempting to blow out the candles before he did. For most of their lives our three other children have had the candles on their cakes blown out by their sister. They have never complained about this, they often even smiled about it, but after all it is their special day not hers. It's the little things. 




Another example would be when our non-verbal daughter hands over a picture icon to one of her siblings, often in rapid succession, wanting them to touch it with their finger to acknowledge that they see it and then say the word that it represents. The problem is that she does this repetitively. She often likes to hear these words spoken many times a day. They are happy to oblige her because she is interacting and speaking in her own way, but it is really annoying—especially when they are engaged in other things. 




Little things like this are why being a sibling of someone with autism can be difficult. A lot is asked of you, and you really want to help out, but it’s the little things that can get under your nerves. For instance, you’re watching your favorite sports team—or even the World Series—and the most popular player is up to bat when your sister sits on her physio-ball right between you and the tv screen. She starts bouncing and making noise. You can’t concentrate and even miss the walk-off home run. Little things like this that can drive you crazy. 

But there are good times too. Little things ... like showing your sister how to spin a basketball on your finger.

It's the little things.




During the month of April, we are very aware of autism and raising awareness, a time when we can reflect on the positive outcomes our children acquired from having a sibling with a disability. We marvel at our children’s ability to recognize the inherent dignity of their sister and the sacrifices they often make on her behalf.

Having a sister with autism has led our other children to a broader focus on social justice. This is an example of modeling yourself after Jesus and reflecting on His teachings. Treating people with respect goes a long way. The little things can be good, and they can be bad. This is part of life.

We have tried to do a good job helping all our kids navigate such complex waters. We know it’s the little things that life is made of. We hope that when our kids think about the little things, they remember them with fondness and humor ... and most of all, with love.




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Copyright 2024 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Images: copyright 2024 David and Mercedes Rizzo, all rights reserved.