Skip navigation

Calls to Action

A letter to my son, brother to a sibling with autism

Kate Swenson is the mama to two rambunctious boys, one with nonverbal, severe autism. She shares a glimpse into their life in an honest and uplifting way at findingcoopersvoice.com and on Facebook here. Below is an excerpt of a letter Kate wrote on her son Sawyer's fourth birthday. Read the full letter here.

My little peanut,

Today is your fourth birthday bud. How can that be? I look at you running and jumping with your friends and it’s hard for me not to cry. You are amazing. I am so proud to be your mom. I need you to know that.

I want to tell you a few things. I know you won’t understand them now. And that’s OK. But someday, when mom is old and grey, I want you to read this letter.

I want you to know I am sorry. And I am so unbelievably thankful that you are Cooper’s brother. You need to know that.

I have a secret. No one knows this. I cried the day I found out I was pregnant with you. Actual ugly tears bud. I have never been more afraid in my whole entire life. I was so scared buddy. I hadn’t slept in 2 years. My world revolved completely around your brother. Much as it does now. Not a lot has changed in that department. Hell I think the first year of your life I nursed you in every waiting room in Duluth.

For the next 9 months I would lay awake at night when I should have been catching precious sleep googling ‘odds of having two kiddos with autism’.

I was so scared Sawyer.

And then it was January and you were here. And, oh my God baby boy, you were perfect. You were the most perfect baby. And I can say that because I’d seen the other side. You slept. You ate. You laughed. You were content.

I want to tell you something.

You saved me buddy. I want you to know that. You were the best thing that ever happened to me. Not a lot of kids can say they saved their mom. But you did.

You saved me…in every essence of the word. On the days when autism had me down. On the days when my heartbreak over your brother’s disability was more than I could handle. You were there. Laughing and smiling. Learning to crawl, walk, jump. And speak! Oh my God the first time I heard you say ‘mama’ I couldn’t stop crying.

 You have given me more joy that I can put into words.

You were so easy that you allowed me to focus on your brother. On his autism. And for that I am sorry. I am so sorry his disability overshadowed you.

I think of the all times we almost downplayed your development because your brother learned to use a straw. Or touch a raspberry. Or point to his nose. Such simple things. We never meant to do that buddy. We just knew you were fine. You were thriving. Your brother wasn’t.

Autism is such a mystery to you. I can see it in your face. There are days where you will look at Cooper and ask him a question and he will squeal in delight. Those are the good moments. And I know they are few and far between.

I want to thank you sweet boy. Our life is hard. It is even scary sometimes. It’s exhausting. And you get the leftover shreds of a mother after autism is done. And I am sorry.

Some days I think I am creating a monster because I spoil you so terribly. You see your brother doing so many things that you can’t. So, I give into you all the time. I hold you and coddle you. 

Our life doesn’t make sense. I get it kiddo. I truly do.

Today you are 4, sweet boy. And we are celebrating everything that is Sawyer. Today autism is not the priority.

I am watching you play and thinking about all the things I want to teach you.

I want to teach you kindness. And love. And patience. I want to teach you that disabilities are not scary. And I want you to fight for what is right. I want you to fight for your brother. I want you to change the world.

But most of all I want you to be happy doing whatever it is you want to do. And to have no animosity against your brother. I want you to accept Cooper and truly see all the joy he brings to our lives. I want you to be brothers in every essence of the word honey.

I know you didn’t ask for this. I didn’t either. But you have been given a responsibility. You are a sibling to a boy with severe autism.

Read the full letter on Kate's blog here.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.