Finding ways to bond with your sibling can be challenging. My sister, April, was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum in the late 90's when there was little information about the disorder. It has taken years for me to find the perfect bonding situation that satisfies both of our needs to embrace each other.
Even though April has unique needs, she is her own individual and overall has characteristics of a typical young lady. She likes to sing (in her on style), dance, eat, and watch movies. She enjoys her own space and is easily agitated when things are not going her way. Throughout the years our relationship has influenced my life decisions tremendously, including my career choice in the nonprofit sector.
s a semi-awkward person, it has been a journey for me to interact with ordinary people and a significant struggle to bond with April. For many years I thought it didn't matter to her if I visited because it seemed as though she didn't care. I often questioned my decision to make the drive to Lufkin just to sit there and watch her swing and gaze at the building in front of her. I brought my younger kids to help make the family time together easier, and I felt it was necessary for her niece and nephew to know that special people exist within and outside of our family.
One day it dawned on me what my sister liked to do when she lived at home. I remember how April loved looking in the mirror and getting her hair braided. My mother would always braid her hair, and this was the only thing that calmed her besides Ramen noodles. I decided if I was going to spend 2.5 hours driving to April I should do something that she truly enjoys. I began to watch YouTube videos dedicated to hair braiding and extensions. It was a process, and I am lucky that my 7-year-old daughter didn't mind me using her for practice. Once I got good at it, I decided that this would be our bonding experience.
The next visit we met my mother and aunt at April's home, and that is where the magic initiated. My mom wasn't sure about it at first, but eventually, I won her over. I started braiding April's hair by making parts, separating her natural hair and adding synthetic hair. It took some time, but she was still and calm. I finished 2 hours later, and everyone was in awe.
"April you look so pretty!" said one staff member. April just smiled. She was happy. The happiest I have ever seen her and so was I. Finally! The hair braiding created a bond between us where I didn't feel like I was bothering her or being useless and most importantly she was HAPPY. I took pictures, and she smiled, my mother smiled, and I smiled.
It finally made sense to me - even though she has a disability she wants to feel pretty. Just like every woman I know.