Monday, September 23, 2013

BE OK With Not Enforcing The Rules - Slice of Life 2013

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's Slice of Life.
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A couple of weeks ago I finished listening to the audiobook Rules by Cynthia Lord. It is easily a book that I can say left a heartprint. Not only was it this amazing story of friendship and empathy but I could completely relate with Catherine. I understand the frustration of having of brother who doesn't quite understand the ins and outs of social behavior. I understand his disability and that it comes with some quirks; I am not always certain that others understand.

My brother, Steven, is five years younger than me. Like my sister, Suzanne, and me, he was adopted by my parents. I am not biologically related to Steven, but, he is the only brother I grew up with and therefore, he is mine. Unlike Catherine's brother who is autistic, my brother is developmentally delayed due to fetal alcohol effect but quite frankly, some of his behaviors seem to mimic behaviors on the autism spectrum. 

When we were younger, he was just my cute little brother. Small for his age, he really was very cute. It was easy to "hide" his behaviors then because people that didn't know him thought he was much younger than his true age. As Steven has gotten older, his facial features (FAE) and his behavior are far more noticeable that something is not "normal". 

As I listened to Rules and paid attention to the friendship that grew between Catherine and Jason, it occurred to me that I've been like Catherine, even as an adult. I realized that I am far more understanding with the students that I've taught with various disabilities than I have been with my own brother. I am flexible and supportive of their growth and needs far more than I have been with my own brother. If anything, I realize that I can be short-tempered and unreasonable with my own rules with Steven. I felt ashamed as I realized that I have been far more nurturing with other people's children than my own family. 

I've made rules for Steven in an effort for him not to stick out. It's uncomfortable when people stare or when people ask, "what's wrong with him?" in a tone that is less than polite or even curious. I tell myself that I am just protecting Steven when deep down I know that I am just protecting myself. 

I believe that Rules is a perfect read for 5th and 6th grades - it sheds light on autism and it sheds light on how our actions can influence others. I have heard teachers use the book as a way to talk about empathy and to talk about being supportive of our differences. As an older sister, Rules opened my eyes to loving my brother more than the students I teach. It mean supporting my brother's needs in the same way or better than the students I teach. In the end, it means not worrying about making so many rules for my brother and then trying to enforce them. It means to just accept him for who he is and really celebrate him. He is an amazing person.
Suzanne, Steven, & Me - November 2009


  1. Thank you for this moving blog. I will definitely check out this book. I used to be a therapist for an autistic child, and I know how hard any kind of special needs can be on siblings. The love, the guilt when you get frustrated with how hard things can be- it's something everyone wrestles with. You are obviously a wonderful sister, and Steven is lucky to have you!

  2. What a moving and insightful post. And, isn't it true that we are often much more patient with our school kids than we are with our own kids. Love "Rules" - a wise book, and it makes for a wonderful book club book.

  3. What a loving tribute to your brother! And yes, Rules is a great book with a beautiful story as well.

  4. Came over after reading about your post on Cynthia Lord's blog. I love RULES and love that it's a book I can hand to kids who have brothers and sisters that don't match the "traditional" mold. Thanks for your honesty in sharing about how your experiences with your brother have shaped you!