a little autistic girl and her brother!
|16-year-old Niklas Kronwall couldn’t help but squeal excitedly as he entered the hospital room where his mom was holding his baby sister. He’d been waiting impatiently all day for this moment to arrive-he wanted to meet her more than anything in the world. Mom looked up and gently patted the bed beside her.
“I know you’ve been waiting all day to hold her, so come here.”
Niklas carefully sat beside her and gently took the baby from her arms.
“What did we name her momma?”
“Elizabeth, but we’re gonna call her Izzy….unless she’s in trouble.”
Niklas smiled at his mom’s answer and glanced down at the baby, who was grabbing at his finger.
“Izzy,” he whispered, but felt a jolt of surprise when she opened her eyes. They were a beautiful crystal blue…. same as his mom’s.
“She’s gonna be a heartbreaker one day.”
“Unless someone breaks her heart first.”
Niklas looked up at his mom, his eyes already showing that spark of protectiveness that mom had seen once or twice before in all of her son’s eyes.
“That will never happen.”
It was about nine months later that Izzy took her first step. Niklas was on the floor doing homework for math when he heard Izzy laugh. He looked up to see his mom with the camera out and Izzy standing near the big rocking chair. He smiled and closed his book-his sister was more important at the moment. He pushed himself up and was about to crawl over to her when she took a step towards him. He froze, the biggest smile growing on his face as she took a few more steps towards him.
“Mom….she’s….she’s walking!” He glanced up at his mom, a wide grin on his face, before looking back down at his little sister.
Mom was crying behind the camera-a happy cry, Niklas noted. Izzy walked all the way into his arms before he picked her up and placed her on his hip.
“You’re getting to be a big girl now, aren’t you,” he asked, making her giggle again. He smiled at her giggle-that sound always made him smile.
“We’ve got a video to show daddy when he gets home,” mom said, placing the camera back in the case.
Niklas shook his head, still unable to believe that he had witnessed his sister’s first walk. It seemed a miracle to him: not because she couldn’t walk, but simply because of the fact that she WAS walking.
Two months later, Niklas turned 17 years old. He was sleeping in his room when he felt a light tap on his cheek. He opened his eye to see Izzy sitting on his bed poking at him. He shook his head and opened his other eye, picking her up so that she was sitting on his stomach.
“You waking me up, Izzy?” He began tickling her.
She squealed happily and grabbed at his finger again.
He allowed her to take it and leaned back into the pillows, smiling at his younger sister as she played with his hand. Although he would never tell his younger brother Staffan this, Izzy in the eleven months she had been here had changed his life more than he had.
Maybe it was because of the fact that Staffan was an annoying 14-year-old, or maybe it was the fact that Izzy could always make him smile. No matter what the reason was, he was glad she was there with him.
His thoughts were interrupted by a soft chuckle next to his bed. He looked up to see Staffan standing near him.
“She was pouting at your door when I got dressed this morning, so I figured she wanted to wake you up. You should get up anyway you goof, mom and dad made you pancakes for your birthday breakfast.” Staffan rolled his eyes at his older brother.
Niklas picked Izzy up and got out of bed, tweaking Staffan’s ear as he walked past him.
Dad and Mom were already at the breakfast table when Niklas, Izzy, and Staffan came out.
Mom shook her head at her oldest son as he strapped Izzy into her high-chair.
“When was the last time you slept in so late, birthday boy,” she teased, causing Niklas to laugh.
“I’m a growing kid momma. Besides, I need my sleep to catch up with this one,” he answered, tweaking Staffan’s ear again as he sat down.
Staffan smacked his hand away as Izzy giggled at them.
Niklas turned to look at her, smiling.
He laughed when he found she was already spilling food on herself.
“Oh to be your age again, love,” he said as he started to eat his pancakes.
Dad laughed at him from his spot next to mother.
“What, you want to spill food on yourself again and have mommy clean you up?”
Niklas rolled his eyes and blushed.
“Dad!” He smacked Staffan’s leg when his younger brother snickered at his facial expression.
Izzy looked startled at the sound of the smack on Staffan’s jeans and started to cry, so Niklas took her from her high-chair and settled her into his lap, feeding her a small bit of pancake, which quieted her cries.
Staffan looked worried.
“She’s never startled like that before.”
Mom and Dad looked at each other before glancing back at Staffan.
“We’ll talk about this later…we’re not gonna spoil Nicky’s big day.”
Niklas frowned but pushed the thought to the back of his mind. He had other things to think about besides something potentially wrong with his sister. It was his birthday after all. Nothing was going to spoil his birthday…if he had anything to do with it.
Niklas couldn’t help but have wide eyes as he pulled out the Nick Lidstrom poster his parents had gotten him for his birthday.
“Wow! Thank you.”
His parents laughed.
“I’m glad you like it. You wanted one for your wall, that I know,” Mom smiled.
Niklas pushed himself off the floor and went over to her, placing a peck on her cheek.
“Thank you, mamma. Thank you, papa,” he said. He turned back to the poster, only to see Izzy laying on the floor looking at it. She was running her fingers over it and smiling, almost as if the cool plastic felt good to her fingers.
He found it a bit strange for her to be doing it. He didn’t remember doing something like that when he was younger but he pushed the thought aside and sat down next to her. She looked up at him and crawled into his lap, turning around so that she was facing their parents and not Niklas’s shirt. Niklas’s arms went around her and he held her tight as he looked over the poster their parents had gotten him.
Nick Lidstrom was his idol-every defenseman in Swedish looked up to him. He was one of the best players from Sweden ever to grace the game…at least that’s what Niklas thought.
A head on his chest broke Niklas’s thoughts of his idol and he glanced down to see Izzy fast asleep on his chest.
“Looks like this little girl needs to go to bed.” Mom said, walking over and taking the almost year old girl from her brother’s arms.
Niklas stood up and gently kissed his sister’s cheek.
“Sleep well tonight, love.”
It was a little more than three months after Izzy’s first birthday that she first said her brother’s name. Niklas was curled up on the couch reading a book for his hockey class when he felt a tap on his arm. He turned to his left to see Izzy with her tiny hockey stick in her hands.
“What do you want, baby girl?”
He watched with a smile as she flicked her wrist the way he did when he took a slap shot.
“Are you shooting at me love?” He smiled as she grabbed his finger again.
She looked up at him with those crystal blue eyes and said “Wicky.”
Niklas looked at her for a minute, surprised and overjoyed, when he realized she was trying to say his name.
He pulled her into his lap and she giggled.
“Your wicky is right here,” he said, tickling her.
“Wicky?! What in the world is that?” Staffan asked, startling Niklas as he looked up to see his younger brother standing in front of him.
“She was trying to say my nickname, Nicky, but it came out Wicky,” he replied.
Staffan laughed and glanced at his sister, who was playing with the bracelet on Niklas’s wrist.
“Izzy,” he said, plopping down on the couch next to Niklas.
Izzy tilted her head at him and looked at him with big blue eyes, looking a little bit like a puppy.
Izzy looked at him for a minute before glancing back up at Niklas.
“Wicky,” she said just as mom and dad entered the room.
Staffan saw the confused look on his parent’s faces and explained the situation.
Mom smiled as Izzy curled up in Niklas’s lap, falling asleep in his arms.
She noticed how much love Niklas and Izzy had for each other. Izzy was only a year old, but it seemed like she knew Niklas better than anyone else. It seemed like she automatically knew what Niklas was feeling: sad, happy, upset, angry, confused…the list went on. She knew it took Izzy longer to recognize what others were feeling, which was why it amazed her that she could tell Niklas’s feelings. It was a special relationship for sure.
It was a few hours later that Niklas caught Izzy spinning in the computer room chair. She did this every afternoon, and Niklas wasn’t quite sure why. The other thing he noticed that she did a lot was flap her arms and line things up in a row. He noticed that she flapped her arms more when she was excited or nervous.
Two hours ago, Staffan had gotten into an argument with a friend on the phone, and Izzy had been flapping her arms quite a bit. The minute Staffan got off the phone, she ran into his arms crying. It had taken a while to calm her down.
Niklas broke from his thoughts when he felt a light tap on his arm. Izzy was making the spinning motion with her hand and give him the puppy-dog eyes. He internally groaned at her expression.
“Do you want to go for a spin?”
She nodded happily and he agreed, slowly spinning the chair around and laughing at the “weeeeee” noises that were coming from her mouth.
He stopped a few minutes later and picked her up.
She started playing with the collar on his shirt and he laughed.
“What is it with you and my collars?”
She gave him an innocent grin and turned back to “fixing” his collar, causing him to smile.
“Oh you little brat,” he said.
It was a year later, on a hot Sunday afternoon, that Niklas bit his lower lip and paced his parents’ living room. They had taken Izzy to the doctors for some testing. They wanted to know if something was wrong with her. His parents had told him and Staffan that morning that the flapping, lining things up, and the spinning weren’t normal things that kids did.
Niklas shook his head at himself, amazed that he hadn’t known this earlier. He’d been with his younger cousins enough to know that it wasn’t normal, and he felt sick to his stomach, and thought he had done something to harm her. Staffan looked up as Niklas passed by his chair for the tenth time and rolled his eyes.
“Will you calm down already? She’ll be fine. Mom and dad know what they are doing,” Staffan said, shaking his head at his older brother.
Niklas shot him a look as he walked passed his chair yet again.
“Staf, I know what they are doing is right. But I should’ve known what Izzy was doing isn’t normal. I’ve been around our cousins long enough to know that,” he replied, looking near tears.
Staffan couldn’t help but get choked up at his older brother’s expression. He knew how much Izzy meant to Niklas….to both of them. Unless Niklas was away at school or at hockey practice, every time Izzy had gotten hurt, he had blamed himself for not watching her closely enough. Staffan wasn’t really shocked that
Niklas had blamed himself again for this, but he knew he needed to stop.
“Nicky, you can’t place the blame on yourself. We knew she was different, but not like that. If mom and dad just found out that wasn’t normal behavior or thought it was cute like you and I did, how in world would you have known? You couldn’t have known. Just stop, I promise she is going to be fine,” Staffan said, trying not to cry as the tears spilled down Niklas’s face.
But before Niklas could reply, the front door opened.
Mom and dad removed Izzy’s jacket and asked her to go play in the playroom downstairs.
“But I wanted Wicky to pway wif me.”
Niklas pursed his lips, fighting back tears. Izzy didn’t need to see him cry.
“I’ll be there in a minute love. I need to talk with mommy and daddy real fast okay?”
Izzy looked at him for a minute before she nodded and mom helped her down the steps to the playroom.
When she came back into the kitchen, Niklas could no longer hold back his fear.
“Is she okay,” he asked in a shaky voice.
Mom and dad were quiet for a minute before mom finally spoke.
“Boys, your sister has autism. And, if you are wondering what in the world I’m talking about, autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. This means she could have a hard time making friends in school and a hard time communicating with us. You’ve noticed that sometimes she has a hard time asking for what she wants? It’s not only because she’s young, but because her brain isn’t wired in the same way ours are. The doctor also told us she could have a hard time at parties and in big crowds, so we’re going to have to be careful on where and when we take her to places.”
Niklas and Staffan were quiet for a minute, trying to take in everything that they were told.
Niklas’s brain wheels got turning, and he figured out that the flapping had something to do with the fact that she couldn’t communicate what she wanted to say. He swallowed back the hard hot tears that were threatening to run down his cheeks again. His world had just flipped upside down. He wasn’t sure how much Izzy knew about it, but he knew that from now on, their lives were going to be drastically different.
It was a week later that Niklas, Staffan, Izzy, Mom, Dad and their grandparents were sitting in their seats at draft day. Niklas could feel his nervousness and excitement mounting. This was going to be the biggest day of his life. If he got drafted, that would be the best thing that has ever happened to him.
He glanced to his left and saw Izzy sitting in mom’s lap, watching everything with curious eyes. Soon the talking died down and the General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings stepped up to the microphone.
“For the first overall pick of this draft, the Detroit Red Wings select……….Niklas Kronwall.”
Niklas covered his mouth to try and hide the tears that filled his eyes as he stood up to get hugs from his family.
Izzy held up her arms to him and he picked her up, hugging her tightly as she kissed his cheek.
“Wuv you, Nicky,” she said as he put her down.
“Love you too baby girl.”
Niklas hugged the rest of his family before going up to the podium to shake hands, put on his jersey, and get his picture taken. After all that was done, he walked to the back room where his family was waiting.
“Nicky,” Izzy yelled, running up to him.
He picked her up and placed her on his hip as she buried her head in his shoulder.
“So pwud of my Nicky,” she whispered, her eyes sparkling with delight.