An autism sister watching Atypical: Season 2, Episode 1

FYI: This is what I thought of Atypical Season 1.

“There is a hole in the Antarctic the size of Maine.  It’s … the result of hot water bubbling under the ice. Invisible, but destroying the ice sheets from under the surface.”

I am completely enamored with this portrayal of an autism family unit – For two reasons.

42748877_724721124557754_6401491820877971456_nReason 1. [the hole is] the result of hot water bubbling under the ice. Invisible, but destroying the ice sheets from under the surface.

Chris and I were raised in a loving family unit for many years before it broke down. The way the four of us handled the break down was by letting the water boil and strip us, one sheet at a time. Throughout that time, we  treated each other in different ways – not always pleasant. We never pretended things were okay for Christos’ sake, and if we did we were really bad at it. See, autism doesn’t mean that it’s okay to lie to someone you love. Christos has always been treated as a son, a brother first and an autistic child/adult second. In times of chaos we kept the routine. In times of turmoil we treated him the same. We were all a constant presence for him, even when we didn’t want to be in each others company.

As a sibling I have tried to protect him, as a sibling to an autistic brother I was not ready. It’s funny to watch a version of my life on screen, with all the things I thought but never said. To imagine what Christos would have said if he was able to express himself. Despite not telling us what he thought, he was never treated as naive and we have never been under any illusion about his profound ability to understand us and comfort us then and now. He shows me time and time again that he loves me, even though we have scratched, hit and screamed at each other more times than I can remember.

Sure, to outsiders I might look like a jerk for teasing him, pinching him and deliberately making him angry – but, he is my brother first and an autism adult second. I deliberately misplace his things, I try to get away with not washing the dishes, not throwing away an empty bottle, singing in the car, even though I know it will annoy him. What kind of big sister would I be if I didn’t annoy my little brother?

Episode 1 captured the bubbling so well. It was like looking in a mirror to the past – that’s the best way I can think of describing it.

Reason 2. There is a hole in the Antarctic the size of Maine. The hole is always there, whether we acknowledge it or not, we lost something palpable, something that can never be replaced, it can never be the same. Even if the water was frozen again, it wouldn’t be the same water that turned to ice. Nevertheless, a hole doesn’t mean emptiness, it doesn’t mean darkness.

The sheets melted away and each one brought us closer to surface. We were no longer solid, we were no longer boldly assuming that we could stand firm against anything.  Instead, we became fluid – constantly changing, silently powerful, adaptable and immense.

Our relationships became a polynya, which is much stronger, deeper and more mysterious than ice.

*End*

I have been avoiding watching Atypical Season 2 because of how many people told me how good it is and that I have to watch it. It is good. It is !so worth watching. It is also agony to empathise, to let every silence turn into tears, to feel every twitch, every growl of the soul – and I’m only on episode 1.

Give it a chance. Look for the small things, like the little notes around the house, positioning, the routine, the things that are left unsaid.

Look for the bubbles.

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